“You see the moral dilemmas we have to face….” There are those moments, hopefully in all of our lives, when the world stops suddenly and for a moment you are acutely aware of just how small our bubbles are. Sometimes it’s your own bubble, when you briefly encounter something that had previously only existed on the other side of your thin protective soap skin. Sometimes it’s someone else’s bubble, as you see them looking out through their glistening, rainbowed film. This time, it was the later.
She was talking about palmetto bugs, American cockroaches that aren’t afraid of the light; rather large compared to bitty Nashville cockroaches, but not very big compared to what lived in my host mother’s latrine in Zambia. Apparently, every home in Georgia has them. They’re part of life there, and so is dealing with them.
And that was her moral dilemma. “You see the moral dilemmas we have to face in Georgia,” she said as though it was so obviously exactly what she was dealing with. “Do we serve guests dishes that these bugs have crawled over, or do we live in a house with poison in it.” Buggy dishes, or bug poison; to have live bugs or to have dead bugs.
For her, this may truly have been a moral dilemma. Despite her having lived in Georgia for several years now, her bubble world is still very California. Natural this, organic that, boo large corporations, yay free range farms, etc. But I couldn’t see this from my bubble. All I could see was her pressed up against the very edge of her bubble, a wavy line of soap drifting across her face, and between us a gulf filled with all my thoughts.
“The moral dilemmas we have to face…” I thought of my friends living in Jos who have to decided whether or not to go to church on Sunday mornings for fear they might be blown up by Boko Haram extremists. I thought of the Sudanese man I knew at the refugee center in Nashville who described his life before coming to the US as very similar to What is the What and would say no more about it. I thought of my many colleagues and friends in Uganda where the government and society are daily struggling with if and how to integrate former child soldiers of Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army back into mainstream society. I thought of the jury panel on the death penalty trial last week in Martinez. I thought of our soldiers, and our doctors and our leaders. And, I just couldn’t see poisoning cockroaches as a moral dilemma.
We should all wish for such to be our moral dilemma.