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Editor’s Notebook: The season that stays the same


Editor’s Notebook: The season that stays the same

May 09, 2024 | 11:52 am ET
By Dana Wormald
Editor’s Notebook: The season that stays the same
There's a lot we don't notice, and there's a lot we forget. (Dana Wormald | New Hampshire Bulletin)

It is a rainy New Hampshire morning in May, and from a second-story window the world appears to move just as it always has. Hunched pedestrians with umbrellas skip over sidewalk puddles, dipping in and out of view, while passing vehicles strum the white-noise soundtrack of rolling rubber on wet asphalt.

I’ve spent enough time in New England to know this will be the spring rain that changes everything. The birches and maples were already starting to dress for the season, but when clouds again give way to sun the landscape will glow like jade. We’ll forget all about the late-winter storms and fallen trees, the barren branches and sooted snow banks. Every day deeper into May will feel like a dozen distanced from winter.

And then one morning soon, too early for the black flies but after the mist, you’ll tell yourself that that field or meadow, that thicket or grove, has never been so green and might never be again. Then you’ll forget about that wonder, too. You’ll hardly notice when the heat of June starts bleeding spring for autumn’s brown.

That is human nature. There’s a lot we don’t notice, and there’s a lot we forget.

The day before, beneath a blue sky that gave no hint of the rain to come, a Concord breeze carried the megaphone voice of a lone protester walking the wall of the State House grounds, near the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch. As good as the wind may be at carrying amplified words across city blocks, I could make out only snippets, including the repeated phrase “600,000 children.”

“Six hundred thousand children … (unintelligible) … six hundred thousand children (unintelligible) …”

I assumed the protester was talking about Gaza, because that is where our attention is at the moment – it is the lead story not only in the news but in Congress, on college campuses, at dinner tables. On this day, I didn’t know exactly why the protester was repeating “600,000 children,” but a Google search yielded a number of headlines like this one: “​​There is ‘nowhere safe to go’ for the 600,000 children of Rafah, warns UNICEF.”

Nowhere safe. 

I don’t know that there are two words, in reference to children, that better illustrate the failure of the species. If our lives and work are not dedicated to the protection of children above all else, and to their prosperity, I have no idea what it is we’re doing. There is no domestic policy, no foreign policy that makes even the slightest bit of sense if it does not at its foundation serve the planet’s youngest inhabitants in perpetuity. Everybody nods, “Yes, protect the children,” but then we find or invent a million ways to fail them, not only in international war zones but in America’s legislatures and its board rooms. We fail to protect an environment that is more theirs than ours. We fail to protect them from gun violence. We fail, in so many ways, to help them prosper 50 years on if it means we have to pay one cent now. We fail six or 60 just as we fail 600,000, and we talk about them as numbers as if numbers are what they are.  

We fail them over and over again, because there’s too much we don’t notice or too much we forget.

We don’t see the children of other wars, in Yemen and Myanmar, Sudan and Haiti. We don’t see families at the southern border, at least not families like ours. We don’t see, because of imaginary political borders, that a humanitarian crisis over there is always a humanitarian crisis here. How could it be otherwise, when here and there are the same in every way that matters? 

And in our flashes of sight – the moments when we see Gaza and Ukraine, when we see mass shootings in schools, when we see hunger, homelessness, and a full spectrum of neglect – it seems like everyone is just waiting for a time when it will be OK to turn away again. I get it – it is all too much to bear sometimes, like an endless season of sorrow. 

But it is our failure to see, and our longing to forget, that feeds and renews the cycle. 

From here on the second floor, above the city streets soaked by a spring rain, I see the world moving just as it always has. I hear the megaphone voice still and the echoing number for the children of Rafah. And I wonder, again, whether we will ever find our strength in sight and memory, or are we destined to remain here, this nowhere place between ignorance and despair.