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You Can't Un-see

Jeff Cook
“If your goal is to produce firefighters and rescue workers, you have to produce people willing to enter burning buildings.”
Brian McLaren

I am wondering, as some have suggested, if lack of exposure leads to passivity.

Is it possible that Moses never wrestled with the plight of the Israelites before he was 40 years old because he never saw them, never had to think about them? His passivity would have continued had he not chosen to personally enter the world of the Hebrew slaves.

Afterwards, however, I wonder if Moses ever lay awake at night, wishing he could go back to the “good old days” in the palace when life was easier; when he didn’t have to wrestle deep in his soul with these dark and awful issues of oppression, exploitation and violence.

There was a time when he didn’t have to think about such things; they were invisible to him. Raised in the royal court of Egypt, he knew nothing of the daily, oppressive existence of two million people who suffered daily under the heavy hand of Pharaoh. He was insulated, protected. Of course, he knew of them. But he didn’t have to deal with them. They weren’t his concern. His entire life had been one of privilege. Wealth was his only frame of reference, power his only experience, a life carefully isolated from having to face the daily reality of “those people.”

But then he saw what he saw. Flagrant oppression, sickening violence. Power used by the
powerful against the powerless. He couldn’t help it. It tripped a switch. There was no denying, no rationalizing. The witnessing of such violence at the hand of power was a turning point for this man raised in affluence and privilege. He could have walked away in denial. He could have blocked his ears, averted his eyes, rationalized, justified, gone back to the palace and to his own version of normal.

But he couldn’t un-see what he had seen. It changed his life. He had to act.

We in middle-class, dominant culture America face much the same challenge. Are we willing to see what we have not seen before? Are we willing for it to change us to such a degree that we will never be the same, that we will be compelled to act to to be part of a solution, regardless of what it may cost us?     

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