This evening as I was fixing dinner, I reflected briefly on the abundance of produce we have now. Dinner was pizza made from scratch, with fresh tomatoes and basil from the front yard serving as the main toppings. As I grated cheese and sprinkled kosher salt on the crust, Daniel and Anya were playing outside in the sprinkler, ostensibly watering the front garden, but I think they had moved it to maximize their fun, which meant the water was mostly hitting the grass instead of the plants I really wanted watered. No matter, I thought lightly, as long as they're having fun. Life is good.
Then NPR's All Things Considered turned to a report on the drought and famine in Somalia, and the terrible crisis of starvation and displacement. The host spent several minutes interviewing a medical doctor with a distinct southern accent, who detailed the extent of over-crowded refugee camps, malnourished mothers, children on the brink of death, a measles outbreak, and the difficulty addressing these problems with corrupt governments, renegade military officials and regional bureaucracies standing in the way. This doctor pointed out that the U.S. spends a fraction of a percent of its total spending on foreign aid, and to raise that number even a little bit could save many lives and make a big difference in this crisis. This doctor also implored listeners with a little cash to spare to give to any organization they trust to help alleviate the tremendous suffering in the horn of Africa.
As I listened to this interview, I was washing lettuce. Pulling the leaves out of the bowl of water, I paused and listened to the doctor on the radio tell how hydration treatments (water fortified with vitamins) could bring children back from the brink of death, and one treatment cost less than a penny. Here, I had an entire bowl full of water, enough to save a child's life, that I was about to pour down the sink. Consumed with guilt and sadness at my own naiveté, I took it outside to water some plants, though even that seemed frivolous since they were only flowers.
The interview concluded. "Thank you, Dr. Frist," the NPR hostess said, and then I realized why his southern twang was so familiar. This wasn't just any doctor. This was Dr. Bill Frist, former Republican Senator from Tennessee, the sort of guy I loved to hate when he was in office. That was during the Bush years, of course, when it was easy for people like me to rant and rave and despair at the things being done in Washington in the name of politics.
But it should come as no surprise, really, that Bill Frist is a real human being. I couldn't abide him as a politician, and I remember my husband and me saying, more than once, how could a medical doctor, a man of education and - supposedly - scientific and medical training, in good conscience stand so firmly against things like the reality of global warming and evolution and a woman's right to choose what happens to her own body and all that other stuff the right loves to hate? I suppose that is what separates the man from the politician. And also, he's presumably a rich guy who loves his low taxes and was willing to go along with all the rest of it to stay in office and gain prominence.
The super-cynic in me wants to know where Bill Frist the Senator stood on things like money spent on foreign aid and foreign policy for rogue governments like the one in Somalia before this crisis. The super-cynic in me is also curious to know what he will gain with his new non-profit and initiative to help the people there in a very public way. But I am setting all that aside now to say that until I knew who he was, I felt nothing but respect for this man, who is willing to go to one of the most miserable places on the planet to help people who are so desperate they are practically beyond hope. How many people can do that? I couldn't.
How many others are like him? Basically good people who - in my humble opinion- just don't belong on the political scene? Or people who, as politicians, get caught up in issues that really shouldn't even be a matter of national policy? Like LGBT rights and abortion and what is or isn't science...I don't know if it's more an indicator of our broken system or just the nature of politics or what. I tell you, the world is a crazy place.