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Suffering and Apples and Oranges

Imagine my disbelief and disgust when I heard the “apples and oranges” idiom flipped from a lip with regard to the brutal treatment of women by the Taliban in response to an expression of guilt which naturally accompanies awareness of one’s good fortune when compared to the misfortune of others. This particular guilt in my opinion evidences the tether of each of us to our fellow man and a well tuned perspective. I’m scared of folks who aren’t so tethered – just to be honest with you – they freak me out.

The conversation went like this:

Lady A, “I feel terrible for those women over there in Afghanistan - being stoned and having acid thrown on them – it makes me feel awful for griping so much about the problems I have.”

Lady B, “Apples and oranges.”

Standing in the fifteen items or less lane is oft-fraught with opportunity for offense – especially in the South – where folks tend not to keep to themselves – and I confess a certain amount of sinister amusement in hanging out there with a jar of Nutella and a loaf of wheat bread – just to eavesdrop.

“Apples and oranges” is the comparison of items which really should not be compared or is used to indicate that a false analogy has been made between two items. Lady B, I suggest you hop on over to Wikipedia and take a look at the “variants” section of the entry which contains some really good stuff you might consider adding to your repertoire of brushing off the inhumane treatment of people in far parts of this world in order to continue feeling super good in your apathy. I rather enjoyed the Romanian “the grandmother and the machine gun” and the British English, “chalk and cheese.” In Columbia, the idiom is “confundir la mierda con la pomada.” My kith and kin know I’m apt to throw the old “price of tea in China” at them when called for – same dif- and you’re welcome to it.

Lady B, no one is asking you to pick up a gun and get to the places where women have their faces cut and burned off – or are stoned to death in public. No one is asking you to get behind the wheel of a Red Cross truck, put yourself at risk and render aid. No one is asking you to do anything at all. No one is minimizing the problems you face in your own life with whatever it is you face in your own life – troubled teens, significant financial worry, illness, sick children or sick parents, mid-life crisis, bad marriage, or tragedy that may have befallen you out of the blue on a sunny Tuesday afternoon – any one of the numerous difficult things that might darken your day, my day – everyone’s day. Awareness of the suffering of human beings in all parts of the world and the ability to feel and express sorrow for them does not minimize the hardship you face in your own life nor make incumbent upon you a duty to pick up a knapsack and head to Afghanistan.

Sanam Gul, a forty-seven year old widow recently shot in the head by a Taliban commander after being accused of adultery – and the twenty-seven year old man and twenty year old woman stoned to death recently in the Dasht-e-Archi district, in the Taliban dominated village of Mullah Qali – and beautiful Aisha – who lost her nose – are not items subject to your idiom. That you would spit such an invocation in response to Lady A’s comment regarding the murder and mutilation of human beings in Afghanistan does portend you would not fare well in any scientific study or serious philosophical pondering of “apples and oranges.” My suggestion is that you spare yourself any potential distress in that area until you have successfully addressed your much deeper issues. Your tether needs work, Lady B.

And by the way, standing in the fifteen items or less lane is oft-fraught with opportunity for joy and gratitude – especially in the South – where folks tend not to keep to themselves – and I confess a certain amount of comfort in hanging out there with a jar of Nutella and a loaf of wheat bread – just to eavesdrop. Thank you Lady A, thank you.

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