Idealism and the Things We Can’t Un-See

By Emily Brabham

Novice with the Sisters of St. Francis of Clinton, Iowa

The seventh in a series on active nonviolence from the Sisters of St. Francis, Clinton, Iowa (

“All life is inter-related – We are brother and sister to all…” This principle of active nonviolence is the natural opposite to the “isms” we experience in everyday life. Racism and sexism are harmful in obvious ways. However, even idealism, striving for noble principles and the highest good, is harmful because it separates us. These “isms” prevent us from being brother and sister to all. Capitalism, socialism, economic structure “isms,” separate rather than unify. These “isms” prevent us from seeing the other as brother or sister.

Have you ever seen something you can’t un-see? That image then haunts you and calls you to action, even if you don’t exactly know what that action is. Part of the haunting is trying to discern what that action is. I’ve encountered this several times in my life. Sometimes it’s at a wake and I wish the casket had been closed so that the last image of the person would be one I would recognize.

On September 2, 2015, I saw an article about 11,000 Icelanders opening their homes to Syrian refugees after learning that only 50 asylum seekers would be welcomed to Iceland. That truly is recognizing the inter-relatedness of life and committing to be brother and sister to all. This was so encouraging to me when the news cycle regarding Syria has been completely heart breaking.

Later on that day, scrolling through Facebook, I saw an infant face-planted at the beach. This being Facebook, I thought it was a joke or the newest meme. I’ve seen many a toddler face-plant. When I looked closer, I realized this wasn’t a simple fall; it was the tiniest body of the latest casualty of war. When someone dies while fleeing a war, they are casualties of that war. That tiny, precious child is something I can’t un-see. It’s something we all can’t un-see.

Perhaps this is the turning point in this conflict, where the global community will embrace refugees, welcome them as brothers and sisters, and help them rebuild fractured lives. Perhaps I can check my American exceptionalism at the door, along with all the “isms” that separate me from the other, and follow the Icelanders’ example. The invitation to live active nonviolence continues. This is the invitation to be brother and sister to all. How do I respond to the things I can’t un-see? By seeing the un-seeable as brother and sister, especially when that’s the most difficult thing to do.

As the image of the little boy on the beach haunts me, I’m called to action. I can let it haunt me, or I can do something, even if I’m not sure what that something is yet. In the meantime, be at peace, Little Brother.

(Link to article referenced:

Published in: on October 5, 2015 at 1:33 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Called the place Marty recommended. He said between 95 and $120 depending on the set up and how far they have to go to open it. A guy can come at noon tomorrow.

    I called R and R. He said if it just needs to be snaked it would just be a service call of $97. If they have to use an electrical snake and that is a possibility considering the age of the house, it would be $165. I didn’t ask R and R when they can do it.

    Sent from my iPad


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