The Woman Who Lived: A Plea to Care

DOCTOR: I’ve left you alone too long. I had no idea how much you’d suffered. But I remember the person you used to be. She’s still in there. I can help you find her. 
ASHILDR: Spare me your pity, I’m fine. 
DOCTOR: I think this is just another mask that you wear to protect you from the pain. 
ASHILDR: I think the alternative frightens you, that this is who I’ve become. 
DOCTOR: This is no way to live your life, de-sensitised to the world. 

Like the Doctor, the last time we saw Ashildr, she was an intelligent, compassionate young girl, whose love and belief in her village, as well as her vivid imagination captured the Doctor’s heart and enabled him to find a way to save the village without spilling anymore blood. Furthermore, the Doctor had been given an opportunity to save someone from death. To prevent death from gaining another victory. He said to hell with any laws/rules from the Time Lords that would thwart him from saving lives. He bought joy and hope to a village that had already lost so much. Many people think they would want to have immortality-but the problem with immortality is that you get to not only repeatedly experience the highs and joys of life-but also the utter devastations. Again and again death surrounds you. Again and again you get close to people-only to have them die. Immortality doesn’t grant you extra super powers-other than being able to outlive everyone else-you are still unable to stop all the wars and bloodshed going on around you. Or to stop the diseases that can devastate a village

ASHILDR: My love is dying. It broke my heart when the questions started and I knew I had to leave him. I returned to find an old man who smiles and thinks I am a dream. I am flesh and blood, my love, but all you see is a ghost. 

There are people who don’t give a damn about other people-they are so Self-absorbed that their ability to empathize with another person is nonexistent. Then there are others who care deeply about the wounds of the world and all the pain and suffering, but in order to survive they need to deaden their emotions. Their hearts become hardened.  And those with hard hearts have no qualms about causing other people suffering-whether they deserve it or not. Early in the episode Ashildr basically gloats about her military prowess in the hundred year’s war.

ASHILDR: The Battle of Agincourt. My first stint as a man. No-one will ever know that a mere woman helped end the Hundred Years’ War. 
DOCTOR: You’re immortal, not indestructible. You can be hurt, killed even. 
(He twangs the bowstring.) 
ASHILDR: Ten thousand hours is all it takes to master any skill. Over a hundred thousand hours and you’re the best there’s ever been. I don’t need to be indestructible, I’m superb. You should have seen me. I could shoot six arrows a minute. I got so close to the enemy, I penetrated armour. 
DOCTOR: How many people have you killed? 
ASHILDR: You’ll have to check my diaries. 
DOCTOR: You can’t remember?

The Doctor wants know what happened to her. Where did the girl he knew, go? Yet in reality he knows all too well what happens when one is witness to an unbearable amount of suffering and has no one else to turn too. You can’t help but be effected by a world soaked in misery and oppression. And to lose so many people…at some point one begins to think that not caring is the answer to avoiding pain.

DOCTOR: Oh, Ashildr, daughter of Einarr, what happened to you? 
ASHILDR: You did, Doctor. You happened.                                                                                    DOCTOR: I know you’ve suffered. Your children dying. 
ASHILDR: They would have died anyway. Human life is fleeting. People are mayflies, breeding and dying, repeating the same mistakes. It’s boring. And I’m stuck here, abandoned by the one man who should know what eternity feels like. Who should understand. 

Instead of learning to appreciate life, Ashildr has learned to take it for granted. She views other people-whose lives are so brief, with disdain. For her people are easily interchangeable. All lives follow a similar script-though as individuals we like to think we offer something unique to the world: we are born, a good number of us have kids, and then we die. We suffer and inflict suffering on others. We get overwhelmed with our daily concerns. Ashildr has seen it all and she is disgusted. Humanity never seems to learn. One generation experiences extreme suffering and says, “never again” only for the next generation to come up with new ways to cause misery.

Thankfully, as of right now, immortality seems a long way off. Can you imagine a world filled with the desensitized, angry, self-absorbed Ashildr? Well yes. Even with our finite life span, we humans manage to cut ourselves off from the suffering of others. Americans, how many civilians have been killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? 100,000, 500,000, a million? More?  No one outside the government knows and I highly doubt those within know as well. Why? Because our nation has decided that those lives don’t matter. I was going to say that our nation has decided that only western lives matter-but even then that’s not true.

How many Americans have been killed by police? The government doesn’t know, and the shootings it does count, are classified as “justifiable shootings.” Why? Because the government and the majority of Americans have said-not explicitly but through the shaping of the legal system-that police lives matter over the lives of poor white, black, and brown bodies. Those shot and killed by police are dismissed as criminal “thugs” even though, America ostensibly believes in presuming innocence until guilty. But police officers are allowed to act as judge, jury and executioner and those who dare condemn those actions are dismissed as “cop-haters.” The only ones keeping somewhat reliable data on police shootings is the Guradian, and even then they rely on people sending in articles and reporting the deaths. And in many cases-all they have to go on are what the police have told the media.

I can go on and on, listing tragic events that are often ignored or are briefly discussed. The various shootings that occur in America on a daily bases. The hundreds of thousands who die all over the world from starvation, civil war, and disease. We-those in positions of leadership and the average person have become desensitized to the suffering of others.

But then, like what happened to Ashildr, something wakes us up. Something jolts us from our stupor reminding us about the brevity of life and how it matters. Ashildr, thinking she would be able to escape this world and go on adventures, kills Sam Swift in order to open up a portal. But like the Doctor warned her, she was just being used by Leandro and his people. Through the portal the spaceships start attacking.

On Friday May 13, Paris was brutally attacked. Over 100 people killed, with hundreds more emotionally and physically injured. People are hearing the news that their loved ones are not coming home.   In Paris, hundreds of families members and friends are finding out that their own small world is crashing. And people thousands of miles away, across the globe are seeking to show our support for France and for the victims. People are allowing the news to touch their hearts. But how will the world react in a few days when the anger has been allowed to fester and set in?

All I can do is ask and pray that we don’t respond in kind. That we don’t allow this brutally attack on western shores to harden our hearts and cause us to inflict even more damage on the civilians of the Middle East, who will bear the brunt of any increased military action. I pray that we don’t hate the millions of refugees fleeing from the terrible situations that we in the West have contributed too. I am asking that we continue to care and that we expand our circle of those lives that we consider worthwhile. I am asking us to mourn, not just for the victims in Paris but to the victims in Africa, in Syria, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, etc everywhere else where death and destruction is reigning. I’m asking us to care about the poor, broken down cities in America and all across the world. Yes, it is overwhelming. No, as individuals we can’t do everything. But we can care. We can advocate for one or two issues close to our heart, and offer support for those whose passion causes them to focus on different issues. I’m pleading for open hearts.


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