I have a distinct memory of when I became aware of death. It was 1950 in Buenos Aires and my mother had taken me to visit my grandmother Lolita who worked at the Philippine Legation (not yet an embassy) on Calle Florida in the same building as the American Embassy. The American Embassy in conjunction with the United States Information Service (then an arm of the CIA) had a novelty in Argentina. This was a lending library where the miracle was that you could take a book home with you.
My mother left me in the library and somehow I found a magazine called American Heritage. Inside I saw photographs taken by Timothy O’Sullivan that showed Confederate soldiers of the American Civil Wall dead on the field. These dead soldiers, in stark black and white, looked like the many people walking in the mall that was Calle Florida, outside. I stared at the pictures and thought, “These men were alive many years ago and then they were dead.”
In 1959, in our religion class with Brother Edwin Reggio, C.S.C, at St. Edward’s High School in Austin, Texas, we liked to waste time (or we thought we were) by asking Brother Edwin questions that we thought were inane. In that day the events are indelibly recorded in my memory. We asked, “Brother Edwin, are Hitler and Judas in hell?”
His answer was startling. “Class, when we are born part of us is an indelible (that word again) and inherent quality I call human dignity which is part of our distinct soul. We are born and die with it no matter what we do or not do with our life.” “No I don’t know if Hitler and Judas are in hell.”
So no matter what Trump does I still have an inkling of respect for him because of the fact that he is a human being born with that dignity.
Brother Edwin when possible, stuck to his version of religion, which was an Aristotelian theology. He rarely mentioned God and opted for "the unmoved mover".
Today I saw this photograph on the cover of my daily delivered New York Times. I was shocked, more so than in 1950, because thoughts of what Brother Edwin told us of dignity are in direct contradiction with this photograph. I might have preferred a photograph of a bloody mess of a man but the presence of those boots somehow show for me how a human being (a Russian no different from a Ukrainian or an Italian) lies in the detritus of a road devoid of all the dignity that even in death he deserves.
Is his sole humanity those boots?