“Love’s in need of love today.”~Stevie Wonder.
The father of my children was a complex man. He could argue all day on a variety of topics: sports, politics, injustice, you name it. What animated him was the history of injustice perpetrated on Africa and people of African descent world over. He was not a fan of religion, and would happily debate the improbability of there being a Divine Creator with my father, who was a Christian minister. Life was never dull in our house. I used to feel sorry for any Jehovah’s Witness, or the Yahweh followers, who would knock on our front door, for he would engage them for hours, challenging their core beliefs with his own logic and an endless supply of books.
After our marriage ended, I once heard him propose the argument that if a man was more than 50% good, you could not say he was a bad man. I am not sure how you go about determining the percentage of a person’s character, but there is a kernel of truth to it. We often think we know a person, and make judgments about them based on a few encounters. Sometimes it is only at a person’s funeral that you get to hear the full story, to see the impact of their complete life.
I once heard the daughter of Bishop Desmond Tutu speak. She addressed this concept of not judging others when you do not know their story. She was telling us of her experience of growing up under Apartheid rule in South Africa. People who resort to violent tactics to overthrow oppressive regimes may do it because they feel it is the only way to change the course of history. In this country we have the powerful example of Martin Luther King Jr., who followed the philosophy of Gandhi in practicing non-violence protest as a means to changing society. There were many who felt that the situation warranted more violent tactics. Malcolm X at the time declared that justice should be sought ‘by any means necessary’.
We are living in very turbulent times. A host of disenfranchised people have declared war on the rest of the world. Terrorist attacks remind us how fragile life is. The L.A. Times decided to track all of the terrorist attacks world- wide for the month of April this year. In that one month they logged 858 deaths in 27 countries, with an additional 1385 people injured. Most of the dead are Muslims who are killed by other Muslims. Of course our news is dominated by those attacks in the Western world, but for the people of Iraq and Syria, death by terrorist attack is a daily occurrence.
It is tempting to believe that the answer is more violence: unmanned drones take out suspected terrorist leaders. Increased military presence wipes out Isis cells. But like mutating bacteria, resistance develops and they find different ways to attack. One of the fallacies of responding to crises is to be reactive; to play tit for tat. This generates more hatred, more violence. The upstream philosophy of problem solving calls for solutions that get to the source of the problem. What factors have contributed to creating such radicalization that allows someone to perpetrate sheer brutality on scores of strangers?
We may think that mere words are nothing in contrast to guns and bombs, but we cannot ignore the power of bombastic rhetoric. The current political season has unleashed a torrent of hateful statements which contribute to the propaganda machine for those who seek to recruit. It may not be possible to directly link the language to the violence, but there is no doubt that it has fueled the fire.
So what is the solution? Hate, whether local or global, cannot be defeated by hate. The other morning Facebook reminded me of a message I wrote a couple of years ago where I quoted folk singer and activist Pete Seegar, who spoke about the ‘teaspoon brigade’. He saw the inequities of the world like a seesaw, with one end weighed down by boulders, at the other end is an empty bucket. Even if we only have a teaspoon, enough people wielding teaspoons can fill up that bucket and begin to right the wrongs.
We can start in our corner, and try to spread love instead of hate. We can get to know people who are different from ourselves, and increase diversity in our communities. We can try to know another person’s story, to show greater empathy for the struggles of another. We can try to overcome acts of violence with words of peace. Who knows, we may be able to find that 51% good in another person!
This Friday morning I wish you peace and health. In some parts of the world these are very rare treasures, so if you enjoy both, you are richly blessed indeed. As we hear news of tragedies and atrocities perpetrated on our fellow human beings, let us pause for a moment to send positive, peaceful energy around the world, and give a big sigh of gratitude for a chance to enjoy another day on earth.
May you have a wonderful weekend, Family.