The First Step

Like everyone, I’m sure, I’ve spent a lot of time feeling impotent lately, feeling powerless to stop the violence we see today, lost as to what we can do to positively impact the world outside of our own little spheres of influence. It’s a hard problem to solve and nothing is black and white. There’s no one solution to a problem this complex, no one thing we can due to prevent tragedies like the Paris attacks. The response I’ve seen from people, especially on social media, however, leads me to believe there’s a vital paradigm shift many people have to make before we can begin to see the light at the end of this long, dark, horrible tunnel.

I wrote this last night after spending so many days disheartened by the world. During the half-marathon on Saturday, the very day after the Paris attacks, people lined the route to get petition signatures, screaming about how we’d be next if we let the refugees in, that we should ban them from our state. The blood hadn’t even been washed from the streets of Paris before these hateful assholes decided to scream at runners about Muslims. It hadn’t been 24 hours. Since then I’ve seen post after post of Islamophobia, of fear-mongering, and it tears at my insides. I don’t like to argue online, on Facebook, but here were the thoughts I finally threw down in frustration on the topic.

The only answer, really, is to stop viewing people in groups in lieu of viewing them as just other humans. So long as we draw those lines and make those distinctions I believe the violence and killing will continue. Once you change your thinking to mode that allows you to recognize every other group as being made up of human beings, JUST LIKE YOURSELF, you lose this idiotic fear and hate of The Other. The Other can be shot and killed by cops because clearly they like to do bad things or else the cops wouldn’t shoot them. The Other shouldn’t be allowed to settle in your state because you don’t understand them and are too small-minded to grasp that they’re fleeing the same violence you fear, and sending them home increases the odds they’ll either be killed themselves or join the people doing the killing. Once we can see everyone else as people, just other struggling humans, we can start to end this insanity.

We have a duty as good humans to do what we can to help other humans, because that’s what’s going to make the world better. Because we owe our fellow man our best. Anything less isn’t good enough. Your tithe at church does not erase the blemish of being racist, of being a bigot, off your soul. You can’t consider yourself a good Christian and nod sagely as cops gun down innocent men and children. Don’t you dare talk about the sanctity of Christmas while supporting petitions banning refugees, our brothers and sisters, from your towns and states. Tossing money in a collection plate and bending your knee on a pew won’t feed or warm the people in need on the streets you sneer at.

We all gasp in horror when evil men bomb Paris, and we should, but when the hate from our side of the fence burns churches and mosques, we do less to stop it than the we demand of Muslims to put a stop to extremists.

Somebody in the UK tried to push a woman in front a train the other day. A woman just going home to her family, or to work, or out to see friends. Why? Because of her religion. Because she was Muslim and this hate, this ignorant fear, made it impossible to differentiate between somebody just peaceably living and a one of a handful of men who chose to violently attack other innocent people. Your reckless, lazy fear gives birth to this, places air upon its lips and arms it with the power of a million bigots. Until you can look into the eyes of Muslims, of people of all color, of all people, and see them as just that, you’re the one perpetuating the culture that grows and nurtures the men like the Paris attackers. How hard do you think it is to recruit people when ISIS can just point and say “Look, they have to hate us, they even have petitions saying so.”

I’m not saying we need to lose our differences. This world of different cultures, religions and customs is what makes it such a beautiful place. The key is to embrace the differences of others instead of using them as a basis to devalue their human worth.

This world is big, beautiful, and crowded. We can either all learn to play nice in the sandbox we’ve been given or just keep tearing ourselves apart until there’s nothing left.

Side note:
I’ll be up front. If you think we need to ban Syrian, and particularly Muslim, refugees from the US, I already think you’re a racist and a bigot. If you believe that all these shootings by police are justified, that all these black men had it coming, yeah, I think you’re a racist and being willfully ignorant. It’s okay to be wrong and I know it hurts to admit it. It’s okay to have carried beliefs and biases that support these arguments so long as you’re willing to change. The option that benefits the greatest amount of humans is the right one.

And we’re all just that. Just humans. Black, white, everything in between, Christian, Muslim, Witness, heathen, Mormon, and on. We’re all the same people. Offer your hand to your neighbor and work on healing instead of hatred.

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