January 8, 2015

The World Burns Around Us

Warning: Half baked thoughts raw with emotion and definitely not soaked in any kind of rationality. They were rattling around inside me somewhere and I needed them out.

Either you believe in evil or you don't. Either you think that human beings do terrible things because of sin and demons or you don't. Either you call people evil-doers or infidels or you don't. It is easy to accuse people of evil when they don masks and massacre journalists in broad day light. It is easy to say that people are wicked when they bomb and kill and scream and sin.

But what if we assume that human beings, all of us, are not evil or the experiments of some omniscient being, but just fucked up individuals tied to our expereinces, cultures, and histories. That every tragedy is not based on a soul's value, but on sociology. What if our default assumptions were that we can fix these things. That we can eradicate ignorance.

What if we believed that even the worst of us can be healed and cured and fixed. Taliban or Tea-Party, Extremist or Progressive, makes no difference. What if we understood that we are who we are due to a plethora of variables and it is the exploration of these variables that will lead to understanding.

After every tragedy, and man does there seem to be lots of them these days, we point fingers and assign blame. We volley hate and pain and accusations. They did this so we will do that. But what if, we stop to ask why? How does a person become so angry and disillusioned, so ignorant and terrified, so insecure and so violent to think that because someone thinks differently then they do that they should kill the other person. This behavior is a sickness. It is not evil. It is the failure of the systems we have created. Failures of nation states, churches and mosques, families and schools. Every massacre is proof that we have failed to understand each other.

Every tragedy is a reminder that we have barely advanced from the birth of our civilization. But that is no reason to throw up our hands and yell, evil. We owe it to the beauty of humanity to keep working toward a better understanding of each other. Both Darren Wilson and Kim Jong-Un are reminders of how far we still have to go to educate and illuminate.

These men are not evil, but the results of circumstances. The result of colonialism and war. Misguided immigration policy and failing school systems. Broken families and false promises. These men are the result of failure. 

I know it can be difficult to remain calm in the face of reckless murder and injustice. It is difficult to ignore our natural need for revenge in the face of barbarity and petty ignorance, but if have any hope for the future we have to see the perpetrators of violent acts as human beings. Not evil monsters. Because there is no hope for a monster. There is no cure for evil, but there is work to be done for flawed human beings. This work starts with love and education, empathy and trust.

Sometimes I imagine adults who commit terrible crimes as children in my classroom. What would I say to the three men who shot up the Charlie Hebdo magazine when they were twelve? How would I counsel or teach the cop who killed Eric Garner when he was ten?

It's not easy to stay loving and calm as the world burns around us, but it seems to me that we have no choice.

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