This week. This month? This year? These past two years, three, ten, fifteen? There have been so many lives lost that people are beginning to say we are inured to it. I hope this isn’t true. I hope that singular killings and mass killings have begun to eat at us so that we act and not just Ostrich ourselves.
I have read a lot of diatribe, but no real answers. Protests. Black Lives Matter. All Lives Matter. Ban Guns. Keep Guns. Bomb The Daylights Out of ISIS, Iraq, Taliban. Kill Them. Keep Them Out. Build Walls.
Alas, it’s the last one that strikes home because it may be exactly what is at the root of all of this hatred. Walls.
We’ve already built enough walls. It may be the walls that are killing us.
Walls keep us from seeing real people and seeing them as individuals. Walls allow us to stereotype so that we can group people by their nationality and say they are all the same; by their race and say they all of the same; by their age and say they are all the same; by their religion and say they are all the same; by their sexual orientation and say they are all the same.
As children, we don’t have walls until someone tells us we’re supposed to. We become products of our parents, our role models, our older siblings, and, yes, even the religion, which is supposed to teach us to be loving and generous. Unless we have mentors who stress tolerance or have the intelligence to keep our minds open, we grow to become as narrow or as open as those around us.
But, I think a larger problem exists because there is more stress and hatred on this planet that is not connected to someone’s race, religion, or gender orientation. Somehow we have decided that violence is the path to greater happiness.
If I kill the person who is driving too slowly, the neighbor whose dog barks, the dog for that matter, the woman dating my ex-boyfriend, the guy playing the saxophone at 9:31 pm when he knows the noise ordinance is for 9:30, the kid who bought the last bag of Oreos or is wearing the $120 jeans that I want, I WILL BE HAPPY. MY PROBLEMS WILL BE SOLVED. No, they are just beginning. Actually, they started awhile ago, when we transferred whatever stress and unhappiness that we are carrying around and put it on other people.
From there, it’s easy to blame: religion, immigrants, race, gender, gender orientation, age, whatever we have decided to make the subject for hatred and killing.
In this age of entitlement, are we entitled to kill anyone just because we can and we think we have a good enough reason?
Or is it because they are anonymous? Because we can’t envision their spouse or parent, son or daughter, or best friend or grandparent, who might be waiting for them and who will grieve for them? Is it selfishness? Entitlement? Hatred? Immorality?
It’s not limited to killing because we have the internet. If you want to see walls, take several hours and visit any public forum or comment area on the internet and witness the ignorant vitriol spouted by individuals at their keyboards with a blinders-on agenda. On the internet, walls and blinders are the same thing. Anger and meanness are directed toward the unseen. It doesn’t matter who the person is on the receiving end as long as they aren’t seen—and maybe even if they are seen, but not known.
Is that the problem? We don’t know anyone anymore? We don’t know our neighbors or the people driving on the highway or the clerk at the grocery store or the flight attendant or the waiter in the Parisian café or the mosque-goer in Istanbul? Does not knowing mean that it is okay to do harm? Can we not inject empathy?
But, there is good. I have seen and experienced lots and lots of goodness and kindness and gentleness and love. I would like to think it could flourish and be strong enough to wash away all of this hatred and vitriol, to remind us that every person around us is a real person, that all life is precious, that we should value all life.
I would like to believe that the majority of people on this planet hold these views and that as a whole we can come together, even if that whole only starts with each one of us doing one act every day to make one thing better that extends beyond us. If we don’t, if we don’t take the everyday opportunity to promote an existence based on nurturing all life, be it human or other creature, we only have ourselves to blame because doing nothing is not an option anymore.
Sascha Darlington, 7/9/2016