The World is a Scary Place
“One of the great tragedies of life is that men seldom bridge the gulf between practice and profession, between doing and saying. A persistent schizophrenia leaves so many of us tragically divided against ourselves. On the one hand, we proudly profess certain sublime and noble principles, but on the other hand, we sadly practice the very antithesis of these principles. How often are our lives characterized by a high blood pressure of creeds and an anemia of deeds! We talk eloquently about our commitment to the principles of Christianity, and yet our lives are saturated with the practices of paganism. We proclaim our devotion to democracy, but we sadly practice the very opposite of the democratic creed. We talk passionately about peace, and at the same time we assiduously prepare for war. We make our fervent pleas for the high road of justice, and then we tread unflinchingly the low road of injustice. This strange dichotomy, this agonizing gulf between the ought and the is, represents the tragic theme of man's earthly pilgrimage.”
-Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love
San Bernardino, California.
Mali, Nigeria, and Kenya.
I could go on and on but I’m already exhausted. If you’ve been following the news at all, you know how violence has devastated families across the globe in recent days. Recent months. Since….forever. Based on current societal norms (laws?), if a person becomes violent and a threat to others, that person is either neutralized by authorities in the moment, or arrested and imprisoned - if they’re found guilty that is (George Zimmerman anyone?) where they will either spend the rest of their lives in jail or wait 20-30 years to be executed? Now that person has been taken of, but what about the rest of us? How else am I supposed to feel safe in this country or while traveling with family? Go out and buy a gun myself? Is that really the answer we want to teach our kids? There’s something about sitting around and waiting for another (random) act of violence that seems both wrong and counterproductive to me. For example, who does the TSA expect to find at every major airport in America with those clogged, inconvenient security lines? What in the world can my sealed bottle of Dove Men Care shower gel do in my toiletry bag, that’s in my carry-on bag, that’s in the storage container above my head? And if I were really a suicide bomber, would I really have to wait in that long line at security just to try to sneak and destroy a plane? I mean, I walked through the terminal to get to the security checkpoint before heading to the gate - there’s plenty of destruction to create and people to hurt there…..right? Precautionary measures, especially as a result of another tragedy, don’t make me feel particularly safer. Frankly, as in my TSA example, not only do I feel more in danger, but my tax dollars are being wasted too! America has some changing to do.
Why not invest in changing the social environment that has the potential to eliminate the threat of violence in the first place? In the bi-partisan budget approval by Congress, we’re still spending more money on military than every other developed nation combined. For what!? As a precaution? Just in case Middle Eastern nations goes to war with each other and we need to send troops over to “promote democracy”? WHAT ABOUT OUR DEMOCRACY!?!?!?!? With the money that America alone spends on being the biggest and most violent and most advanced militarized nation on Earth, homelessness can be eradicated. Millions could be supplied with access to better education, health-care, and healthy foods. To be clear, obviously we need military defense, and a good one at that - I’m just questioning the need to spend hundreds of billions of dollars annually as a “precaution” to violence, especially when the primary focus appears to be away from home.
Generally speaking, there’s two principle reasons for violence: poverty and differing opinions/perceptions. The disease of poverty infects all its sufferers, leading some to rob banks, steal, or either use or sell drugs, to name a few. If people felt that education could actually lead them to a lucrative career, and that they wouldn’t have to sell their organs and donate bone marrow and hair and their children just to pay for said education, I guarantee there would be a lot more educated people to pay taxes and contribute to the world’s largest economy. Investing in the people, in communities, and in education reduces the risk of and potential for violence.
Opinions, on the other hand, are much more abstract and require more depth of thought. People want so much to have valuable things and feel valuable, so much so that the worth of another person can be threatening. My students joke all the time about whose social media post didn’t generate any ‘likes’ and who is lame for posting what. From my experiences in college and thereafter, it appears this social media phenomenon is true for most young people. The values and opinions of friends, colleagues, and associates matter more than those of our parents and families. We live in a world that glorifies, idolizes, and epitomizes violence, where fights are recorded and posted to social media as folklore, the highest selling video games are the most violent, reality TV stars get more ratings and mentions depending on how often they throw those hands, gang members execute 9 year old boys, and even a pastor can shoot someone during his sermon. We haven’t even discussed the black men vs. the police thing yet!
The tragedy in Paris encouraged this post, or rant if that’s how you feel, just as it has encouraged global support and unity, public outcries, political debates, and my personal favorite - opinions. On Saturday morning after the tragedy, I found myself scrolling down Facebook, looking for the pages of news outlets to have shared updates on Paris. What I found instead troubled me so deeply that I was tempted to deactivate my page altogether. People were actually bickering and debating about why people were showing so much support for the people of Paris but not those that died in Kenya, or in another tragedies. A vocabulary term was even introduced to me - selective mourning - in which people pick and choose which global issue to mourn based on their perceptions. It’s as if the people that perished in Paris don’t deserve to be mourned because of another unfortunate act of violence elsewhere. Or maybe it’s that our world is so violent and dangerous that we must pick and choose who to feel the most shocked about? Anger has the blood coursing within my veins boiling in disgust. This reminded me of the stupid “Black Lives Matter” vs. “All Lives Matter” debate. No one, I repeat, NO ONE is saying that all lives don’t matter - the slogan is giving honor and value to a group of people that do not feel honored or valued because of unspeakable injustice and violence brought upon them by police officers. No one is saying that the people of Kenya don’t matter. No one is drawing attention away from Mizzou or Yale. People are just expressing, in this moment, a deep sympathy for those innocent people that were violently slain and deemed valueless in the opinions of the members of ISIS that did this.
Poverty and opinions are driving a wedge between people. I find myself questioning society every single day, because in my heart I know there are good people out there meant to do great things, but I’m having a hard time figuring out how to help people reach that potential with so much going on around us. At the end of the day, we’re all people. We all have to live here. Let’s figure this thing out, and while we’re at it, let’s do it together. For the kids. For our futures. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t afraid. But just as we find strength in fear, let’s try to find the strength to love.