Seventies folk singer and satirist Tom Lehrer famously introduced his song "National Brotherhood Week" with the declaration: “There are some people who do not love their fellow man. I hate people like that!”
Incredibly, the hypocrisy embedded in the concept of “fighting for peace” seems to escape oblivious, impassioned advocates. Similarly, those vigilantes who kill doctors and nurses providing abortion services are missing the obvious.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote, “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart." Who among us has the honesty to acknowledge and realize that whenever we point the finger at someone else, three other fingers are pointing back at ourselves?
As we witness the carnage of one mass shooting after another, alarmed rhetoric surges. Will this result in anything more productive than the traditional prayers and handwringing? The New York Times headline on Oct. 2 provided a grim reality check: "477 Days, 521 Mass Shootings, Zero Action From Congress."
What can Congress do? Pass regulations? The NRA likes to say that guns don’t kill people; people kill people. That should read: Guns don’t kill people; people with guns kill people. Presumably, if they didn’t have guns, particularly automatic weapons that can fire hundreds of rounds a minute, they’d use clubs or knives or poison.
We hurt each other because we are disconnected: from each other, from nature, from the source of life (whatever we call it) and from ourselves. We live in separate bubbles, objectifying “others” because they are different than us. “They” belong to a different political party, they have different-colored skin, they attend different churches or none at all, they have unique sexual preferences.
Whatever those differences are, individuals adrift in separation find it easy to demonize. After the recent terrorist event in Charlottesville where, according to a report in the Aug. 15 edition of the Charlotte Observer penned by Steve Crump of WBTV, “James Allen Fields Jr. allegedly drove a car into a crowd of protesters at high speed, then fled the scene … .”
Crump quoted Justin Moore, the Grand Dragon for the Loyal White Knights of Ku Klux Klan, who said: “I’m sorta glad that them people got hit and I’m glad that girl died.”
The victim, Heather Heyer, was a human being. But not to Moore and Fields Jr. She was labeled a communist, a liberal; she was different. Maybe to them, but not to her mother and her friends.
We can marvel at the insanity of such attitudes but that does nothing to improve the situation. Gandhi said that “we must be the change we wish to see in the world.” What does that mean in the 21st century as we confront the stark reality that the human species seems intent on ending its brief season on planet Earth violently, one way or another.
We could speak about climate change and species extinction rates, the obesity epidemic, escalating autism, plunging fertility and the alarming tide of brain research implicating cell phones … the long list of all the clever ways we have invented to do ourselves in. It’s depressing to contemplate.
On the other hand, we have this moment. What are we transmitting right now? Especially, as we stare into the abyss and confront horror. Can we maintain our personal equilibrium and express a prayer, a blessing, comfort and love and forgiveness? And what are we doing beyond moaning and wishing?
Are we poised to confront our own hypocrisy, to choose peace instead of hate, for instance, whenever we read the latest tweet from our president, attacking anyone who disagrees with him? There’s a real acid test. What’s our reaction? Do we return in kind or do we offer something radically different?
Peace can never be legislated. Regulations won’t heal the inner wounds that lead loners to murder. We have little to no control over others. But we can choose peace for ourselves. And that makes a world of difference. It always has.
— Will Wilkinson is a senior consultant for Luminary Communications. He has authored eight books and is currently translating one of them, "Thriving in Business and Life," into an on-line course for small business leaders. For more, see www.willtwilkinson.com.