Category: social justice (page 1 of 2)

taming the wolf

I’ve been revisiting some of the foundational philosophies of Western culture and seeing how necessary to our current climate these thoughts are. I can’t help but think our current American culture is what Nietzche meant by “God is dead.” We have set up a surrogate god by praising patriotism and personal rights as a virtue over treating all humans as made in God’s image. Freedom to preserve one’s personal interests is the new morality.

A cult of conservativism (or any half-blind party loyalty) cannot bring salvation to a country divided, a society whose people cannot see beyond “us and them.” Your right to keep your firearms doesn’t preserve freedom if we are raising children who become lone wolves keen to lash out on those who carry different beliefs.

Every time a mass shooting happens (which is woefully frequent these days), what’s the first thing we want to know? What is the shooter’s profile? In other words, we want the suspect to be one of them, not one of us.

If he’s not one of us we can attribute the atrocity, the anger, the violence to something clearly outside of our own beliefs. We can rationalize it as a threat outside of us. When it’s someone who doesn’t “fit the profile” in our minds, we struggle to find reasons that he isn’t one of us. We rush to find the differences between him and “normal Americans” instead of acknowledging the common denominator.

We find the ways in which he was troubled that we should have noticed sooner, the way that he didn’t quite belong. (Oh, see? He was never really one of us.) We can shift the issue to something that isn’t so threatening to our core beliefs–such as guns or skin color or abnormal psychology–instead of the deep-rooted problems within our society that we’ve cultivated for so many generations.

And yet we always insist on morality. Every time this happens the suspect is “clearly an evil man.” It is an act of evil. Of terrorism. Of Islamic extremism. Until it’s domestic. This is an act of mental illness if it’s a white man, in which case he’s the victim of something beyond his control. We insist that we should have seen that he was crying out for help.

Well, what creates the kind of person who will fly under the radar with so much hatred in his heart and an Anarchist’s Cookbook under his bed? An arsenal in his closet? What creates a person so out of touch with others that no one would notice? Why so devoid of humanity and love?

Who bred this lone wolf?

Where was that moral fortitude in his upbringing and education? Where was the failure to instill empathy? Who or what ought we to hold responsible for instilling a sense of entitlement, selfishness, and hatred in place of kindness and equality?

Hate and all of the various “isms” that stem from it is a symptom of fear, insecurity, ignorance, and selfishness. Superiority is a delusion of those who, for whatever reason, don’t know what love is and can’t see beyond their own interests. Love and inclusion require humility. Hubris divides. Hubris rationalizes gunning down dozens of innocent people.

It takes the kind of strength that only comes from humility to recognize that you are not better than anyone, that others have intrinsic value. In normal human psychology this is something we all should have learned in early to mid-childhood.

No matter what ethos you have cultivated, we must insist that human beings are more important than ideologies. If your head knowledge leaves no room for the sanctity of human life, your education has failed you. We must cultivate the life of the heart along with the life of the mind.

Otherwise, what’s the point of living?

Perhaps this goes through the minds of those who, after taking lives, decide to take their own. They may have a keen sense that something is missing, but don’t have people around them to help figure out just what that might be. They’re missing an empathy network; their heart longs for it, but its absence creates confusion. Confusion without humility results in anger. Unchecked anger without empathy creates a person capable of seeing others as disposable.

Perhaps we simply need to cultivate the ability to recognize when someone is becoming a lone wolf. That requires being actively tuned in to other people.

Secondly, we need to cultivate the courage to call it out when we recognize the lone wolf tendencies creeping up within the ranks. This applies to any kind of social injustice, from sexual harassment to gun violence. It’s easy to overlook flaws in people of your own tribe. We don’t want to see ugliness in our own. But we have to. We have to recognize and correct the bad in order to foster the good.

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persist

When you meet resistance

for who you are,

for how you look,

for what others assume you should give away,

When you meet resistance,

become the Resistance.

Persist in being a mighty citizen of the world.

Persist in doing good.

Insist upon your equal rank in the fight

for goodness, truth, and beauty.

Desist in carrying shackles

intended to keep you in your place,

designed to impress upon you

that you are less than.

Resist those instances

in which it’s hinted

that you should be pitted against

your own kind.

Persist in love.

Pursue empathy.

We can all walk in one another’s shoes,

they are unisex.

We are all humankind.

There is no “them,”

Only “we”

as we continue to be

the Resistance.

 

Happy International Women’s Day, with thanks and love to those who have made this world a better place.

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justice is a verb

When millions banded together for the Women’s March following Trump’s inauguration, many of a certain persuasion decried this as an outrageously divisive act of liberal whining.

Far from it. I saw men and women of all persuasions and ethnicities united in solidarity. A great deal more than half of our country, and many others around the world, united to demand equal rights. It was not just a demand for women to not be seen as objects, it was a demand that everyone be treated as equal human beings; that Muslims not be ostracized, that Hispanics not be made to live in fear of losing the place they call home, that the LGBT’s not lose all the progress of acceptance that they’ve fought so hard for, that every American should be entitled to health care. These are pretty basic human rights, and enough people felt those rights being threatened that they couldn’t be silent.

Standing up and taking action for what you believe in is not whining. Being the change you wish to see in the world is not whining.

Was it whiny liberalism that prompted the British to revolt and leave behind a tyrannical monarchy that wasn’t serving the interest of the people? And was it whining when they dumped tea into the Boston harbor as a non-violent protest against unfair tax practices?

Was the Emancipation Proclamation whining?

Was women’s suffrage whining?

Was Dr. King’s speech about judging people by their character rather than their color whining?

Were the teachings of Jesus Christ whining? During his lifetime, I’m sure many saw him as the equivalent of a “whiny liberal,” and they killed him for it.

Let’s not forget that protest is what got us here. Dissent from a system that was failing its people is what made America possible. Standing up and doing something about injustice is what made America great.

So when we hear someone who wants to lead the free world brag that he can get away with grabbing a woman by the pussy* just because he’s famous, you better believe we’re not going to sit idly by and let half the population be seen as objects of his pleasure, property to be grabbed. We should see statements like that as a symptom of a greater problem, and it should be loud and clear that this is not okay. If taxation without representation was a valid reason to symbolically give the middle finger to the British monarchy, then why the backlash when we unite and wear hats and insist to be treated like human beings?

*If this word still shocks you and you feel the need to apologize for using it, remember whose mouth it came from first. It should bother you. Then think long and hard about whether the idea of talking about treating women in the way our president boasts about bothers you half as much as the words used.

If we are lucky, we are surrounded by people who have many different points of view, some drastically different from our own. That’s a good thing. That’s another reason that America is great. I take it as a good sign that not many people I personally know would have a problem with a women’s march and are more progressive than to use such a divisive and derogatory phrase as “whiny libtard,” but there are a few. I can agree to disagree with them without blocking them from social media or giving them the cold shoulder in person. (When they go low, you go high.) I try to avoid any kind of “us” and “them” language, because we are all “us”. That kind of language is divisive, indicates that a divide already exists, and it is best to avoid even thinking in the terms “us” and “them.”

Any time I’m tempted to use the word “them,” I step back and force myself to identify who I’m visualizing. Is it someone of a different political affiliation? I couldn’t care less if someone voted differently than I did, and I certainly don’t let a political party creep into how I identify myself or other people. Is “them” someone of a different gender? If I’m fighting for equality, we are no different. There is no room for me to think of anyone as “them,” as other than myself.

Social justice doesn’t come from sitting silently by. It doesn’t always look polite. But that doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to do. Just because it’s polarizing doesn’t mean it’s divisive. Will I fall on the right side of history? I probably won’t know in my lifetime. But I would rather die knowing that the stances I took were out of love for people based on their intrinsic value rather than judging them for their actions, that I erred on the side of compassion rather than exclusion, and that in standing up for others I never put anyone down, even those who vehemently disagreed with me.

Taking a stand against bad ideas isn’t hateful. Hating bad thinking isn’t the same as hating the people who espouse those ideas. When you see something problematic, something that is hurting people, and you don’t say or do anything about it, that is wrong. We should love our fellow human beings enough to want to correct the injustices in the world. When we see all humans as humans and start seeing justice as a verb, that’s how we change the world.

 

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politics as resistance

Today is a day of celebration for some, mourning for others. There is time for each, so long as everyone is respectful of others. Be slow to judge others for their disappointment or elation. Don’t think less of anyone for their political views. We are all humans deserving of each others love, and we are all at least a little scared.

 

Few things can so quickly hinder mutual respect and forward progress than political opinions. A passage from “The Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis seems appropriate today:

My Dear Wormwood,

Be sure that the patient remains completely fixated on politics. Arguments, political gossip, and obsessing on the faults of people they have never met serves as an excellent distraction from advancing in personal virtue, character, and the things the patient can control. Make sure to keep the patient in a constant state of angst, frustration, and general disdain towards the rest of the human race in order to avoid any kind of charity or inner peace from further developing. Ensure the the patient continues to believe that the problem is ‘out there’ in the ‘broken system’ rather than recognizing there is a problem with himself.

Keep up the good work,

Uncle Screwtape

Surely we can hold on to our own values without being threatened by those of others. We can deflate negativity and despair by recognizing political differences as a means of sharpening our own beliefs rather than allowing it to sabotage us. We can choose whether or not it is a form of Resistance for us.

My initial reaction to the election result was tears, knowing that division and rioting are surely moments away. Then I had to remember that the good people of the world will need to be all the stronger and step up to the plate doing enough good to crowd out the hate and division. I’m heartbroken that our country has done this to herself, that she thinks she deserves it, but our mourning period should be brief because there is much work to do.

Be wise of mind, tender of heart, and bold in spirit. Be good humans to one another. We are better than to let little things like opinions divide us.

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