No Violence, Man.

Headlines from around the world today (and at least one from yesterday)

Rocket Fire Casts Doubt on a Durable Truce in Gaza
Ebola Claims Another Sierra Leone Doctor
Witness:  Cop Shouted ‘Shoot Him’
Islamic State Fighters Abducted Over 100 Yazidi Women, Children
UN:  Ukraine Death Toll Has Doubled in Past 2 Weeks
This is the Terrifying Result of the Militarization of Police

If you clicked on any of those links, you will see that I am seriously lacking in diversity in my news consumption.  Feel free to berate me in the comment section.

These and many other headlines, articles, and news stories keep me up at night.  They fill my prayers, and burden my heart.  Stories like these about real people, in real places, dying and fighting and hating one another to the detriment of humanity makes me wonder about what hope I see in the world.

I was watching something the other day, and it was said that we are programmed to value life.  That it’s normal that we would fight for the life of another that it is part of our nature to save folks.  Whatever I was watching was some movie or show that is for entertainment, it is not a great work of truth and fact, but it got me to thinking that indeed we like to see our species as one that values the lives of its own.  We all like to think that at the root of humankind we are generous and loving and would never hurt a fly.  But when I look at these headlines, when I look at the world, it makes me doubt whether humans value human life at all.

Certainly we value our own lives.  We value the lives of our loved ones.  We even value the lives of children, of all sorts…typically.  But do we really value life?

I live a relatively normal peaceful life.  I go to work, I clean, I go to church.  I have no reason to harm anyone.  I don’t think, in my adult life, that I have ever physically injured someone, and if so, certainly not on purpose.  Let’s say though that someone hurt one of my sisters, the most beloved people on the planet to me, would I want to harm them?

I have never entertained more thoughts of “righteous” anger than with this situation in Ukraine.  This is an issue that is close to me.  I have loved ones in that place.  I know some of the intricacies of this conflict and the history that effects it.  With all of this knowledge and love, I feel angry towards a people I don’t know, towards an entire country.

I talk to folks all the time that would love to bomb Russia.  They think that this is the only way, the only way to ensure lasting peace.  Do we really value life?

Is a Russian life less valuable than a Ukrainian’s?  Is a Palestinian life less valuable than an Israeli’s?  Is a young black man’s life less valuable than a young white man’s?

We like to think of ourselves as kind and merciful, but in times of fear and anger, we typically don’t err on the side of mercy.  It’s not always in big ways, it’s not just killing, harming, or oppressing someone, but sometimes it’s in little ways too.  It’s purchasing jeans made in sweat shops, or not opposing sending people to internment camps.  This often manifests itself in the things that we fail to act against as well as the very ways in which we act.  Our silence compliance and consent to the horrible things happening under our noses and abroad in our name.

We call for the heads of terrorists, and allow the infringement of our rights as the NSA taps our phones and emails.  We celebrate the deaths of our ‘enemies’, and lock our cars when we see an “ethnic” person walking on the sidewalk next to our idling car at the stop light.

Every time we engage in conflict and violence, every time there is a loss of life or liberty at the hands of those in power, even if we think it’s somehow justified, it only breeds more hate.  It only breeds more death.  It only serves to make me, personally, less hopeful.  Violence begets violence.  Part of the reason countries like Iran hate us so much, is because of the violence we created in those countries.  Our war on terror has certainly flushed out terrorists, but it has also created new ones, with new vendettas against a whole people they’ve never met, but have certainly been touched very personally by.

The issues that plague Israel Palestine, I cannot speak at length about.  I am woefully ignorant, compared to some much more learned colleagues, of the intricacies of that very long and tense awful situation. (But if you ever do want to engage me on this topic I most certainly have informed opinions, but they perhaps aren’t informed enough for a public stage…)  I do know, however, that the largely one sided current conflict is appalling.  And in the name of what?  In the name of sovereignty or I’m bigger and badder than you?  In the name of resources or some sort of religious destiny?  Is there really no other answer than complete obliteration, destruction, and death?  Is there really no other way?

All of this just breeds more anger.  We cannot be allowed to hate those whom we do not know.  We just can’t, and claim to want to live in a peaceful world.  We cannot believe in peace and engage in war.   The very essence of what believing and engaging in peace would entail is sacrifice, mercy, love, understanding, empathy, and compromise.  That’s the crux of it folks.  Nowhere is hate listed, or fear.  There are no weapons or death listed there.  If we are not willing to engage in these things, we will always be angry and war torn.  The reality is, I don’t know that we’re programmed for the peacemaking things.

Mercy doesn’t come easy.  Nor does peace, understanding, cultural sensitivity (that’s why we had so many sessions on it at our YAM training), or grace.  We spend so much time crying and fighting for justice, when what we really need is compromise and mercy.

I am one of the administrators for a collective YAM blog, The Book of Fellows, and as such I get to read all the posts ahead of time.  Tomorrow, there will be a new post from my good friend Katie about building bridges.  She far more eloquent than me, and you should certainly pop over to the BOF blog tomorrow to read it.  With all things, however, we have to start the hard work of building bridges somewhere.  Just like a whole stack of dirty dishes won’t get clean if you just beat them up.  You have to start cleaning them one at a time, and eventually your sink will be empty.  That’s not to say that you won’t ever dirty a dish again, but when that happens you can look at it and know that you can find someplace to begin the hard work of cleaning them.

I find solace in my faith.  I find solace in the transformative power of the Gospel and the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives.  I also know, that frighteningly enough, we’ve been given such amazing free will, and if we choose to tear each other apart, we most certainly can.  We can give in to hate and fear and destruction, or we can follow Jesus in the way of mercy, grace, love, and peace.  I don’t know that we will ever truly know what peace looks like in this life.  I have no idea, but there are times when I see such exemplary examples of human wisdom and self control, that it restores my hope in man.

Here you can find a video of a news story of the riots that followed the death of Michael Brown Jr in Missiouri.  At about 1:04 his father speaks.  This man has just lost his child.  If anyone were to have some sort of excuse for anger and some hate, this man would be one of them.  He says, “I need everyone to be on one accord.  I need y’all to be…  I understand everybody have they own different pains and how they dealing with the situation, cause they have losses too, but I need all us together and do this right.  The right way.  The right way, so we can get something done about this.  No violence, man.”

No violence man, indeed.

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One thought on “No Violence, Man.

  1. Reblogged this on There Be Method To Madness and commented:
    ” We cannot believe in peace and engage in war. The very essence of what believing and engaging in peace would entail is sacrifice, mercy, love, understanding, empathy, and compromise….With all things, however, we have to start the hard work of building bridges somewhere. Just like a whole stack of dirty dishes won’t get clean if you just beat them up. You have to start cleaning them one at a time, and eventually your sink will be empty. That’s not to say that you won’t ever dirty a dish again, but when that happens you can look at it and know that you can find someplace to begin the hard work of cleaning them.”

    Thank you, Erica, for writing a wonderful reflection on much of the violence happening in our world right now, and what needs to be done to fix it. I encourage everyone to read this blog, and check out the Book of Fellows Blog tomorrow for Katie Davis’ reflection! http://thebookoffellows.wordpress.com/

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