Sick of the Sickness

by thoughtsatlarge

Once again, the earth has been rocked from its axis by the deaths of our neighbors. It is becoming harder and harder to maintain a list in my head of these atrocities. Humans are finding ever more inventive ways of killing one another. In 2001, no one had ever thought to use an airplane as a weapon. Now we have trucks racing through crowds of people to kill them. And I worry we have become numb to the violence. We offer thoughts and prayers for a short time and then move on to the next act of violence forgetting the cost of the violence on those left behind. I’m sick over this.

I am also sick; sick of the violence, sick of the heartache, sick of the pain caused daily by anger, callousness, and hatred. The hatred we see across our country and the world has led us to a dangerous precipice. There are those in our country who yearn for the day when we can raise up arms against our government. There are those in our country who cannot wait for a race war to start. There are those in our country who shoot first and never stop to ask questions later. There are those in our country who no longer engage in civil discourse. There are those in our country who base their freedom on religious distinctions or skin color or geographic location or gender or age or any other subcategory of which we don’t find ourselves belonging. The same can be said about the world. Religious differences, nations of origin, and other random segregations pit us against one another. I am sick of it.

So what is the answer, because if we continue down this dangerous path, we are headed toward a breakdown of civilization here and across the world, and that never happens without millions dying in war? We have a presidential nominee who welcomes torture and xenophobia. The world has gotten smaller through technology and transportation, and yet we seem to be drifting farther and farther apart. Nationalism is the concept that your country is the best simply because of an accident of being born in a particular place. We cannot let this be our sole guiding principle. Neither can we exclude others because they believe in a different god than we do. Wouldn’t it be nice if God, if there is a god, finally reached out to us and set the record straight? Imagine the clarity we could glean from that. Nations that exist due to arbitrary lines on a map might see one another as neighbors instead of threats. We have this one world, and we are doing everything we can to destroy it. What will be the result of such acts on its inhabitants? It can’t end well. I am sick.

Carl Sagan wrote about our little planet based on a photograph of the Earth sent back by Voyager 1 as it left our corner of the solar system. It was about 4 billion miles from the earth at the time, and the Earth is a pale blue dot in the photograph. From that distance, there are no prejudices, there are no guns, and there are no countries. It is John Lennon’s Imagine in a photograph. How can we internalize these concepts? My dog knew love and only love. Why can’t we be as smart as my dog? I’m sick.

The sickness of prejudice, any prejudice, is a learned sin. We are not born that way. The hatred and anger we see in the world is kindled by an epistemic closure. We only listen to those with whom we already agree. Debate and conversation are dead. We answer disagreements with guns and claim to have stood our ground. We have a Congress that cannot agree to keep guns away from terrorists or fight the Zika virus but feel vindicated as they leave on a seven-week vacation. We have the most divided Congress in history. Obstructionism has been taken to a new art form by this Congress as a way of stymying anything this president puts forth. No amount of spin can paint this as anything other than sick. I’m sick to my stomach.

Everyone battles their own problems in life. Perhaps if we stopped to acknowledge that and give each other the benefit of the doubt before jumping to conclusions and anger, we might forestall the hatred permeating society. Perhaps if we stopped to acknowledge that we are all in this together, we can put the earth back on its axis and prevent us from slipping down that slope toward more sickness. Our health starts with each of us. Look inside to see the spots of hatred and purge them. Take the stump out of your eye before complaining about the splinter in your neighbor’s. It starts with you and me.

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