“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.” Martin Niemöller
How many of us have stood by while witnessing our fellow human beings being oppressed, discriminated against, bullied, or even slaughtered, and we didn’t do or say anything because we did not agree with that person or group of people’s beliefs? Or maybe we even joined in because we believed the hype that ‘they’ were somehow considered not worthy or maybe even close to being non-human? We’ve seen this throughout history and we’re still seeing it today. We’ve seen it with the Native Americans, Japanese, Jews, blacks, and so many others. Because some didn’t believe what they believed, they dehumanized them, put them in internment / concentration camps, moved them to other areas such as reservations, enslaved them, and even committed genocide on them. You would think that in the year 2016 we would have learned from our history, but apparently not.
Today, we’ve added the LGBT communities, Muslims, blacks, immigrants, Mexicans / Hispanics / Latinos, people with disabilities, women, and so on. Sadly, I’m sure more people will eventually be added to these groups. At what point will it be our turn? Some groups don’t think it could happen to them, but it could just as easily happen to any of us, just as it has happened to those in the groups I have mentioned.
So far, we’ve been fortunate in our country in that the oppressors can’t just go through towns or cities and slaughter thousands of people. Unfortunately, they do so on a smaller scale compared to other countries, but because of our laws, the people who did the harm will be sought, caught, prosecuted, and face the consequences (hopefully).
In other countries, there are those who to this day continue to slaughter men, women, children, and babies just because of any perceived differences. Whole villages and cultural groups are being killed because of politics, religious beliefs, in the name of ethnic cleansing, etc.
Why am I bringing all this up? I’m extremely concerned because some in the political realm are spreading so much hate, fear, bigotry, ignorance, and violent propaganda against so many. Fear is a great controller of people, and by using fear, they can easily brainwash people to do almost anything. History has shown this. People are already doing so much harm and giving a particular candidate the credit saying he inspired them to do so! I really don’t mean for this to be about politics. It’s about our being decent human beings!
But that’s not who we are! If it’s true that we were made in the image of God, then all the above behavior is not of God (or the God of your understanding)! If we say God is love, and Jesus commanded us to love one another, then where’s the love? Where’s the compassion and kindness that our spiritual masters taught? If we allow fear to rule and we give in to the hate and violence and start hurting others because of a difference of beliefs, then we can no longer call ourselves a Christian nation. At least, that is not the Christianity that I personally believe in and those are not my values! For myself, I believe in the teachings of Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and other spiritual leaders who taught love and peace and everything that goes with it.
I really wanted to write a positive and uplifting article, but my heart has been so heavy for all those who are on the other end of all this hate, bigotry, and violence no matter who they are, what they believe, or what they look like. I can’t imagine the fear they are living in today as they see politicians and others trying to take our country backwards. My heart and soul goes out to them all.
There’s not much I can do to fix the world, but I can continue working on myself to try to be the best person I can be, and to teach unconditional love, not only for others, but for ourselves. Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” The Dalai Lama affirmed, “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. With them, humanity cannot survive.” And Sen. Cory Booker stated, "We are called to be a nation of love!"
Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper August 5, 2016.