Yesterday I read a comment from a reader and it made me want to expand more on what I have written. I am profoundly saddened by the destruction of our country and it is being destroyed each and every day. Over forty years ago Dr. Martin Luther King said:
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction….The chain reaction of evil–hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars–must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation. We are dying and that death is occurring all around us.
No more evident is that death than on the campus of Virginia Tech, but also in the streets of Bagdad, the streets of New Orleans in the gangsta rap and the endless bombast of cable news programs which pit one of us against another in an unending spectacle of violence the likes of which would make the ancient Romans proud. Spend some time watching Hannity and Colmes, Hardball, The No Spin Zone and dozens of other shows where guests are encouraged to confront each other and disrespect is tolerated as long as the ratings are on the rise. Attack politics of “swift boat” and Willie Horton have drawn us deeper and deeper in the quaqmire of internecine combat. Hollywood’s unsatiable appetite for murder and mayhem. Army recruiting video games that encourage combat and a desensitization toward violence.
These toxins surround us daily. We celebrate violence and militarism and we mislabel it as patriotism and national pride. If as some religious traditions would remind us we are temples of a holy spirit then this spirit has become poisoned by this climate of violence. How can we end it? How can we reclaim our culture. Is Shalom possible?
We spend billions of dollars trying to cope with violence outside the country, yet violence within our own country is overwhelming and we haven’t done enough to help decrease it. We have to find a practice that can deal with the roots of violence. Relying only on police officers to keep the peace is too naive. They can sometimes stop violence on the surface, but the roots of violence remain.–Thich Nhat Hanh-Calming the Fearful Mind.
We must recognize that within all of us are the seeds of violence and that we must embrace and accept those seeds. We must love our neighbors as ourselves. Until we can embrace and love ourselves we will not be able to love our neighbor. A simple smile can be bring peace. We must literally love our neighbors. We cannot wait for politicians or the other person. We must be the change we wish to see in the world. We cannot end abortion, racism, militarism or violence with legislation nor with deadly force.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has”- Margaret Mead