Twenty-Seven


Well, it’s a gorgeous day as I suspected it would be for my birthday. As you can guess, this post isn’t so Seattle-related. It’s a bit more world-related actually. Birthdays encourage pensive behavior and so do the events as of late.

It took a few days to sort out my reaction to Osama bin Laden’s death. Sunday night I didn’t care very much, truth be told. It seemed far away and irrelevant. Monday morning it blew up in my face. I was appalled by the reactions I was seeing expressed by friends. I think I saw red. There was arrogance, there was disrespect and there was disgusting behavior. It inflamed me and I struck head on which perhaps wasn’t the most productive way of going about things. It wasn’t the best way, truthfully. It was a very troubling and confusing day. I was glad for Tuesday.

Today, I am grateful to the people who spent a decade looking for this man. I am. I am grateful to you for continuing because it’s clear that this man would have threatened lives repeatedly. Self-preservation is not lost on me.

What was upsetting was the lack of respect for the value of his life. Please, don’t confuse respect for compassion, kindness, mercy or forgiveness. These are all very different things. We have a word for each of them for a reason.

A few years ago, the KKK marched through Toledo, OH while I was still living there. People were furious, of course. They asked the mayor to find a way to stop them from coming through Toledo. Mayor Ford was a black man and if I’m not mistaken he was the first black mayor of Toledo. He handled it remarkably. I was burning up inside but held onto the idea of the right to freedom of speech. But deeper than that, Mayor Ford’s actions showed a respect for life and living. There wasn’t much he could do legally anyway and I wasn’t a fan of his politics or management but that week I appreciated his actions.

Toledo went into an uproar. Of course, the KKK wanted this. They love it.
Toledoeans burned things down. Tore their streets and homes apart.
The KKK, as far as I recall, did not do any physical damage.
Very smart. We can learn from those we dislike a great deal.

Possibly the hardest thing to chew over is that anyone supporting or involved in the KKK is completely repulsed I believe all people are created equal and I treat them as such (to the best of my knowledge; better yet, I don’t purposefully treat or think of people as less than myself). We can live alongside each other even with these distressing thoughts, that we are equally valuable.

Even as we execute our enemy, to make it worthwhile it is important we honor the life given and the death. Even in the face of our enemy’s lack of the very same regard. The idea of an eye for an eye is a fallacy. I personally know what it is like to feel the fate of a man’s life in my own hands. I can tell you from first hand experience: Justice cannot be brought on if I choose to punish someone. Punishment is necessary for the sake of society, I do agree with that but justice does not happen because I punish someone. I can provide an open door but I cannot make someone feel sympathy, feel anger, or frustration. I cannot make them feel wrong for something they did. I cannot create that balance. Only they can.

My point is his death should not be a celebration, in my opinion. In my truth, in my reality, that is not right. What are we celebrating? Are we any safer? Is there any evidence of that? Does it “make up” for all the lives lost? Does revenge.. work? Revenge is a joke. It’s laughable. You can’t make someone else feel what you feel though I empathize with the drive to see that happen. I struggle with this myself, some days.

My mother used to say that what you don’t like about others is what you don’t like about yourself. There are few things I agree with my mother about but that is definitely one of them. As I was saying earlier, we are all equally valuable and while, no, I am not a mass murderer, I do have something in common with my enemies. I have a lack of tolerance. It seems to me we have varying degrees but it does exist in me too. I know what it is like to feel hate and those ideas grow inside of me. I know what it is like to hate someone so much I could actually hurt them. It.. was scary.

The root of anything is an idea. It’s why we must be careful with our thoughts..
Thoughts become words
Words become actions
Actions become habits
Habit becomes your character
And your character becomes your fate.

We fall down, we make mistakes (or are they?), we.. learn and hope there is another opportunity to do better than before. This is living and living is practicing. Practicing for what, I’m not sure. It is certainly about something bigger than the individual but the bigger picture involves the individual and so each step, each thought, each feeling and expression and lesson coursing through us matters.

To be aware of another person’s beliefs and still disregard it and wishing to replace it with your own is a disservice to us all. Pfft. Reminds me of the audacity the British had when they wanted to make the saying “the sun never sets on the British empire” true. Reminds me of religions going across the world to convert people. I think the world is getting a bit better about respecting what already exists and that maybe it has a right to.  I don’t have to accept someone else’s beliefs as my own or find a way to justify it and make it “okay.” But I respect its.. value. It’s very difficult and I am not always successful but every person and idea has worth. I do see my own hypocrisy and I’m working very hard to find a way out of it. I don’t know if there is a way.

But..

The only way to successfully combat the things we would not like to see in the world is to be something other than it. We can learn. We can learn how we would like to not be, we can learn that from looking at the other person and ourselves. I’ve not experienced it any other way but maybe there is one. Today, I am celebrating my birthday with these thoughts in mind, that each life, not matter how repugnant I find it has its worth. Somewhere, somehow, I believe we can find a way toward peace.

Today, I celebrate the hope for peace.
One of these days I’ll learn to keep my big mouth shut. Perhaps that would contribute *laughs*…
What? The only way to get through this world is to laugh at myself.

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