You in me and me in you. You are me and I am you. We are us. Listen to our hearts beat with a stethoscope. Study our anatomy, our physiology, our body. We are a combination of one egg and one sperm. We inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. Birth and death are experienced by us both. Cut into our veins and see our red blood. Dissect our brains. What do you find? You and me. As Shylock, the Jew proclaimed to Bassanio in the Shakespearean play Merchant of Venice, "If you prick us, do we not bleed?"
I want my children to grow up safe and secure and so do you. I want bacteria-free drinking water, pest-free shelter, and nutritious food sources and so do you. I want to worship the deity of my choice and so do you. I want love and to be loved and so do you. I want purpose and meaning in my life and so do you. I want to have choices and options and so do you. I want freewill and I accept responsibility, accountability, and consequences of my actions. I want some personal power over my own life and so do you.
I want a life free of inhuman treatment, torture, slavery, violence, war, poverty and so do you. In 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and proclaimed, "Whereas recognitions of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world." I know that being an American who has not traveled to any other lands limits my understanding of other countries that do not value democracy and capitalism. And I am not so naive as to believe that all citizens of foreign soil desire an American government and an American way of life. However, I agree with the global human rights declaration but question the hypocrisy of equal rights in the USA. to those who chant, "America, love it or leave it!" when I express my opinion; I reply, "I love my country but I love people more." Do you question my patriotism? Do you call me an idealist? Or do you label me as clueless concerning national and global politics? Freedom of speech is for me and for you and I do cherish this gift. Maybe I am a bleeding heart who would rather be armed with kindness than a gun. And yes, I would probably fight to the death and kill another human being to save my daughter's life. I am a mixture of contradictions and so are you. As I write this, I am sitting in my warm home in a safe, industrialized country with food in the refrigerator and all the modern conveniences. I have my health, medical insurance, an education and a job. I am surrounded by family and friends who love me and whom I love. My blessings are many. But obtaining pure joy, contentment, and happiness is not possible in lieu of suffering humanity and violated universal human rights. Happiness is a fleeting emotion that comes and goesebbs and flows.
Fittingly, we shake our fists at malevolence dictatorships and tyrannical leaders who rape the people and the land, although human beings who commit evil atrocities are one side of a two-sided coin and not alien outliers. How can it be that parts and pieces of Stalin, Hitler, Milosevic, or Hussein dwell in different degrees in our human hearts? "We have met the enemy and he is us," so aptly declared by Pogo (cartoonist Walt Kelly) rings with reality. When is war necessary? Are nations supposed to do nothing when the innocent are slaughtered like a herd of beef cattle? Or when narcissistic despots plot to gobble up the entire planet village by village and country by country? The strong must protect the weak. The Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island cries out as a reminder. We are us.
Are wars fought over real estate, oil, gold, or for more noble prizes? Motivations are puzzling. Yes, freedom must fight for those in chains, but in the nonviolent steps of peacemakers, the military boots of imperialism or by brute force? Where have all the social prophets gone? And I agree that freedom "is not free" and sadly, the price is often paid with human beings: young soldiers and civilians; women and children; heroes who die so others may live. Politicians demand warsnot soldiers.
Glumly, history reveals discrimination and prejudice since the beginning of the beginning. Read Uncle Tom's Cabin or To Kill a Mocking Bird. Reflect upon Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings or Griffin's Black Like Me. Yes, President Lincoln freed Africans and their American descendents but the residual fallout lives on. Oh yes, discrimination is still alive and well in North America and only the naive or ignorant deny it. History may be repeated if future generations diminish the impact of slavery and our Civil War era. Forgive but do not forget.
America's hands are not squeaky clean. Talk to a Native American on a reservation, a Japanese American imprisoned after Pearl Harbor, war torn immigrants fleeing to the United States, and biracial children on playgrounds. Visit the ethnic American pockets as they band together for community but also for safety and shelter from narrow-mindedness. Although minorities hold a few elected offices in the House and Senate, all USA presidents embodied crayon-colored white skin and a penis.
In 1979, while working at a fast-food restaurant, I witnessed unfair treatment by management to college students with green cards. When I approached the students with an offer of advocacy and support, they told me not to rock the boat because they needed their job and paychecks. In 2004, while working at a fast-food restaurant, my daughter witnessed management being verbally abusive to immigrants who could not speak fluent English. What changed or did not change in those twenty-five years?
This is not a religious debate on the fall of humankind and original sin. Atrocities committed under the auspices of religion fill up our textbooks. Biased interpretations, elitist theologies, destructive doctrines, blinded ideologies and misquoted words from pages of sacred tablets dance on the dirt under which lies innocent and guilty. Jews, Muslims, and Christians argue over whose god is God. Hindu's and Buddhists claim "truth." Will the real "truth" please stand up? Religious sects proclaim divine uniqueness. Will the real "god" please stand up? Assorted denominations argue over doctrine and scripture. Members argue over the new carpet color in their churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques. Many are well-meaning but misguided people and I was once a member of their club. Stone-throwers come in all shapes and sizes. What color is your God?
Gays and lesbians continue to be forced into the frontline of self-righteous firing squads with viperous word bullets shellacked in pompous piety while gossipers, embezzlers, and adulterers warm pews and pulpits. Love your neighbor is not applied to neighbors of different sexual orientations as they are lumped into sin's categories. My friends from the GLBT community daily live with discrimination and stones of hatred. Tolerance is not what they desire; they want equality and "the right to life, liberty, and security." In her book, Love, Ellen, Betty DeGeneres writes, "How laughable we would seem from that far-off vantage pointself-obsessed busy-bodies divided by turf and custom and color and you name it." I'll admit I once bought into certain tenets of dogmatic religiosity but I refuse to attend a church where the pastor gay-bashes. Congregations are entitled to their theologies but spewing hatred is not acceptable and demanding that every person believe your beliefs is dictatorial. I will not throw stones at members of our human family; siblings who are of different sexual orientation and lifestyle. People who breathe and love and laugh and cry. People like mepeople like you. People. Human beings.
Although individuals with mental illness are no longer chained to asylum walls, discrimination still runs rampant. Stereotypical beliefs whistle on every street corner. The much needed Americans with Disabilities Act are the alpha and not the omega. Vacation at a beach and step into the sandals and the swimsuit of an obese tourist and you'll feel the rocks of verbal cruelty. Put on the skin of a person with mental retardation for one day and experience being ignored or taunted. Walk through a crowd with a facial deformity and feel the stares. People like youpeople like me. People. Human beings.
Stones are thrown at individuals who receive monthly social security disability income (SSDI) and public housing, welfare recipients, and those with Medicaid or food stamps. Yes, some scam the system and collect undeserved dollars, but many do not. Injured employees receiving workman's compensation are sometimes called lazy liars. While there is waste in the governmental spending of our tax dollars, there is also the responsibility to help those who are less fortunate and in need. We throw blame and shame stones at those in poverty. Reader, examine the stones in your pocket.
Visit school playgrounds and observe bullying and name-calling. Even children fling stones. Visit the halls of any high school and watch the boulders fly at the poor, the unattractive, and the mentally disabled. My paternal grandparents owned a small farm and I remember seeing the stronger chickens in the coop peck and pull out the feathers of newcomers. "We were here first!" A weaker chic would be singled out and pecked by the gang. Is American life merely survival of the fittest? Or survival of the whitest or the richest? Or the most powerful?
Like you, I'm aware of power, prestige, privilege, and the love of money decreed as "the root of all evil." Could this be the root cause of discrimination and conflict? Greed, gluttony, and self-indulgence ravish our societies. I like what Bob Webb posits, "Money is not a goal, money is a reward for achieving a goal that provides a service to others."
Elected republicans and democrats alike hurl partisan stones. I'm not left-winged or right-winged, but in the middle-winged. President Clinton was battered and tattered for his infidelity with a White House intern; consequences of his lewd behavior, political witch hunt, or both? How do we voice our morals, our ethics, our concerns without throwing stones?
Alas, bigotry is global and reaches far into the universe and wears many faces. And the result is a planet brimming with unresolved emotional pain; generations of bruised souls; daily struggles for survival; and a search for significance. What are we so afraid of?
As a professional counselor, I've studied the emotion and motive of fear as a primary ingredient in racism and bigotry and the secondary emotion of anger, resentment, and rage. We dispel stereotypes and educate on the value of diversity and multiculturalism. Nonetheless, our knowledge, research, and explanations do not stop hate crimes and injustices. We need to put feet on our ideology.
When victimizers kidnap, abuse, rape, molest, torture, and murder the innocent, we often throw blame stones at the perpetrator's parents or guardians. Sometimes we throw blame and shame stones at the victims for being in the wrong place at the wrong time or the right place at the right time or the wrong place at the right time. Why? People like mepeople like you.
From the age of agriculture to the industrial revolution to the age of technology, the American landscape has grown, prospered, and changed. Women and minorities fought and triumphed with the right to vote. Discoveries and inventions improve and enhance physical health and mental wellness. We've landed on the moon. Television gives us a bird's eye view into other cultures and subcultures. Albeit, judgment stones are still hurled! Reader, stick your hand into your own pocket.
In my opinion, the best way to throw away stones is to be in relationship with individuals who are different from you. I remained clueless about multiculturalism and diversity until I made new friends from other lands across the oceans. I asked what they thought and I listened to their stories of tragedy and triumph.
I admit to possessing an ostrich mentality for the racism in my own backyard. I resided in my white middle-class neighborhood in my white town with my heterosexual family and friends and attended a white church. I did not bash minorities and I voiced human rights and equality for all but lip-service prevailed in my plastic bubble of unawareness. Empathy from a distance is not beneficial to humanity or individuals. Aren't we more alike than different? Can our similarities outweigh our dissimilarities on issues of basic inalienable rights of the human family? How quickly the disease of apathy metastasizes as Americans turn the channel from world news to humorous sit-coms. Count the number of minorities portrayed in American movies, commercials, and programs. Television is still a tool of racism. Visit department stores and see how many minority dolls line the shelves. How many Black, Native American, Biracial, Hispanic, or Asian Barbie dolls do you find? The White Barbie has White friends. How many Barbie dolls come with a wheelchair?
Our cultures and subcultures are building blocks of our identities and deserve respect and honor. The USA stands as a symbol of hope for immigrants from war-torn countries and we need to learn about their cultures with an open mind of curiosity. Imagine if you were forced to flee from your home, community, and country or suffer the consequences of torture and/or death. And you committed no crime or wrong-doings. It's a reality that is incomprehensible. Diversity flavors our planet but there are those who spit it out with disgust. The question of "why?'" is on our lips and the question of "how?" follows it. However, knowledge and understanding, crucial attributes, are ineffective without action and application.
Alas, family members throw stones at each other. Nuclear families, blended families, adoptive families, nontraditional families. Spouses and partners abuse each other physically, verbally, emotionally, sexually, socially, spiritually, and economically. Parents abuse children and adult children abuse elderly parents. Universal human rights apply to families as well.
There's more to the story. Hope and faith abound on our small planet. Insurmountable odds are surmountable. Compassion and kindness is still alive and circles the globe in human skin igniting hope as kindling for inspirational bonfires. The human spirit is fragile, yet resilient. Agape love stretches and forgives. And perhaps, our assortment of paths leads to the same sovereign and merciful Creator of the universe and beyond. I am not as narrow-minded and dogmatic as to believe that I know all the answers and carry the only truth. On the contrary, I look through the glass darkly. Must people suffer and die for being different and believing different truths? Must people die for the sake of peace? Babies are born, future peacemakers, signifying second changes for a more empathic humankind; rebirth of humanity's soul. As our earth-home spins on its axial we are all warmed by the same sun. People like mepeople like you. People. Human beings. And we all bleed red when we are stoned.
Melissa writes about the God and human connection and condition.
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