Tag Archives: Hate

How to Fail at Saving Lives

(Image/timeshighereducation.com)

(Image/timeshighereducation.com)

Follow these 20 steps to do it right.

1.

Have your parents get divorced when you’re young. Before kindergarten works. Ideally, they’ll live in different states, but more important is that you inexplicably take on the responsibility for their feelings, even though you’re five years old. It’s your job to never make your parents feel bad, because you love them exactly the same amount. It’s important that you learn to try to please everyone, even though it’s impossible.

2.

Be nice to everyone at school, but don’t always be kind.

This is more about being accepted socially and not making others feel bad than it is about authenticity.

That means you’re nice to the smelly kid, the gay kid, and the awkward kid with bad acne when you’re near them, but you laugh privately with friends when they make jokes at their expense. If you say anything to defend them, maybe your friends will say: “What are you, a fag?” And you DEFINITELY don’t want to be called one of those. Not only are they different and weird, but God is also super-disappointed in their choices. It says so in the Bible. Jesus made onlookers uncomfortable by conversing with lepers and prostitutes, but you damn sure never saw him interacting with homosexuals, for God’s sake. Besides, those sinners throw footballs like a girl.

For Step 2, courage isn’t about being principled in the face of discomfort. Courage is about acting like a man.

3.

Go to college and have your mind blown that not everyone is like you.

Make friends with black students and think back on times people told you N-word jokes and you laughed, or how adults taught you that once black people start moving into neighborhoods, a bunch of bad things happen, forcing all the white people to move to safer neighborhoods with nicer shopping malls, and without all that jungle music.

Be shocked that people believe different stories about God, but don’t seem evil.

Be so ignorant about other cultures that you mispronounce the Arab Student Union the “A-Rab Student Union” while speaking to the president of the organization while he is trying to foster outreach programs with the student newspaper’s editor after 9/11. Be embarrassed when a friend corrects your offensive pronunciation.

Make friends with gay people and learn they’re not the slightest bit attracted to your dumb, straight, ass.

4.

Start dating your first serious girlfriend. Argue with her about politics and act like she’s stupid for disagreeing with you, even though she’s objectively smarter and better educated than you in every measurable way despite being two years younger.

Tell her during an argument over political issues that have zero impact on your individual lives that you would NEVER marry or have children with someone who thinks like she does. When you break up with her after more than two years together, make sure you do it in the most cowardly way possible.

5.

Meet someone else who agrees with you on more political subjects, even though you pretty much only think and talk about politics every two or four years during major elections. The rest of the time, politics have essentially no impact on your life. But make a big deal out of it anyway. It’s okay if you alienate friends, neighbors, co-workers and family, because everyone who disagrees with you is wrong, and you should probably be around smarter people anyway.

6.

Get married, because that’s what you do after college and stuff. Assume that she will love you like your parents love you. Always and forever — no matter what. It will make you feel better. Make “Never Getting Divorced” your primary life goal, because in your mid-20s, you can better appreciate its impact on your life.

7.

Be shitty at marriage. Not in the obvious ways everyone talks about. In the nuanced and less-obvious ways no one talks about, even though they’re actually why divorce happens. You shouldn’t know you’re shitty at marriage so much as you should be patient and forgiving toward your nagging and emotionally unstable wife who is clearly going off the deep end once again over something minor.

Don’t admit too much fault or responsibility. After all, you wouldn’t want to have your Man Card revoked like some whipped, Nancy-boy pussy.

8.

Get divorced. Let 30 years of whatever unresolved emotional and psychological bullshit you carry around in The Places We Don’t Talk About stab you in every mind- and heart-related orifice possible.

9.

Break.

10.

I don’t mean: Be sad for a little bit. I mean: Feel like you might die to the point where you almost want to just so you don’t have to feel that anymore.

Cry. Like, sob. Struggle to control your heart rate and the strange new panic-like feelings which pop up now and then without warning, even at times like work meetings or parties with friends.

If you think and feel the way you remember thinking and feeling for all of your life leading up to this point, it means you messed up Step 9. Go back and try again.

11.

Start a blog where you tell people about Steps 1-10. Never stop looking for greater understanding of how this all happened. Never stop asking, over and over again: Why?

12.

Have a major breakthrough, realizing that All These Things aren’t unique to you. Some of the details maybe. Like a murder-mystery, action movie, or romantic comedy, the details vary from story to story, but the themes and story arcs tend to all be the same. I’m not the only one.

13.

Even though you’re a guy, women live your story, too.

Even though you’re straight, gay couples have the same fights.

Even though you’re American, people in the U.K., India, Australia, the Philippines, New Zealand, Malaysia, Russia, the Netherlands, Cambodia and Japan all know EXACTLY what you’re talking about.

Liberal feminists in Oregon get it. Conservative military vets in Florida get it. Black women know exactly how your wife felt just as Middle Eastern men know exactly how you feel.

Despite labelling’s best attempts, you can’t find enough different categories to prevent Truth from setting in: Holy shit. We’re really not as different as I’ve believed all this time.

Millions of reads. Tens of thousands of comments and emails. Over and over and over and over again, confirming: Your story is my story.

14.

Keep looking for root causes. When conditions exist, there’s always a reason WHY. Kids would be great at finding root causes if they didn’t like playing so much more than researching, and if their parents liked truth more than comfort. Realize that Paul Newman’s Cool Hand Luke pretty much nailed it: “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

15.

Because you can’t outsmart yourself, you’ll realize quickly that telling people that THIS is the root cause of nearly every horrible thing that has ever happened or will ever happen is an exercise in futility. Because you yourself thought you were the smartest sonofabitch on Planet Earth, even though you were a stupid, ignorant pothead moron, and you wouldn’t have spent five seconds pondering anything like this.

You yourself thought your wife was wrong and you were right. You yourself thought things like therapy or counseling or any other form of mental health care was for weak-ass bitches, and not smart, healthy and sane people like you.

16.

Hug your little boy in the morning before school and feel sad that you won’t see him later because he doesn’t always come home.

He has two homes now. Maybe he’s feeling responsible for managing your feelings because he loves you the same as his mom.

17.

Drive to work. Hear Disturbed’s powerful and beautiful cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s classic “The Sound of Silence.”

18.

Realize that Paul Simon was writing about everything you write and talk about on your blog. The song is about “the inability of people to communicate with each other, not particularly internationally but especially emotionally, so what you see around you are people unable to love each other,” Art Garfunkel once said in an interview.

19.

Feel the weight and truth punch you in the face.

“And in the naked light I saw, Ten thousand people, maybe more, People talking without speaking, People hearing without listening, People writing songs, That voices never share, And no one dare, Disturb the sound of silence.”

20.

Finally, come to terms with it all.

Today, little children will cry because their parents will divorce, or because they’re watching mommy and daddy scream at and hurt one another.

Hate will be spread.

Insults will be hurled.

Guns will be shot.

Bombs will detonate.

Bullies will bully.

Victims will be victimized.

Public servants will lie.

The hungry will starve.

The sick will not receive medicine.

They will happen. Each one of them. And many other bad things.

Why?

Because it’s inconvenient for people to listen while they hear. Because people want to be right about things which have no answers.

They want that more than they want to get along with someone who looks different or who grew up someplace where people did things differently.

They want it more than anything.

And you’ll get it, too. Because that was you. Caring more about the approval of kids or other adults than your own self-respect. Caring more about it than your wife’s wellbeing and the health of your family. Caring more about it than some strangers being hurt on the other side of the world that you don’t have to see or think about.

But because the Truth is the Truth no matter what, you’ll realize:

My failures in life and right now to communicate effectively are no different than the circumstances which cause virtually all non-illness-related misery in the world.

Every bad thing. From sadness to petty crimes to divorce to hate to murder to war. All of them, rooted in two people or groups who decide their opinions being deemed “correct” matters more than the fallout from their pride and ego.

It’s not hyperbole. It’s really life and death.

And you’ll want to save someone — anyone — with the simple idea.

It’s not HEAR. It’s LISTEN. There’s really a difference. And the difference means EVERYTHING.

Everything in Life that’s wrong is wrong because of that difference.

And you’ll wish it wasn’t true. Because all along, you’ve been part of the problem.

Silence, like a cancer, grows.

But my words like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silence.

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The Ism Theory: Maybe There’s Less Hate Than We Think

Remember the Titans screenshot

They didn’t like each other. Right up until they became friends. Then, wouldn’t you know it? How they were different didn’t matter at all. (Image from “Remember the Titans”/listal.com)

ism — a distinctive practice, system, or philosophy, typically a political ideology or an artistic movement.

I had a mild case of homophobia growing up.

Gay people were “weird” and different. Kids threw “gay” around as meaning the same thing as stupid.

I use the term homophobia when I really mean something closer to bigotry. I wasn’t afraid. But I was something akin to intolerant.

But it didn’t matter! Because I didn’t know any gay people!

I also didn’t have any close black friends before college.

I didn’t know anyone who didn’t believe in the Christian God of the bible.

I didn’t know any feminists or really even understand why there was a gender-equality conversation to be had.

I wasn’t exposed to anything except one story about right and wrong growing up. Fortunately, I was raised by kind and decent people, so any ugliness stemming from my core belief system was always rooted in a general love for human beings, rather than having people teach me that certain groups of people were evil and warranted my hate and discrimination, as many less fortunate children are taught.

I was an only child, so I gravitated to my friends, but one of my closest friends was a cousin about my age. At family gatherings for holidays or weddings, he and I were mostly inseparable.

We spent countless hours talking about girls, playing video games and playing basketball.

Years later, I was the best man in his wedding where he married an awesome girl I’m not sure I’ve seen since.

They fairly quickly divorced, and my cousin—one of my lifelong best friends—moved to another state.

Turns out, he’s gay. Which caused a bit of strain in the intimacy department before everything broke.

What was different about my cousin between all of those years he was among my dearest friends, and after coming out?

I thought about that for a bit.

The answer was simple: Nothing.

“For in spite of itself, any movement that thinks and acts in terms of an ‘ism becomes so involved in reaction against other ‘isms that it is unwittingly controlled by them. For it then forms its principles by reaction against them instead of by a comprehensive, constructive survey of actual needs, problems, and possibilities.” ― John Dewey

The Kinda-Racist Old White Guy & the Young Black Kid He Adores

Maybe (if you grew up anything like I did) you remember the old prejudiced guy in your personal circle who predated The Civil Rights Movement.

The guy you could count on to say something super-racist at Thanksgiving dinner or while watching an athlete showboat on TV after a good play. Maybe he even dropped an N-word or two now and then.

And because you KNOW him, you know he’s a pretty good person, if a bit out of touch.

But here’s where it gets interesting:

This lovable old guy (who you’ve NEVER seen mistreat anyone short of using offensive or insensitive language about a group of faceless strangers in private conversation) doesn’t BEHAVE as a racist.

A group of black people who committed a crime on TV might earn a foul label from him, but as he goes through life, he treats the actual individuals he meets with kindness and respect regardless of their skin color.

Maybe he meets a nice kid named Daryl because Daryl is a waiter at the old guy’s favorite breakfast spot, and Daryl is working hard to save money to go to college. Maybe Daryl is also a star on one of the old guy’s favorite local high school teams.

The old racist guy loves Daryl after getting to know him, and you can’t help but notice how he still speaks in (unintentionally) offensive ways about people of different races or cultures, but he sings the praises of Daryl.

Daryl – the hard-working, intelligent, well-mannered, kind kid from the restaurant who always makes sure the old guy’s coffee is full, and who delights the old man when he’s sitting in the stands cheering on Daryl’s team.

“So. Old Guy. I gotta ask: You periodically say things about black people we see on TV which is racist by every known definition and interpretation of the word. But then over here, you’re always raving about Daryl. Daryl has the same skin color and is from similar communities as all of the people you are categorically speaking ill of. It’s inconsistent. What gives?”

And then maybe the old guy responds: “Daryl’s a great kid! He’s not like the others.”

But the real truth is, if he spent the same amount of time with any of those others, getting to know them on an interpersonal level, he’d feel the same fondness for each new person.

If he didn’t? It wouldn’t have anything to do with skin color. It would have everything to do with the same personality conflicts we have with People Like Us.

Did you ever see films like “American History X,” or “Remember the Titans,” or “A Time to Kill,” or “Gran Torino,” or “Crimson Tide,” or “Men of Honor,” or “The Help”?

Do you remember when former vice president Dick Cheney’s daughter came out as being lesbian and he changed his entire tune on homosexuality as a U.S. social issue?

I don’t believe people actually hate one another to the degree the social narrative suggests.

I believe everyone simply hasn’t gotten to know each other yet.

When People Meet and Develop Relationships, It’s Never Skin Color, Gender, Sexual Preference, or Creed That Fosters Dislike

There are clearly notable examples in history where people really do hate as much as they say. They behead innocent people on video, and they violently attack through word and action people who belong to some group they’ve identified as being Different From Themselves.

I think a lot of people subconsciously think (especially when young and unexposed to different cultures): I’m me. I belong to this group. We are good. I am good. Those people over there don’t belong to this group. They are different than me. We have competing interests sometimes. They must be bad.

But when we ACTUALLY spend time around other people with diverse beliefs and backgrounds, we are regularly exposed to the fact that human beings share so many commonalities, and mostly have the same goals.

It’s not a black football player and a white football player. It’s teammates who play for the Titans.

It’s not a black defendant and a white attorney. It’s two fathers who love their daughters and demand justice.

On Sept. 11, 2001, it wasn’t “That stupid idiot Bush fighting his daddy’s war over oil!!!” Or black or white or Hispanic or male or female or Christian or Jew or atheist or gay or straight or New York Yankees fan or Boston Red Sox fan.

It wasn’t even American or “foreigner.”

Because for a moment, it was only about humanity.

When we realized that fiery explosions kill people no matter what tribes they belong to, or what beliefs they have.

When we meet human beings where they are—or when we meet each other where WE are—we work together or play on sports teams together or fight battles together or laugh together or pray together, and then we collectively grow together.

I felt weird about gay people because I didn’t know any.

But then I found out that I did, and there had been nothing weird about it at all.

Every one of us is a minority somewhere.

Every one of us is different in another part of town.

Every one of us has an accent.

Or. Just maybe.

No one is a minority.

All of us have a million things in common.

And underneath all the nonsense, everyone actually speaks the same language: Human.

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Throwing Stones in Our Glass Houses

throwing a stone

Go ahead and set that thing down. (Image/onesteadfast.com)

I hurt my son once and had to take him to the hospital afterward.

When the little person I love most was just 3 or 4, he was doing the thing little kids do where they let their bodies go limp to protest another idiotic parenting command, like going inside the house to potty when they’d rather be outside playing.

When I went to lift him by his hand I’d been holding to get him up the back porch stairs, I yanked harder on his uncooperative little arm than I should have. He started crying and I probably didn’t care.

It didn’t take me long to start caring because he cried longer than kids do when they’re being needlessly dramatic. His elbow was hurt for real. And I caused it. Oh my God. I hurt my son.

His mom and I (we were still married then) took him to the emergency room at the local children’s hospital where I assumed I’d be arrested for child abuse, and the doctor would call me a monster, both of which would have bothered me less than the fact I’d hurt my child.

I wasn’t arrested, nor did the doc eye me suspiciously. Our son was feeling the pain of a slight dislocation so common to young children that it has a non-medical name: Nursemaid’s elbow.

By the next day, his elbow was totally fine.

But I’ll never forget how I felt in that emergency room, nor how I’ve felt any number of other times in which I’ve raised my voice in anger, either scaring him or making him cry.

It’s the same thing I felt when my wife would cry during an argument.

It’s the same thing I’ve (only on TV, fortunately) seen men do when they hit or push their wife or girlfriend resulting in serious injury or death.

One minute, you’re raging. And you say or do something that falls in the “I didn’t mean it” category once regret replaces the anger. And the next minute you feel sorrow. You feel the love and concern return, even though those feelings were absent when you were inflicting mental, emotional or physical damage.

So, which is it?

Who Are We?

Which of those is the Real Us? The angry one? Or the person insta-concerned about the wellbeing of the person they just verbally or physically assaulted?

I want to believe the genuinely concerned, not-angry version is. But I guess I don’t know.

You know what I think about people who physically hurt children? You know how I feel about men who make their wives or girlfriends cry during arguments?

I think they’re assholes, and since I generally trust my gut and opinions, the conclusion is obvious.

I’m an asshole, too.

Dear Assholes, We Can See Inside Your Glass Houses

A man armed with an assault rifle and handgun went inside a Florida nightclub this weekend and opened fire, murdering 49 people and hurting 53 others.

We hear that news, and 99 percent of all sane people are insta-horrified.

But then more details emerge:

The shooter targeted an Orlando nightclub called Pulse which is popular with the gay community.

The shooter worked for a security firm, had weapons training, and legally bought both of the guns recovered by police at a Florida gun shop.

The shooter—American-born but of Middle-Eastern descent—reportedly dialed 9-1-1 and pledged allegiance to ISIS immediately prior to the attack.

Then toss in the fact that an aspiring young pop singer was killed tragically in a random act of gun violence the night before in the same city.

THEN, add in that we’re in the most-heated presidential election in my lifetime during the age of social media.

Mix it all together, and you have a bubbling cauldron of anger, sadness, and fear, creating a massive batch of shit stew which I think might be unprecedented in size and scope from a political and social commentary standpoint.

Here’s what actually happened: A man deliberately took guns into a densely populated place where people were trying to have fun and murdered as many as possible.

What happened next was predictably stupid.

The anti-gun crowd wanted to scream about gun control. As if an ISIS-pledged terrorist couldn’t have used a bomb to kill even more people, and potentially still be alive and on the run.

The pro-gun crowd wanted to scream political conspiracy and opportunism. As if questioning whether a man like Omar Mateen (previously investigated by the FBI for potential terrorist ties) legally buying an assault weapon which he used to murder or hurt 100 people is somehow unfair.

The anti-Obama crowd criticized the president’s comments afterward, because he chose not to speculate on unconfirmed facts during a national address, and because he said things consistent with his well-established political opinions which got him elected President of the United States twice.

The pro-Obama crowd got butt-hurt about the president’s detractors as if he doesn’t have an equally well-established history of avoiding labeling acts of terrorism anything he deems politically incorrect.

Republicans blamed Democrats. If Obama and Hillary would get tough on terrorists, this wouldn’t have happened, some said. Which seems presumptuous.

Democrats blamed Republicans. Because all Republicans love gun violence, invite attacks through racism, promote bigotry by supporting Trump, and oppose marriage equality for gay couples? Please.

People internet-screamed for banning Muslims. Because Banning Things That Scare Us and pigeonholing entire groups of people has proven to be such a wise choice in the past.

Others internet-screamed that white Christians with guns commit way more mass shootings than brown-skinned Muslims. As if the teachings of Christ can in any way be linked to condoning murder.

And then all of that outrage caused even more “Yeah, but…!” internet-screaming.

Fringe members of the anti-religion crowd railed against Christians AND Muslims because organized religion is the real problem, they say. As if most religious people aren’t peaceful, or responsible for an ENORMOUS amount of good that’s done on behalf of humanitarian causes globally.

Fringe members of religious groups pounced on the opportunity to condemn the homosexual lifestyle. Because their sin and human failings are somehow more pure and noble than those of the gay community.

It’s healthy to acknowledge your assholeishness. You instantly become less of an asshole the second you do so, as a self-aware asshole is infinitely more tolerable than a self-righteous one.

Few things anger me like hypocrisy and unfairness. Who sucks more than the Holier-Than-Thou crowd?

The self-righteousness on display from people politicizing a mass murder is as disgusting and nauseating a thing as I’ve ever witnessed.

I hope Muslims understand why random acts of violence in the name of terrorism is a scary thing for the average American family, and ignorant people sometimes have a guilt-by-association mentality about it. I’m Catholic. For the rest of my life, I have to answer questions about the systematic cover up of a vast sex-abuse scandal within my faith.

Even though zero Catholic or Christian teachings say: “Sexually abusing kids is okay!,” and even though the vast majority of Catholic priests are fantastic, kind, principled men who make enormous personal sacrifices to serve as spiritual leaders and would never harm a child, Catholics—especially Catholic priests—must now deal with the scrutiny and questions about child molestation. It unfairly comes with the territory.

I know what it’s like to have people make ignorant assumptions about what they think my beliefs are.

I’m no expert on Islam, but my rudimentary understanding is that it is a religion which promotes peace, and condemns violence. Extremist violence is rooted in politics—not faith. According to things I’ve read, the word “Jihad,” is SUPPOSED to mean “to struggle for God.” To live well, spiritually. It’s HARD to walk the walk in our spiritual lives. It requires commitment and discipline. That’s something I understand and can relate to.

And now the word has been compromised. An ancient teaching to fight against oppression has been perverted by some into “kill anyone who doesn’t agree with us.”

People do bad things. Others get scared. The scared people do bad things in response. And round and round we go. You know, like the breakdown of pretty much every marriage that ends badly.

Every person alive is someone who had ZERO say in where they were born, who their parents are, how they were raised, or what they were taught by their childhood influencers and adult behavioral models.

I’m in no way condoning ignorance, stupidity, and certainly not behavior which harms other people. But human beings are a little bit hamstrung by the whole We Can’t Know What We Don’t Know thing.

We are born.

If we’re lucky, we have parents who love and care for us and teach us things which help us grow into functional people who contribute positively.

If we’re unlucky, we don’t have parents who do those things.

In EITHER case, we only know what we see, read, hear, feel, experience, and are taught by the people who earn our trust. We only know as much as we can with the resources of our schools, or books we have access to, or teachers who share knowledge, etc.

There are exceptions, but we by and large grow up following in the footsteps of our parents and the people who surround us growing up.

Children born to Buddhist parents in Thailand tend to grow up practicing Buddhism.

Children born to Hindu parents in India tend to grow up practicing Hinduism.

Children born to Muslim parents in Iran tend to grow up adhering to Islamic teachings.

Children born to Christian parents in Texas tend to grow up practicing Christianity.

Children born to Jewish parents in New York tend to grow up practicing Judaism.

Maybe kids raised by gay couples think having a mom and dad is weird.

Maybe kids raised by atheists need to witness a miracle to believe in God.

Maybe kids raised by liberal parents in San Francisco can’t help but think the kid raised by conservative parents in Utah is a bigoted, oppressive, close-minded and dangerous fascist, and maybe the Utah kid can’t help but think the liberal kid is a Constitution-hating, baby-killing, unholy and dangerous Marxist.

How to Be Less Assholeish

Maybe we could try not hating or being afraid of people who disagree with us. One of the best things I’ve ever done (and this is mostly in the past three years following my Ah-Ha Moment RE: shitty husbandry) is learn to embrace trying to understand people who disagree with me.

It’s hard and it’s scary, but it’s worth it.

Possible outcomes:

  1. You learn something you didn’t know.
  2. You teach someone something they didn’t know.
  3. You eliminate a false belief or help someone else do so.

All of these are good things.

People are afraid of terrorism, so they demonize religion.

People are afraid of societal desensitization to and acceptance of openly homosexual relationships, because they believe it’s immoral.

One asshole pastor in California reportedly said the shooting victims in Orlando got what they deserved. He posits that because they were in a gay club and presumably homosexual, that they were an immoral scourge on society who deserved to be murdered.

A CHRISTIAN PASTOR TOLD A GROUP OF PEOPLE THAT MURDERED PEOPLE WHO HAPPENED TO BE GAY DON’T WARRANT MOURNING.

Any Christians out there wondering why people lacking good information about Christianity who read that might frown upon Christianity and perpetuate false beliefs afterward?

Anyone wondering why gay people might feel hated or oppressed, and how that seems to clash with purported Christian beliefs?

Anyone out there connecting dots about how hateful actions in the name of other religions might paint similarly inaccurate and unfair pictures of certain people?

Anyone out there think God hates people dancing in a club, but loves church leaders who casually dismiss mass murder?

Anyone out there wondering whether THAT might be the problem?

The exact same thing that happens to so many married couples—people who VOWED to love one another forever? Is it any wonder two strangers from opposing camps or opposite sides of the world have conflict?

STOP. BEING. ASSHOLES.

We all live in glass houses, messing up, and feeling fear, and falling short.

They’re not the only ones messing up. Maybe we can encourage them.

They’re not the only ones afraid of things they don’t understand. Maybe we can comfort them.

They’re not the only ones falling short. Maybe we can let them jump on our shoulders.

And maybe they’ll offer the same in return.

And maybe we’ll have the strength because we finally stopped throwing stones.

…..

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How I Could Just Kill a Man

We can be so cruel to one another. When we are kind, who do we choose? And why?

We can be so cruel to one another. Why are we kind to some people and not others? What’s the difference? (Image/Wallpapercave.com)

I could kill a person trying to harm my son.

I could kill a person trying to harm others I love or in self-defense.

I could kill a person trying to harm other innocent people if in the moment it was clear the act would save lives.

I may not have the physical tools or weapons to get the job done on a case-by-case basis. But I could muster the nerve. If the stakes were that high. I’m sure of it.

But what if the person causing harm was my father? Or my sister? Or my childhood best friend?

How long might I hesitate if this hypothetical person I’m so certain I could kill was someone who resides permanently on my “People I Don’t Want to Kill” list?

Who matters?

Who doesn’t?

Where do I draw that line?

Of all the things I never want to do, I think killing someone ranks No. 1. And I don’t mean murder. That should go without saying. But even a “justifiable” killing. The thought of taking a life makes me very uncomfortable.

I don’t know very many people who have killed someone. The few I do are older men who were once soldiers at war. The curiosity in me has always wanted to try to coax those stories out of them. To get a sense of the feelings those memories manifest.

But I’ve always stopped short of asking because I don’t want to ask men to relive what are likely their worst memories.

Is This the World We Want?

I’ve been asking myself the following question every day for about a week now.

What is the difference between the people who matter and the people who don’t?

Where do we draw the line? Between all of the people we care about or treat kindly or help versus those we don’t care about, treat poorly or ignore altogether?

The idea popped into my head while reading Tom Shadyac’s Life’s Operating Manual. Shadyac is something of an anti-capitalist. He and I don’t see eye-to-eye on economic theory. BUT. I do respect very much where he’s coming from when he poses the very thought-provoking question: What separates the people you are willing to profit from, from the people you simply want to help?

He argues that the mindset of capitalism—always trying to maximize profits and charge as much as possible for goods and services—makes the human experience so much uglier than it should be.

For example, he says, if someone you love very much needed help—didn’t have food or clothes or shelter—you would instantly invite them into your home, and feed them, clothe them and let them stay with you (without asking for anything in return.)

Generally speaking, I think this is true of most of us.

But then we walk around major cities, or even suburban Ohio communities like where I live, and occasionally see people asking for help.

Maybe they’re really homeless and have good hearts.

Or maybe they’re really con artists.

Or maybe they’re really drunks or addicts looking to score a fix.

No matter what the situation, I submit all of those people could use help of some kind.

Who Matters?

Everyone ranks the people in their lives relative to their specific circumstances.

But I think this is representative of the general order in which we value people.

1. Spouse/Partner/Significant other and children

2. Parents and siblings

3. Friends

4. Neighbors

5. Co-workers and acquaintances

6. Strangers who are like us (Social, spiritual, economic, cultural, geographic commonalities)

7. Strangers who are not like us

8. Known enemies

Where do you draw the line?

Where on this list do you decide: “That person means so much to me that I want to help them with their problem,” as opposed to your cut-off point? The place where you say: “Screw ‘em. I don’t care. I have enough problems. Let them figure it out for themselves,” or worse: “That person isn’t like me, so I don’t like them and I’m going to hurt them.”

This question about who matters versus who doesn’t makes me think about the post-apocalyptic world on display in The Walking Dead.

It truly is survival of the fittest and every man for himself.

Every stranger is a threat. Someone who might steal your supplies, murder you, or murder you so they can steal your supplies.

But often, after a warming-up, get-to-know-you period—after one of the strangers puts his or her life on the line in service of others—trust is formed.

Bonds are built.

And these strangers, these random people who didn’t care about each other days or weeks ago, morph from stranger to acquaintance, from acquaintance to friend, and (if you believe as I do that you don’t have to share blood to be family) from friend to family.

These people who were threats become people you will sacrifice everything for.

There are bad people in this world. Threats. People who in a lot of ways don’t deserve our kindness, generosity, charity, help, whatever.

An irresponsible or naïve Pollyanna-like view of life benefits no one.

But I don’t know how to muster the cynicism required to not believe that everyone deserves a fair shake. That every person deserves a baseline amount of respect and benefit of the doubt before we rush to judgment.

We don’t need to write a 10-page letter to their boss petitioning for their promotion, but being courteous to the customer service representative on the phone who is NOT responsible for our problem seems reasonable.

We don’t need to invite every kid in school to our birthday party, but smiling at them, not engaging in bullying and treating people kindly doesn’t seem like too much to ask.

We don’t need to give our weekly paycheck to the guy panhandling outside the grocery store, but maybe a sandwich and a bottle of water would serve to nourish more than just his hunger and thirst.

We allow ourselves to disconnect and then we treat people like enemies.

People who, if we were stuck in a survival situation with, might become our family.

I know a little boy who—just seven years ago—wasn’t even a figment of anyone’s imagination.

And today I love him above all else and would do the unthinkable to keep him safe.

And I want him to live in a world where we don’t scream at each other and bully people on social media and hate one another because our skin color isn’t the same or because we care about different things.

Maybe we can be one little ripple in the pond. One kind act at a time.

And maybe those acts can cause more ripples because others agree that these arbitrary barriers we put up between us and other people seems like a silly reason to completely change the way we treat one another.

And maybe good spreads.

And then maybe there are fewer 12-year-old kids in Catholic school cafeterias celebrating the release of a Cypress Hill rap song called “How I Could Just Kill a Man.”

Even if those kids do grow up wanting to be part of the solution.

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