It isn’t often I find myself at a loss for words on a topic. They mostly come into my brain and onto the screen as if they were water shot from a firehose: a torrent of phrases and emotion only stopped by self-editing or an external editor in hopes of forming them into coherent sentences for others to read. There is no torrent today. Only sadness.
The sheer rage and hatred involved in yesterday’s attack in El Paso are unfathomable. How someone could take their enmity of humanity to the extreme is unbelievable. The fact a jackass – which is insulting to actual jackasses – decided to callously take 20 lives without caring who or where they were from hurts my heart. The fact anyone, regardless of motive, would snuff anyone’s life out dents my soul. It’s inconceivable and goes against every moral instilled into my being.
Yet, it’s something which has plagued humanity for its entire existence. Identitarian politics has filled the annals of history for centuries and millennia. Monarchs, emperors, presidents, warlords, prophets, and führers waged wars on others due to their race, religion, or political allegiance all for some kind of slight or payback. Individual actors make the same hateful decision to reduce fellow men and women to some kind of sub-human meant to be snuffed out to purify the gene pool or make the world better.
“Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering,” Yoda spoke in one of the Star Wars films.
Truer words have not been spoken, although the better word is rage. Anger can be positive if kept in check. Rage is an unending sense of anger. An unended sense of needing to lash out at someone, anyone to level the field and make things even.
It happens everywhere. A spouse seeks to completely destroy an ex by taking everything they own. Governments pass legislation to alienate an ethnic or business group. Someone decides they need to kill or mentally damage a family member for not adhering to religious doctrine. Someone else decides they need to use a weapon to injure a reporter or opposing political leader. A third uses a weapon to ambush police watching a peaceful protest. A fourth attacks a business and those inside to make a statement. The politics of hatred run amok.
This is madness. Pure, unadulterated madness.
The solution isn’t easy. Grifters and politicians seek to take advantage of emotion by pushing some sort of agenda. Some want an ideology banned under the mistaken belief pushing it further into the outlier of society will weaken it further. Others want to see objects confiscated because they believe limiting access will protect more people. Another group believes it’s best to create lists and monitor those who use or try to discover more about certain terms just in case they radicalize. All these are folly because it emboldens fear and rage on both sides. It encourages alienation which solves nothing.
The Scout Law implores members to be courteous and kind. The Scriptures tell us to love others and treat them as we would want ourselves to be treated. Odin encourages us to be nice to guests. Love is the answer but it is also an action. The ability to see others, even those who do not look or think like us, as human beings and not reduce them to ghouls or invaders looking to take our things. They bleed the same blood and breathe the same air we do. They are not our enemies.
This path isn’t easy. The ability to see someone else as a potential friend, instead of an opponent is a path we tend to pay lip service to but our actions speak otherwise. Yet, it’s a road we need to go down – even if we end up in disagreement.
We need to be better. Yes, there will be arguments and heated words. There will be times when people come to loggerheads and have to cool down before meeting again. However, we cannot forget the so-called other side is as human as we are.
We cannot give into rage and hatred. It only leads to destruction. We need to be better.