To say things are out of whack would be an understatement.
The news is filled with stories about how we’re dropping bombs on radical factions in the Mideast, in response to the sick and inhuman beheadings of American and British journalists. The right wingers were quick and vocal to demand that the president take action, that such brutal and barbaric slaughter of innocent Americans cannot go unpunished, and that if we stood by and did nothing, our enemies would be emboldened and more innocent lives would be lost.
They are, of course, correct. We know this because of recent history.
On December 14, 2012, twenty six innocent Americans, twenty of them children under the age of ten years old, were murdered by a madman in Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. In the two years since, despite overwhelming public outrage, nothing has changed. All attempts to tighten gun laws have been defeated by a small but vocal minority funded by the National Rifle Association and the mostly Republican congressmen they control. These are the same people who two years ago threw up their arms and said, “Bad people do bad things. There’s nothing you can do.” The same people who when madmen across the ocean kill, demand swift retribution and immediate action. And, of course, since Sandy Hook, we’ve only seen an increase in mass shootings.
But beheading an innocent victim is so brutal, so insane, so inhuman, that anyone with a shred of humanity would have the save visceral reaction. This is true, but how can the same people not have the same reaction when twenty innocent children, children, are brutally murdered?
I personally know many people who dismiss the Sandy Hook killings as “the price of freedom” and are quick to criticize when the president doesn’t react swiftly and aggressively to perceived foreign threats. They are good people, people who’d be the first to help if their neighbors were in trouble. They’re not stupid. The problem goes a little deeper than mere intellect. I think the real problem is actually something that we all have in common, left and right, rich and poor, powerful and weak, the haves and have-nots, the blacks and the whites .
It’s all a matter of trust. Or rather, distrust.
Nobody trusts anybody any more. Conservatives don’t trust liberals, whites don’t trust blacks, religious people don’t trust scientists, libertarians don’t trust government, you can go on and on. There are so many groups, so many labels we define ourselves by, and they are all so different except they are the same in one fundamental and powerful way: they all have, at their core, a fundamental distrust of some other group or cause.
In many cases this distrust is warranted, in many it’s not. I’m not so egotistical as to claim any super knowledge or all encompassing wisdom to pass judgment (although I have opinions! Boy, do I have opinions!). But there seems to be something in the air, something in the times we live in, that is fueling general feelings of discontent and distrust.
And where did all of these labels come from? I’ve been called a liberal, a tree hugger, a skeptic, an agnostic, white, a 99 percenter. I have friends who are tea-partiers, ditto heads, Christians, Muslims, atheists, black, Hispanic, Asian, libertarians, republicans, democrats, independents, environmentalists, corporate officers, and on and on. But before I congratulate myself on the diversity and openness of my relationships, I have to be honest and admit that with each group or label I might use to define my friends, there’s always at least one topic that isn’t safe for honest and unemotional discussion.
I understand why we can’t always agree with one another. There’s nothing wrong with disagreement. It can be healthy. But distrust is personal, and corrosive.
In the end, there is only one label we all share, the only one that matters – human being. Only when someone invents a way for us to recognize this will our distrust begin to dissolve.
Of course, the opportunistic bastard will probably be in it just for the money, and then where will we be?