We as a nation are still coming to grips with the episodes of violence that seem to erupt like a demonic volcano, now in a Colorado movie theater, now in a Wisconsin Sikh Temple.
It is disturbing to hear many people focus on the fact that the gunman who opened fire in the Sikh temple, Wade Michael Page, “mistook” Sikhs for Muslims. It is disturbing because somehow it gives the impression that had he actually opened fire on Muslims, he would have “gotten it right”, or it would have been less of an atrocity.
What the shooter, Wade Michael Page, did is an atrocity because innocent human lives were taken. It is an atrocity because not just at the moment of shooting, but in the weeks and months leading up to the act of violence, he had stopped seeing his fellow human beings as precisely what they were: fellow human beings.
The website Moveon had a great commentary on this issue, sharing a widely shared image about how the question to be asked is not how to distinguish Sikhs from Muslims before deciding to shoot someone, it is why anyone should be shot.
It is an atrocity no matter where, when, of what ethnicity, of what religion, gender, sexual orientation, class, or race.
We want to dismiss these acts by discussing them simply as “solitary acts of a madman”, or “random acts of senseless violence.” That is a cop-out, because it refuses to acknowledges how far too many of us are engaged in a culture that demonizes “others”, be they Muslims, Jews, Blacks, gays/lesbians, the poor, Hispanics, women, or others. It is this culture that gradually moves from prejudice to inflammatory words to violent actions.
There is serious work to be done, both in the realm of policy and also in the realm of our hearts and souls. The needed work “out there” in the society is connected and has to be connected to the necessary work “in here”, inside our own hearts and souls.
Yes, we have a real problem with ignorance.
And the solution is love.
I do not mean that in a Pollyannaish way of flower-power and all that. I mean that in the most serious and adamant way possible: we as humans are beings created in love—God’s love—for the sake of love, and brought in through love. Love is what redeems us, and love is what will deliver us back to God.
The problem is ignorance, and part—only part—of the solution is education about the full range of the human community. Simply put, we have to come to know one another as human, as fully human, beautiful and messed up, as all of us are. There are profound and urgently needed transformations in our society and our policy.
The other part of the solution is love.
Until and unless we come to extend the fullness of love to all of God’s children,
until and unless we come to see that each and every single life is precious,
and already sacred,
We will remain mired in the very moral abyss that we ourselves are creating.
Yes, the problem is ignorance.
The solution is love.
The image is from Moveon.org.