“There but for the grace of God go I.”
“How,” the voice usually sounds quite righteous at this point, “could they have let that happen?”
We’ve all heard a similar comment. Maybe it was after visiting Ann Frank’s house in Amsterdam, or perhaps it was in a lobby conversation after watching Schindlers List…maybe we were the ones saying those words.
The subtext is, of course, that we would not be so blind and uncaring as those people.
We would be better. More humane. More compassionate. Less complicit.
I think that at some level I must have really believed this, that we would behave better…that we had evolved. That we, if faced with the same kind of situations, would know better, would have learned from the past and become more magnanimous.
I guess that’s why I’m still angry and shocked at my naiveté.
I thought that in Canada, in a nation built on immigration, we’d all hunger to do the right thing. That we’d all share our stories of beleaguered ancestors and how they came to this place of peace and inclusivity and so, of course (!) we’d want to extend the same hospitality.
Instead, I read of people’s racism thinly-disguised beneath a sudden and overwhelming concern for the homeless, the poor, the veterans. Oh my, such noble at-home causes that, prior to the Syrians, were never really at the top of anyone’s to-do list. As if these causes immediately nullify one another.
Witness too, all those Republican governors who righteously scream that ‘every life is precious’…unless those lives aren’t white, Christian and grown from their own dirt.
Of the 294 mass killings in the U.S. (so far this year), almost all were perpetrated by homegrown men, many of them ‘Christian’. But no one wants to talk about that.
Don’t you think it’s odd that we hear no demands to bomb the cities they sprang from, no call upon all their fellow Christians that they should be responsible at routing those extremists out of their communities, their churches, their homes?
Instead, we are all supposed to be quaking at the thought of these hidden refugee/terrorists who are standing by to infiltrate our country. What a great idea! Those terrorists can risk their lives coming over in leaky boats, spending at least two years languishing in a refugee camp where they will be security-screened beyond anything anyone of us has ever experienced, all so they can finally sidle into our country, where they will live on handouts and be heaped with scorn for stealing our jobs and homes. Brilliant!
Wouldn’t it just be easier to board a plane with their EU passports?
Still, let’s talk about those Muslims. The internet is awash in verses pulled from the Koran, proof positive that they all want to kill us infidels. Look. I understand. There are too many crazy extremists and they are a danger to the world and they have verses to back up their evil causes. I get that.
But the Muslim religion is not the only religion that has had their holy book hijacked for horror.
Do you know how many Southern white preachers spouted mouthfuls of Bible verses to support their appalling slavery and the KKK? Bible verses that promised that whites were right. Whites were best. Whites should rule. Black people paid with their lives for those sick beliefs. They are still paying for that bullshit, as was witnessed by those beautiful people in Charleston who were shot down at their prayer group by a white man who had grown up on a diet of Southern lies and ugliness.
Or shall we talk about apartheid and how it was held in place by such nice blonde-haired Christians?
You remember that ol’ crowd pleasin’ Bible story where Abraham ties his son to an altar and is about to plunge a knife through his heart? At the last minute, God stayed his hand, and well, that’s all pretty peachy. But who in the hell does that to their child? What kind of God asks for that type of sacrifice?
I’ll tell you who…an angry and vengeful God.
Quite frankly, I don’t think those verses sound so good, like maybe someone could use that as permission to kill their kids. Or what about the oft-quoted ‘eye-for-an-eye’ nugget. The Bible is full of nefarious moments, drunk fathers sleeping with daughters and other gems like that…
Oh. I know. That’s out of context!
My point exactly.
Any verse, from any book, holy or otherwise, can be used and twisted to violent ends.
So please. Show me the God you worship and I will show you yourself. Show me a God of love and peace and I say, please believe, and bring it on.
Show me your angry killer God who is used to invoke wars and who bombs children and hospitals in His name, and I’ll show you a reflection of the ugliness that resides in your soul.
God didn’t make man in His own image. We made God from ours.
I know I sound angry. I am angry. I am angry at myself for assuming we’d be kind and good and human.
So don’t quote me your verses, whether they’re from your own good book or the ones you’ve pulled out of context from someone’s holy book that you’ve never read. We can play that game all day long and get nowhere fast.
Don’t tell me you’re a Christian. Or a Muslim. Or an atheist.
Just be a good person. The deals you make with your God are your business. But when they start denying my fellow human beings their basic human rights to a peaceful existence? Well now you’re treading on my toes.
So how about this? Be the best that you can aspire to within your religion or in your pantheistic dance with the trees or in your interstellar communion with the stars. Frankly, I don’t care what you do or what you believe…but if you want me to believe that your God is the real deal, than be a disciple of that big big love you keep telling me about and make sure it includes everyone.
That means you have to stand up for those who are disenfranchised, feed the hungry and act like a loving and kind human being. By your actions I will know you.
All the rest is talk and talk is shit.
Face your damned fears, see them for what they are, and then, pull up your panties and get over it.
Ask your God to fill your heart with love and then help someone, or at the very least, get out of the way of the people who are helping.
There is no ‘other’. We are all in this together. When we dehumanize our fellow beings, we lose our own humanity.
Look in the mirror.
Right now, some of us are acting like those people, those people that failed to save their fellow man. We have before us an opportunity to be bigger than that.
Doing anything else is a spectacular failure of imagination and empathy.