CHARLOTTESVILLE: INTO THE ABYSS
What has happened, is happening in Charlottesville, seen repeatedly on newscasts around the globe and burning its way through Twitter is tantamount to that old saying: “Two wrongs do not make a right.”
More and more governments, pandering to the culture of blame, when it comes to monuments or building names, seeking to appease aggrieved groups constantly demanding a re-dress, often a re-write of history, are fuelling anger and hatred by those who feel they are endlessly blamed for the sins of past generations and see, legitimately, no end to the demands for re-dress.
Racism, hatred, these are anathema to the Gospel, contradict Christianity, have caused rivers of blood to flow, especially in the past century.
Yet there is a scary mirror image of removal of statues and place names, not just in the USA, increasingly in Canada as well, and ISIS and the Taliban blowing up, destroying monuments they deemed unacceptable to their beliefs.
When governments, usually of the left, seek to appease the blamers by acts such as destruction of monuments, removal of names from buildings and other places you begin to wonder not only where will it end, but what about those equally guilty of historical malfeasance, whose memory the left dare not mess with?
Such as: George Washington who was a slave owner or Louis Riel who was a rebel and a murderer?
We cannot change the past and whitewashing history through acts of destruction satisfies no one and only adds fuel to the fire.
Human history is complex because human beings are complex.
Seeking to re-dress, for example, events of the 19th century by applying 21st century appreciation of human rights is not only a fool’s errand and disingenuous but is the coward’s way to avoid the tough work: dialogue, with attentive respect to the notions and feelings of other and the tireless dedication to the hard work of walking together, with patience, understanding, compassion, the genuine road of reconciliation.
When both the right and the left seek by any means to silence the other there is no dialogue, only the evil of oppression and free speech be dammed.
When both the left and the right, in the various ways, seek to re-write or deny the rawness of history that guarantees that history will repeat itself.
Examples of the latter are the unending divisions within Christianity, the unending divide between Israelis and Palestinians, and yes, the racial divisions in the US, Canada and around the world.
In this climate of anger and blame, of chosen deafness to the pain and confusion, the anxiety and frustration increasingly more and more people experience daily, we need to, as people of faith from every religion, pray for the grace to all take a deep breath, calm down, take a hiatus both from blaming and reflexively giving into irrational demands for a re-structuring of history.
During the hiatus from blaming we need to, with mutual respect and attentiveness, begin to re-discovery what we, white and non-white, Catholic and non-Catholic, male and female, young and old, rich and poor, strong and weak, hopeful and discouraged have in common.
We might begin with a few realities: we are all children of the One True God, whether we know Him or not, we all breathe the same air, we all have blood of the same colour, we all can communicate, though this latter requires a willingness, whether we like or do not agree with what we might hear, to listening without interrupting or seeking to silence other.
Unless we begin again and end this ceaselessly angry blaming, by both sides, of the other, we will rip our nations apart.
Civil wars are never civil.
That is a misnomer.
They are fratricide wars.
After the bloody fratricidal wars in both England and Spain, in both cases ostensibly to remove the monarchy, both nations now have constitutional monarchs.
Clearly the fratricidal war in the US between the north and the south remains an unhealed wound.
Words of anger and hatred, of us versus them, as labels, wound hearts and invariably precede the use of weapons which wound bodies, which kill.
Words matter, words have power, words can be vessels of peace or vessels of war, chalices of love or goblets of hate.
We must choose which words, what our hearts commit to, what we will work for before it is too late.
Like the ancient story of the blind men and the elephant, who never having encountered an elephant, when they do, each only touches a part of the beast and from that one touch assumes to have an idea of the entire creature, yet when, based on their limited experience, assert unequivocally theirs is the right description, each becomes suspect to the others who assume, since “I” am right the others must be untruthful.
The result is they begin beating each other.
The moral of the story is clear: as humans, we tend to assume we have the whole truth and others are ignorant of the truth because their version is not like ours.
It is the tendency to be subjective.
To be objective and know actual truth means having an open and listening mind and heart, attentive and welcoming of what aspects of the truth of the thing the other can offer, but which we have not yet discovered.
Unless we stop blaming and screaming at each other, all of us will become blind, wandering in darkness, bumping into each other, recoiling in the utter terror of vulnerability to whomever, or whatever, shall overpower us with murderous rage, falling into the cold, dark abyss, where we will be so far removed from Christ we no longer recognize our very self, nor other as person, as my brother and sister.