Saturday, March 12, 2011

Humanity is (surprise!) Human

Natural disasters have a tendency to bring out the best and worst of humanity. This morning, I had the misfortune to click on a link which displays a list of Facebook status updates from people claiming that the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan is somehow a karmic response to Pearl Harbor. If you are a thinking human being, you should not wonder why such a connection is not only mind-bogglingly stupid but also hateful. I'm bothered not just by these statements but also by the fact that this link is being tweeted and retweeted as evidence that people in the U.S. are all this stupid and hateful.

It's easy to look at these updates that are fueled by ignorance and an utter lack of compassion and then begin to despair the species. I'm guilty of travelling that downward spiral on many occasions and I'm sure I'll traverse it many more times before I die. However, something happened to my mindset once I had children: it occurred to me that I simply cannot afford to be (or more accurately, remain) nihilistic or hopeless about humanity. After all, I made the decision to bring two fresh little people into this world of ours and for me to have such a bleak outlook on life it would mean that I'm a complete asshole for having done so. I don't consider myself a complete asshole so that means I need to do a little soul-searching in order to figure out just how to feel about the people who inhabit this lil' green and blue dot with me.

When I saw the vitriolic and moronic postings, I was immediately outraged and wanted to vent my spleen in a similar way with these xenophobes as my target. What would be the point, though? Would I change their minds? Would I make them feel ashamed? Would they plumb the depths of their souls and find the compassion and empathy that they lack? No, probably not. All that would happen is that I would have stooped to their level and made a bad thing worse. Instead, I left that poisonous little webpage, opened my eyes a little wider, and saw outpourings of love and support, generosity of wealth and spirit, and a much louder voice crying above the hateful din a message that we are human beings who recognize a tragedy that could befall any one of us and we grieve with those who suffer. More importantly, we offer a hand up as well.

I find that when we are at our best it is during moments when we recognize our collective humanity. We forget about borders and politics and our myriad differences and instead see a much broader picture of All Of Us instead of Us and Them. Japan is not paying for an act of war nearly 70 years ago, just like Haiti was not paying for rising up against their oppressors when disaster struck there. When natural disasters strike within the U.S., it is not payback for the Trail of Tears, slavery, Guantanamo, or any other of our horrific failings. Earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc. happen because we inhabit a planet that shifts and moves with utter indifference to our presence. With that as our reality how else are we to find comfort if not with each other?

This is all easier said than done, of course, but if we say it enough it might just sink in. So I will tell my children that even though the worst of us might sometimes be the loudest, they are not necessarily the majority. Sometimes it is terribly hard to believe and it is during those moments that I have to search for the things to feel hopeful about. They're always there, though. At the very least, the whole world can't agree to be as awful as possible all the time because the whole world would never agree to anything entirely to begin with. There will always be someone to say "Now hang on a minute..." And with luck, education, and determination, I will have added two more of those someones to this world of ours.

You're welcome.


Cathy said...

You hit the nail on the head. This is one of the best essays I've ever read! Seek out the positive -- it's there somewhere. You will find it "locally" (in your own house/family) not "nationally" or "globally."

TheSarah said...

Thanks, Cathy!

I think you can find the positive globally, too. It's there anywhere you look but it can be shy and quiet.

laurimae said...

this is really just perfect.

BarelyKnitTogether said...

Beautifully said, Sarah! I'm so glad you participated in "blogapalooza." You have a new fan. :)

TheSarah said...

Your comments mean so much to me! You have no idea. :)

Shamalama said...

Great post Sarah! This among other reasons is why I tend to avoid social networks nowadays. At least I have you to balance it out!