There is no denying it: We live in a chaotic world. A world filled with hatred and division. Our global world grows ever smaller because of social media that reveals our suffering in graphic and unforgettable images. Images that go viral worldwide like three-year-old Alan Kurdi, a Syrian refugee washed up on a beach on the Greek island Lesbos. The child drowned because of fear and hatred in a desperate flight from death fomented by the civil war in Syria.
His death was our death. His death touched the core of our humanity.
Desperate to assert some human kindness into the madness, Greek cooks and merchants and fishermen and poets and housewives and businessmen try to save millions of families struggling against shore waves in their flimsy rubber rafts washing up on Lesbos’s beaches… refugees hoping for a better life… no, hoping for LIFE… no different from you and I.
Just this week in the United States, social media revealed fear and hatred between black and white, when mistrusting police officers shoot and kill two, young, black men. Alton Sterling. Philando Castile. We are starkly thrust in the car, in the confrontation with the police who shoot Philando Castile, when his girlfriend understands in the moment of his death that social media will help the world understand the fear that young black men live with every day. She sits beside her dying boyfriend and with a calm powered by despair, posts his death on Facebook Live. We live it. We shudder with horror for the plight of this small family.
(As reported by CNN July 7, 2016 cnn.com) “Within a day of each other, two men were shot and killed by U.S. police officers.
They hailed from different parts of the country—one from Louisiana in the south, the other from Minnesota in the north.
But they shared many similarities. Both were black. Both had their last moments caught on camera. And both of their deaths were watched and shared by millions across the globe.
Their deaths have drawn people — brandishing signs emblazoned with the message #BlackLivesMatter — to the streets in their droves, demanding the world take notice of shootings that feel sadly commonplace in the U.S., yet are no less provocative.”
And horrifically, the response to this seemingly senseless violence, a violence bred by hundreds of years of racism and racial profiling, was not a desire to understand the roots of the problem: the struggling history of young black men. The response to Philando Castile’s death on this particular day in Falcon Heights just outside Minneapolis, Minnesota, was revenge. A sniper looking for revenge (with his legally purchased fire arm—another problem I will discuss another time) shot five police officers in Dallas, Texas. While these five officers were performing their duty, keeping order in a peaceful demonstration AGAINST police brutality, they ran toward the gunfire. Pushed between the shooter and the demonstrators. Sacrificed their lives by throwing their bodies over a mother trying to protect her two sons.
But violence does not calm chaos. Revenge never restores love and community.
Yesterday, there was more violence in France. A French Tunisian living in Nice was so infuriated—Will we ever understand why?—that he drove a large, white truck through a throng of innocent people celebrating Bastille Day, a holiday that honors French freedom. Weaving side to side with slow deliberation, trying to slaughter more innocents, he plowed over and killed 84 celebrants—men, women and happy children about to go home after fireworks and music and ice cream to be tucked in their beds. And we witnessed it all on social media as people tried to run to safety while others filmed the carnage with their cell phones from apartments overlooking the promenade.
What can we do? I don’t have any simple answers, but I believe I know a way to start: Believe we can make things better. Believe that each one of us has the tools and power to heal the fear and anger and hatred and violence that tears us apart.
I hear you yelling in frustration at me. “How?” you say. “How can you possibly expect me to heal this chaos?”
Just take the first step. When confronted with society’s violence… when all you want to do is scream in frustration or run away or also resort to violence… just stop and listen. For a moment before you react, try to understand why they’re attacking your beliefs. Walk a moment in their shoes and put aside your own anger and judging of others with different opinions long enough to hear their own human suffering.
Maybe that pause to listen and truly hear will only feel like throwing a small pebble into a pond. But if enough of us toss those pebbles, if enough of us can take that brief moment to listen to the other, the “enemy,” perhaps our ripples will meet and change the nature of the pond; change the nature of our world; change the nature of our humanity.
War is nothing new in our world. But if enough of us change, can we create a new order out of chaos? I believe we can.
If we believe we can change. We will. Walk the walk. Talk the talk in your daily lives.
Philando Castile’s mother—the young man brutally shot by police in front of his girlfriend Lavish Reynolds and Dae Dae, her four-year-old daughter—begged the world to not ignore her son’s death. She pleaded that we grow from her loss and her heartbreak and come together with forgiveness and greater love and understanding for one another. A mother who just lost her son to seemingly senseless violence begs us to love each other better. Listen to each other better.
And as we watch her interview, another media image sears us: Lavish’s little daughter walks back to the bloody car to get her mother’s purse. Wanting only to help her mother in some small way. Back to the car where Philando lies dead. “It’s okay mommy, I’m right here with you,” she says.
We have to listen to this little girl. Turn to the delivery person at your door or your spouse or your friend… or especially to that nosy neighbor who gets under your skin and doesn’t seem to share any of your life views. That’s the perfect place to try a new approach to life. See what it feels like to say, “It’s okay, I’m right here with you.” Because even if we sometimes wish we weren’t, we have to acknowledge and deeply understand that we are in this together. Our small, blue planet is populated with all of us just plain folks. The most important thing we can do with our lives is exactly what little Dae Dae said to her distraught mommy, “It’s okay, I’m right here with you.”
The ancient Greeks believed that chaos is inherently a good thing. Chaos shakes things up; rearranges our universe; gives us a chance to create a new order.
Greekmythology.com tells us about the primal god Chaos. “Chaos was the origin of everything, and the first thing that ever existed. It was the primordial void, the source out of which everything was created, including the universe and the gods. The first primordial deities that emerged out of Chaos were Gaea (earth), Tartaros (underworld) and Eros (love).”
I choose Love that came from Chaos. May we create love for one another in this chaotic time. What other choice do we have really? Violence. Revenge. Hatred has not worked.