This has been a rough week of terrorism for the U.S.A., in a single week we have witnessed the bombing of the Boston Marathon, and the mailing of ricin laden letters to President Obama and Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi. This week was also the 18th anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing (04/19/1995).
Those directly effected by the Boston bombing showed tremendous heroism by rushing to the aid of those injured immediately following the attack, and some runners even continued running to the nearest hospital to donate blood… after already running a marathon! The city of Boston as a whole, also seemed to show tremendous resolve and unity during the manhunt for the perpetrators.
However, almost immediately after the news broke about the bombings many people who were not directly effected by the acts seemed to be in a rush to pin the blame on someone. Were the acts done by radical Muslims? Right-wing fundamentalists? North Koreans? Everyone seemed to be in a rush to pin blame on “them”. There seemed to be an intense need to exonerate one’s own group (“us”), as well as justify deep seeded mistrust of “them”. Once it was discovered that foreign born, presumably Muslim, young men had perpetrated the bombing (Perhaps if we add in enough identifiers, each of us can distance ourselves from “them”), I watched on several social network sites, as many people almost gleefully celebrated the exoneration of their group, while armchair quarterbacking appropriate responses and protections.
While it is unknown at this time what exactly triggered the Tsarnaev brothers to commit their act, I can guarantee you at the root of it was division (a classic “us vs. them” conflict). Perhaps they didn’t feel that they fit in to American society, so the entire community composed “them”, perhaps they felt persecuted or marginalized because of their faith or ethnicity, perhaps it was an extension of the Chechnya -Russian conflict. Somewhere, there was an us vs. them mentality at the root. There always is, because regardless of what “group” a terrorist comes from, the us vs. them mentality is the fertile soil that allows the seeds of extremism (darkness) to take root and grow. The division (whether perceived or actual) is necessary for terrorism, because in order to conduct an act of terrorism, you must view your victims as sub-human, or at least deserving of carnage and death, which is not what G*d wants for us, nor is it what human nature dictates. Also, after an act of terrorism, the us vs. them mentality causes friction that prevents true healing.
Today I ran across two particularly interesting quotes from Thich Nhat Hanh that really resonated with me.
“People suffer because they are caught in their views. As soon as we release those views, we are free and we don’t suffer anymore.“
“Every thought you produce, anything you say, any action you do, it bears your signature.”
These two quotes really resonated with me because the theme of how the internal path is reflected into the external world, and vice versa, has been a recurring theme for me this week.
First, leading up to, during, and after the North Carolina constitutional amendment this week that bans same-sex marriage, there was a huge amount of vitriol being spewed forth by conservative talking heads regarding the issue. Just watching the conservative political pundits and politicians speak about the amendment and issues facing the LGBT community, I was really struck by the amount of true hate that many of these people had. Even those that cloaked their opposition to LGBT rights in politically correct niceties such as “I’m not anti-gay, I’m pro traditional values”, seemed to harboring a great deal of resentment to a group of people that in no way poses any actual harm or threat to anyone. Period. Even though these people were clothing themselves in the cloak of righteousness, they were (and are) suffering because of the anger and ill-will that their views create internally and externally, whether or not they want to admit it, or even realize it. These people are not only experiencing internal conflict and turmoil, but externally they are influencing and/or governing over a society that is also full of conflict and turmoil. The vitriol is now ramping up even higher, because President Obama (thanks largely to Vice-President Biden’s horrid Washington D.C. sin of a truthful tongue slip), has finally came out in support of the right for same-sex couples to get married.
Now then, admittedly I generally fall into the libertarian portion of the scale when it comes to social issues, because I feel that as long as you aren’t hurting me, or anyone else, I don’t really have the right to force you to live your life a certain way, nor do I have the right to force my version of morality on you. However, no matter what end of the political spectrum you fall into, it shouldn’t be that great of a stretch to realize that every human being is a person that has the same rights and emotional needs as anyone else, and they are entitled to those rights and the fulfillment of those needs no matter their race or gender, or their sexual, religious, or political preferences.
I love springtime. I love the cool rainy weather, and how all of the various plants literally spring back to life with vivid shades of color. Spring is also a time for birth and renewal, and because of this every culture and spiritual tradition has celebrated spring with various festivals, rituals, observances, and rites of passage. The festivals of the world celebrate the transition from winter, a time of scarcity and harshness, to spring which is a time of plenty as well as physical and spiritual renewal. The power of spring is best illustrated by the various religious festivals, celebrations, and holidays. Read more…
This year has been a time of change and protest around the world. The protestors involved in the so called “Arab Spring” facilitated the toppling of the Tunisian, Egyptian, and Libyan regimes, and have made significant impacts on numerous other Arab countries. During the past few weeks the various news sources, social media sites, and blogs have been abuzz with the “Occupy Wall Street” movement that began in the Wall Street district of New York City, and has subsequently spread to various cities across the U.S. Like the protestors involved in the Arab Spring, the Occupy protestors are standing up against the status quo in order to protest for change. One thing that has struck from all the protests, both from the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement, is the passion and resolve displayed by the protestors in order to bring about change.
So passionate are the protestors that they have put their lives on hold, and even completely changed the direction of their life in order to protest for change. In the case of the Arab Spring, those protestors quite literally put their lives, and the lives of their families at risk. However, given Oakland California’s recent heavy-handed response to the protestors, it appears that the protestors from the Occupy movement are not immune from the risk of physical harm, and even death.
The way that all of the protestors have been willing to completely give up the life they knew in order to pursue a cause they believed in reminded me of several religious and political leaders including: The Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, Gandhi, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to just name a few. Read more…
Like most people, it is hard for me to grasp the scope of the acts that Anders Behring Breivik recently committed in Norway. Sometimes I just can’t fathom how someone can carry out acts of violence in the name of religion, no matter how insane/delusional they are. Without in any way discounting the scope of his acts, the grief of the families, or his guilt, there are lessons that can be learned from his, and other terrorists, actions.
From what has been released, it appears that Mr. Breivik was an extreme Christian fundamentalist that was part of a subtle undercurrent of like minded individuals who believe Europe is being taken over by Islam, and that the implementation of Sharia Law is imminent. Mr. Breivik, and other like minded individuals feel that they must act out in violence in order to “save” the “Christendom” of Europe from this invading Islamic force. Unfortunately, there is a similar undercurrent present in other world countries, especially the United States. Fortunately, for now most people confine their fears of “other religions” and “other people” to private conversations, or internet forums. However, I fear that this undercurrent is gaining momentum, and more problems may be on the horizon. Read more…