tongues of fire


[Please note: all photos used in this post are from this Los Angeles Times article.]

It is no secret that I am what some people may call a bleeding-heart [and others, a tree-hugging, face-painted, Kumbaya-singing hippie], and that I have some views that are- if you will forgive the unfortunate pun- unorthodox.  But please believe, I am not partisan, and my positions are not always static. I am very willing to listen, and attempt to understand a variety of points of view. But on some things I am stubborn.

In light of the tragic massacre yesterday in Arizona, I offer you some of my favorite rhetoric from one of history’s most controversial figures:

“Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.”

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,[and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’  But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister  will be subject to judgment. You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.  If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. . . If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? . . .  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others?”

What bothers me most is that it takes a horrific act of violence to bring the importance of nonviolence to the forefront.  Although I am what some might consider a ‘strict’ [or ‘crazy’, depending on your dialect: see above citations] Pacifist, who does not expect people to agree with me on any or all points, I hope there are some agreeable bits here for you to nibble on.

I think a lot of people in the political and social arenas-not to mention elsewhere- underestimate the importance of their words. Violent words are the product of violent thoughts; and violent action cannot be far behind either.

[For a really powerful address on the importance of eliminating violent language and suggestions from our political rhetoric, click here. I promise it is worth the listen and the read, regardless of your specific views.]

People are often critical of society for being too politically correct. But I don’t see anything ‘correct’ about the way that politics has become bitter and polarized. The respect of people- whether or not they are like us, or people whose viewpoints and lifestyles might differ from our own- is completely essential. Anyone can treat people like himself or herself fairly, but it takes a true leader to approach differences respectfully.

In-fighting solves nothing. It alienates and distances: and we need each other.

The same goes for playing the blame game. Outside of the persons immediately responsible for a negative act, even the most eloquent discussion becomes heresay, gossip, and prejudice.

Scapegoating poisons our political discourse and our social climate. It is the first symptom of prejudice [then comes discrimination, then comes racism, classism, sexism, ageism, ableism, and all the negative thoughts and actions those attitudes prompt.]

Progress is suffocated when we continue to point fingers at the problems caused by ‘them’, whoever they are, instead of thinking about how we can be more proactive to bring about change.

We are bound to read. We are bound to listen. It is inevitable that we will form and reform opinions, and that they will be influenced by our own biases. I’m not saying go about silent in the name of tolerance. [It is just as shameful to say nothing in the face of wrongdoing.] But when we start to think of human beings as ‘hinderances’, ‘enemies’ and the like, we are standing on dangerous ground.

Let’s take a moment to cool our jets, and our tongues.

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