Standing Up

June 23, 2017

 

They are extremists. Sick in their minds and sick in their hearts. They care nothing of human rights, seeing people unlike them—those they view as sinners, weak and unworthy—as not merely disposable, but deserving of unimaginable suffering. Collateral damage for a greater cause.

They often cite their religion as the basis of their actions, but make no mistake, their deeds are not holy. Sadly, their bastardization of what is, at its core, a religion of love, connectedness, and service to mankind, is warping outsiders’ views of that religion and its followers, branding it and them as hate-based and hateful. That definition is wildly inaccurate, but it is factual to say that the worst of those claiming such faith get talked about, written about, and tweeted about until fact and fiction steep together in a toxic brew and the stench of the most rotten parts repels people and makes them fearful of the whole lot.

While fearing followers of an entire love-based religion is surely a mistake, it’s not unwise to recognize and rein in the actions of those who aim to misuse it to control and/or abuse others. The extremists make clear their belief that everyone should be made to abide by their rules, to live under the umbrella of their specific faith. For those of us who’ve been raised in parts of the world where religious freedom is a given, we rightfully rail against such attempts to control us based on principles we do not share. I believe even those who’ve never experienced the freedom to worship (or not) as they see fit must, somewhere deep with them, recognize the wrongness of such attempts to control, for within each of us is a compass that no outside force can sway. Still, there are some who try, and if they can’t change minds and hearts, they use whatever power they have to force others to at least live in ways they define as most virtuous.

Cowards, extremists plan much of their evil in secrecy, holing up to plot before unleashing onto the public. Their actions are often shocking and when news hits, people are understandably angry and afraid. And like all cowards, they feed on that fear. They count on it, in fact. They count on fearful silence, on retreat. And it matters because again like all cowards, they are afraid. They know fully well that an uprising could and would unseat them, so they do all they can to appear confident.

We are not who we once were. We are finger pointers and liars. We are selfish and greedy and unsympathetic. We condemn those we view as different, equating different with dangerous and decidedly less. And the moment we see someone else as less, it becomes easy to rationalize closing ourselves off from them and their needs.

We need to remember that while the news may reflect a dangerous trend, these extremists are not the norm. They do not speak for the masses of people who care deeply about one another and the planet we share. I’d like you to close your eyes for a few moments and reflect on three questions. What do you believe is our human purpose? What do you believe is the greatest gift we have to give? And finally, how do we best manifest that gift while we are here, sharing this earthly life?

We use the word terrorist because it is so precisely appropriate. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “terrorize” as: to fill with terror or anxiety : scare : to coerce by threat or violence. Terrorists derive their power from the fear and worse, the indifference of those who are not directly impacted by their actions. There’s a troubling “Oh how terrible that happened to them” followed by a quiet sense of relief that it didn’t happen to us atmosphere. Extremism grows stronger when it builds a following, and those powerful in the business know how to recruit. They purposefully seek the most vulnerable, learn of and exploit their fears to make them malleable, and then feed them enough lies to turn them against all but those doing the lying and exploiting. It’s not rocket science. Street gangs use that very same method: Seek out people who are at risk, for any of a variety of reasons. Get people to adopt an us/them mindset and you can make them indifferent to the suffering of others. Get them to believe those others are bad people and you can get them to actively contribute to their suffering. Get them to believe those others are bad people who aim to strip them of their power and you can get them to rob and even kill. Extremists as terrorists know how to do this and they do it very well. Some act alone and while they can do damage, they are much more powerful when they garner the cooperation of others.

Here’s the thing: We give extremist groups their power. Sometimes indirectly, by standing in horror and grief when they use their sick minds and hearts to do what is clearly wrong but then going quietly back to our own lives. Sometimes more directly, by rationalizing some level of control and abuse as at least partially the fault of the victimized—if they only thought better, lived better, did better, or were better, they’d not have been so at risk. Sometimes very directly. Sometimes we fund them and spread their ideology. Sometimes we vote for them.

My youngest granddaughter, who carries the wisdom of millions of years within her four year old human self, calmly states that bad never wins. “There’s nothing stronger than love,” she says. “Bad people might think they’re winning, but they never win. Love always wins.”

I believe she’s right and I believe the answers to how love wins are the very same as the answers to the questions I asked above: What do you believe is our human purpose? What do you believe is the greatest gift we have to give? And finally, how do we best manifest that gift while we are here, sharing this earthly life?

Warmly,

Beth

 

 

14 Comments

  1. Reply

    Taina

    What a wise young woman your granddaughter is already at her young age. I hope she holds tight to her core belief that GOOD WILL PREVAIL.

    I believe that also. I simply can’t allow bad to overcome me. Oh, it has tried…and at times almost succrrded, but good had still come out the winner. Great write as always Beth. Hold tight to that goodness within you that I so admire! I won’t, I simply can’t allow fear to overthrow my life, then in my eyes, evil takes a lead. I believe to my very core that LOVE SHALL ALWAYS PREVAIL. Yes inderd, a smart 4 year old she is! I’m in her corner!

    1. Reply

      Beth

      She’s all sorts of fabulous, Tai. I share your hope that she is always able to stay in touch with the truth of who she is and what the world is. She’s off to a wonderful start.

      I also hope that we all stand up when we see people trying to use their beliefs to control others. We should absolutely all live by the principles we hold most dear, but we have to exercise great caution when we’re tempted to foister those principles onto other people. It’s happening here, legislatively, right now. And it’s never, ever okay.

      My hope in writing this piece is that people will understand that the extremists and religion I refer to are not of only one variety. That they read with whatever religion comes to mind (likely not their own) and then read again and consider whatever one they subscribe to.

      While the terrorist acts we see being carried out are horrifying, I’m equally concerned about the extremism I see here at home. I see our lawmakers and even our president citing religion–their religion–as a valid basis for legislation that would then apply to all. How is this any different from those (others!) who seek to control people with their religious beliefs? In my view, it’s not.

  2. Reply

    Sydney Chandler

    Just WOW! A very thoughtful and profound piece EG. That is some kind of special granddaughter you have there. Wise beyond her years.

    1. Reply

      Beth

      Thanks, Sydney. And I have to agree about my baby grand. She’s pretty spectacular!

  3. Reply

    Jul

    So sad that the world is this way, I have always believed that first love does beat anything out there, and second one persons rights end where the next ones start.
    What a very wise granddaughter you have, she shines with a simple wholeness that should take her far. At 4 her believing that way, she is set for life. How awesome is that.
    Great write,
    Love you bunches

    1. Reply

      Beth

      If we all lived by our own principles, teamed with the knowledge that, as you said, our rights end where another’s begin, we’d have a much more peaceful world.

      Sending you lots of love, Jul. ♥

  4. Reply

    Trish

    Someone started painting the canvas with magnificent landscapes, and brought us here with our own brush, and our own unique colors to splash that painting into life. We’re here to live, love, and learn, and we simply can’t do any of those three without the diversity that contributes its part to the blank areas–making them more interesting, and more colorful. I don’t want to ruin the canvas, I want it to be something I can stand before and look back on with pride when my time is up.
    We’re all a sight to behold when we come together. I agree with your grandaughter–love always wins. Love always wins because it can’t be contained. There’s an infinite amount to be spread to everyone, again and again, for every second in our lives that it’s needed.

    1. Reply

      Beth

      I too believe that there’s an infinite amount of love. An infinite amount of everything, really. Plenty for everyone and all that anyone cares to imagine.

      Oh, and not for nuthin’, but I’ll bet even your grocery lists end up sounding poetic. Just sayin’. 🙂

  5. Reply

    Jennifer Wilck

    Your granddaughter is going to rule the world. And I will wholeheartedly support her.

    1. Reply

      Beth

      She just might. She’s a wonderful combination of wise, strong, tenderhearted, and determined. It doesn’t get any better than that.

  6. Reply

    Malcolm R. Campbell

    I mourn the needlessly lost lives and the libel terrorist do the rational people of their faith.

    1. Reply

      Beth

      I do too, Malcolm. And I’m so damn tired of people trying to force their beliefs on others, whether for religious or other reasons. The current political climate reeks of this kind of thing and I think it’s hideous.

  7. Reply

    Jo Heroux

    In this day I find love to be stronger and more persistent, not in a small part due to the loudness of hate. Our purpose here on earth is to learn, I believe. To make mistakes. To move forward and backward in our attempts to get things right. To feel everything. Experience pain so that we work toward peace. To know hate so love can overpower that and bring us to calm and contentment. To feel the rains both soft and violent to appreciate the sunshine and relaxation it brings. To help when needed ithout expectation. To give when we can, simply because we can. To see our fellow humans as equals and partners in our planets glories and needs.
    I don’t believe love always wins, though I wish it did. Life has taught me that sometimes love isn’t enough. Sometimes love hurts beyond measure and lashes out at our very souls and causes scars that never heal. Love is so powerful that it can make us or break us and I guess we each decide which it will be on a daily basis.
    This piece has made me think hard about how love hasn’t always won in my own life nor in the lives of some of my family. But it has not kept me, the eternal optimist, from hoping that it will…eventually.
    Absolutely incredibly written, my ridiculously talented friend. Your heart is all over this one. 💜

    1. Reply

      Beth

      Thank you for sharing like you did, Jo. I love how you’ve embraced change and growth in your own life and think we all need to be open to considering everything through new eyes as we move through this life. We learn as we go, as long as we are willing, and as we learn, we appreciate both pain and pleasure for the lessons they hold. Life is a wonderful classroom.

      Like my granddaughter, I do believe love always wins in the end. I don’t think love always look like a Hallmark movie, but I do think love brings peace and knowing, and it triumphs. Every time.

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