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Thursday, April 30, 2015

One Human Race

I have to say it.

I don't have all the facts on Freddie Gray or what's happening in Baltimore.

Neither does anyone.

The old adage "There are two sides to every story" is false.  There are as many sides to every story as there are people in the story, which in this case is thousands.

I used to tell my preschoolers (who are universally into Bad Guys, by the way, it's totally a developmental thing) that I do not believe in Bad Guys.  No human being is inherently evil.  Their actions may be evil, but the thing in their hearts is--self preservation, self-defense... taking care of yourself in a world that maybe has provided no options.

I have done things I wish I hadn't done.  I have never set out to do a thing to hurt others.  But I have hurt people.  I am in the privileged place of having the time, resources, and energy to see when I've hurt others and try to fix it.  Usually.  I try my best.  So does every single human being I've ever met.

But people who have lived in godforsaken conditions, in fear and terror--may not have that luxury.  I believe strongly that our poor, tired, huddled masses have been kept that way because those who live in privilege are convinced that resources are limited--that if the poor had more, the rich would have less.  This has led to wildly uneven distribution of wealth, as wealthy people grab more and more wealth.  And--here's the kicker--they have the soon-to-be-former middle class convinced that we have to hold on to what's ours so that those lower class people don't get it.  In their fear, they have caused us to hate and fear those we should be caring for--so that they can grab more and more resources and go largely unnoticed.

I think our resources are only limited because we treat them as if they were.  If we all entered into a covenant of stewardship with the people and places of our planet; if those who have grabbed so much that they and their progeny couldn't spend it in a thousand generations would stop grasping and send those resources into the world, if we would care for our planet as a home we wish to preserve forever rather than as a reserve to be used up for our comfort in the now... I believe we would grow in wealth and materials rather than finding it all spent up.

Baltimore is an economic issue.  It is people with nothing finally being fed up with having nothing. Violence isn't the answer, but I understand in my heart why people who have been kept down through their whole lives by systemic oppression would finally snap.

I also understand how police officers, who enter into the force with every honorable intent of protecting and serving, can be lulled into comfort with a military response to peaceful protest, or to treating some folks among those they serve as less than human.  It is the exact same human condition that causes the looters and rioters to feel that they can loot and riot: they have a crowd behind them. If 99% of the police force said "this is not right" and treated all their constituents with respect, the one guy who tried to beat up a kid for shoplifting would be quickly and publicly removed from duty.  If 99% of the people on the streets said, "No, we will not burn and loot," then the one woman who broke a window would be quickly and firmly restrained.

This same crowd mentality is what caused the stupid "Pumpkin Riot" up in Keene NH last year, when a bunch of drunken frat boys decided that it would be fun to turn over cars and throw stuff and punch people in the streets.  They didn't even have anything to be angry about, but they had a crowd. Having a crowd fuels bullies.  In the case of Baltimore we have two crowds--one which bullies systematically and the other which was driven to fighting back.

Not one single one of those people believes they are evil.  They all, every one, believe they are acting rightly.  And: they are all right.  They are all acting in a way that the system has told them is correct, or at least justified in the moment.  They are all human-merely-beings: fallible and vulnerable.

Pointing fingers at one 'side' is not the answer.  Calling people 'animals' or 'thugs' is not the answer. Making sweeping statements about police forces is not the answer either.

Treating people with respect and dignity is the answer.

Living together without looking over our shoulders at Those People, wondering if they are trying to take our toys, is the answer.

Recognizing where we have and others have not, and doing something about it is the answer.

Recognizing when we have power and others have none, and making every effort to equalize power, is the answer.

It will take strength and fortitude and humbleness and we must strip ourselves of moral outrage and any illusion that there is 'us' and 'them.'  There is only us.  There is one human race, and we are all in it, and either we all win the race together, or surely we will all die.