"Why Did You Shoot Me? I Don't Know"

From this morning's Washington Post:

"Sir, Why did you shoot me?"

"I don't know".

These words are seared into my brain.

Did you know that Alexander Hamilton was sworn in as the First Secretary of the Treasury on September 11 - yes, that very date - in 1789? I ran across this historical footnote as I was pondering the recent pandemic, or so it seems, of terror on our streets and around the globe.

Clearly the terror strikes deepest into the bones and flesh of those blown apart by explosive weapons. Then it metastasizes into the hearts of their families and friends who wait to find out who survived and who did not. In each instance, what did not survive intact was the dignity of human life, the respect for the differences between us, the ability of humans to resolve their disputes through civil discourse rather than civil war/fare and unfair.

It strikes me that terror resides on the other side also: the individuals who feel so trapped in caged lives, without hope of a decent living for themselves and their children, that their fear becomes fury and erupts. I exclude here brainwashing and extremist doctrine that targets vulnerable youth and promises them an afterlife of riches in return for zealotry today. But what I also see are disturbed individuals acting out their fury and helplessness. For them, what did not survive was hope and the ability to feel that things could get better.

It's not a question of whether black lives matter, or seniors matter, or hispanics, females, refugees, apostates, Muslims, Jews, freckle-faces or dimpled knees. All lives matter, I deeply believe. And what matters most, it seems to me, is the ability to hope, to see a light at the end of whatever tunnel of despair each person faces. Our survival as a species depends on our willingness to reach out and help each other. That means we treat each other as equals in every sense; that politicians stop fattening their own purses and behaving as though laws apply to others but not themselves; that leaders truly lead and not just speechify. It means that institutions like banks stop trying to cheat their customers, that corporations value ethics over greed, that religions remember that God loves all children and not just the "proper" ones. It means that parents need to re-examine whether they are serving hatred to their children along with oatmeal; that police become once more defenders of peace and dignity in their local communities; that Caucasians recognize they don't rule the world; that arrogance and disdain don't run roughshod over kindness.

That's a lot of retooling. It means that every single one of us has to be a tool-maker, a healer, a truly ethical person. Are we capable? I don't know. I only know that humanity had better change its course, and quickly, if we are to survive. I only know that life is a precious gift, one that we are squandering while we blame someone else, everyone else, for the mess that we're in. Frankly, it feels like a molten lava flow of rage blackening the planet.

I do not make light of the atrocities visited on women worldwide, on blacks particularly in the USA. But the problem runs so much deeper than any one group. We are addicted to hatred. And until we relinquish that addiction, all of us are in danger. If anyone else's life doesn't matter, than neither does mine, and neither does yours.*

Can we go cold turkey on hatred? Can you, and you, and...?

"Sir, Why did you shoot me?"

"I don't know".

c. Corinne Whitaker 2016

*Viewers may want to read Whitaker's newest, and 22nd, book titled "Toast", on how the Creator may have acted on the 8th day, and what she decided to do after looking at our species in action. You may disagree with its conclusion, but you can't deny its insight into human behavior.