It is springtime and the miraculous color green is no longer contained by my salad bowl but leaps from branch to branch, circling me, and surrounding us in all unimaginable richness and variety of shade. Nature wakes up, and we respond in turn. Surely there is so much we could be grateful for, each of us starting with our own beating heart. And yet the heart must open further to include and serve all the millions suffering and in need.
For “Earth Day” I plant a seedling in the dark earth. Climate Change looms, and human policies threaten, to send this ball of earth into the darkness of extinction. And yet, as our faith traditions teach us, we must still plant the seedling.
Each word we share, each word we plant online in social media discussion, is a seed of chaos or understanding. Will my words help grow a future garden, fragrant with love and understanding?
Is hate the absence of love? Often it arises as a form of fear in denial of its self; aggression may cover deep insecurity. Disentangling the roots of fear, we can separate the unconscious beliefs that strangle healthy life.
Caught in action and reaction, many law makers rely on force to limit hate crimes, but this also feeds the system of mass incarceration and extends the cycle of violence. Instead, we could redesign our correctional system to be more effective as a form of rehabilitation. There should be many alternatives to prison. We can also work to educate and not cut programs in anger management and self-control. And we might address the roots of violence, which at least partly arise in humiliation and frustrated hope among the impoverished and secretly self-hating.
Confronting hate is not simple. In Burma the authorities have been persecuting Rohingya Muslims for decades and instead of reversing course with their new leadership the government now seeks to show this small minority as a security threat, with last October’s single small attack by an ad hoc militia being compared to 9/11. As elsewhere, fake news flows in Burma, India, Turkey, Russia, Europe and the USA. Governments conflate fake news with news they don’t like. China restricts its internet, and perhaps the West will follow this authoritarian trend eventually. Turkey shut down access to Wikipedia this week. This approach is not the answer to the increasingly dishonest social and political dynamic around the world. This is not the answer to free floating negativity and hate throughout society.
I have allergies, and pollen in the air can invade eyes and nose and brain and shut down my ability to function. Something similar seems to be happening with the anger and stupidity in the air. Social media is a storm of anger pollen; some medications may be in order. But what will heal or help, besides less time hypnotized by the little screen? What do I need to take back my life, to breathe?
Though I may soon lose my affordable healthcare, there is a Doctor both in and out of network whom I can always call on, through prayer. The cost is my sincerity. That is something I have less of than I imagine. I can try to strengthen my intention through service; loving service can flow as naturally as a smile or the energy of laughter among friends. Can I bring that wide-awake energy to working with refugees? To genocide prevention or to interfaith dialogue? What prevents me from taking that step?
Yesterday I met Mohiuddin Yusof, just back from three months visiting Rohingya refugees. In his case, what holds him back is lack of resources—for unlike the official charities, he can visit refugees living in Bangladesh that the government refuses access to. He has helped run a school for children, and says that 300 dollars a month will keep a school for eighty children running. Why no help?
Others visiting Syrian refugee camps ask the same question. Why is help not flowing? In a time of hate love must be stronger. Love in action. This is the medicine.
We all start with ourselves, with our own fears and negativities. But we must manage to include all the haters in our understanding. We can put that little bit of green into the collection box; but think about how to engage directly to plant the seed of hope for the future. Even the howling voices of the media madhouse contains some beautiful harmonies. Even the angry, fearful and the lost. We can orchestrate, not hate. This is a work in progress…… we may need to put our judgments and expectations aside a bit.
May Allah guide us in His limitless compassion!