It seems to go in lurches forward, this thing called civilization. Or more kindly, like the shore when the tide is coming in, the surf washing in then retreating then in again, so it is further in, then retreating again. How long in civilization is 150 years? In geologic time it is like a passing breeze, even if to us it is a couple or three generations of humans passing. It was “only” 150 years ago that slavery was abolished in the United States of America. It wasn’t Ancient Rome where it happened, not even the Renaissance. This was the end of the concept that you could own another human being, given that his or her ethnicity was African. That end was the aforementioned surf slapping into the promised land. But it wasn’t as if they were suddenly thought of as equals among the rest of their countrypeople. It took 100 years for segregation to be outlawed, for the Civil Rights Act to happen. That was “only” 50 years ago. It comes down to one quote, we find, that makes sense of why the past happened as it did, and attempts even now to roll back what we have gained:
“The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world.”
– Paul Farmer
This was the thought behind the “Black Lives Matter” movement. People who said of that statement, “No, it should be ‘All Lives Matter'” completely miss the point. One says “Black Lives Matter” because it is observed that black lives seem to matter less to this civilization. If you really believe “All Lives Matter”, you will be for the “Black Lives Matter” movement; the question might be why exactly it needs to be said. Maybe because it’s been “only” 150 years? Since such lives mattered more than a sum of money? We in the USA have elected our first black President, and still, racism is rampant. Even if our laws attempt to say all are equal in the eyes of the collective, in practice that equality falls short of being a reality.
Branching out from there, we observed in the 20th century that the notion of some group of people valued less can bring about horror upon horror. Nazi Germany put to death in unholy ways Jews by the millions (millions) based on that overriding principle. It was so bad that Holocaust deniers say something that horrific couldn’t have happened. But it did, now something burned into the racial memory of the people called the Chosen of God. And now—do we know better now? Have we learned? This is a heavy lesson, which others have paid dearly for. Race doesn’t matter. Religion doesn’t matter. Have we not learned? We are all human beings, all of us, and being American myself, I hearken to the words in our founding document: “dedicated to the proposition that all people are created equal”. Yes, I edited it. Because this is what it meant.
Now, 150 years later, we are left with the last. As far as I can tell, if we got this, we got everybody: gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transvestite, and all you other freaks out there: you’re part of those “people” up there, in the “proposition”. Yes, it’s “only” been 150 years since one type of people were worth at most 3/5 of another. Right now, right now, there are people protesting with signs that say, “I Can’t Believe I Still Have to Protest this Shit”. Indeed. The rolling back of the surf. The reactionaries, those who believe they have a good thing and don’t want to share, and then those who hold that things used to be better back when people just shut up about things and men were men and women were women and children said “sir” and “ma’am”, and everyone knew their place. I call this the blind leading the blind.
What such small people fail to understand is that the tide has already turned. They are on the losing side of history. True, old habits die hard, and Donald Trump is a candidate to be President of the United States, even, but the picture is bigger than that. I write this in the wake of the worst mass shooting that America has ever experienced. One man, in a gay nightclub. 49 dead by his hand. And I have seen the worst come to fore in this wake, some who profess to be followers of someone who gave his life and his all for everyone: these rejoicing that “finally, the shooters went after the perverts”, to “praise God that only faggots were killed”. To believe that some lives are worth less than others. What most believers don’t understand is that in the story of the Good Samaritan, Samaritans were hated by the general population of Judea. It is the story of the KKK member left for dead by the side of the road taken care of by a black man, or woman. The story of the fundamentalist antigay spokesman aided by the homosexual atheist. Love thy neighbor. And who is thy neighbor? The one you most hate. This is the Message.
It is now not as overt as all that, that it used to be, but here it is: people are still viewed in terms of monetary value. Perhaps I am biased in this view, but those 49 people who were killed were worth as much as the NRA paid the members of Congress to keep from passing the legislation that could have prevented this last tragedy from happening. This was what human lives were worth to them, and continues to be worth to them. And they will certainly not feel it is worth any political price to change their ways when these last killed are of value less than even the average person, who in turn is worth less than the opinion of the Money. This is their true God, however much they praise Jesus with their lips.
So what is to be done? Do you feel it? Get mad as Hell. Not with the rage that turns you to violence, but that which makes you SPEAK OUT. What many of us do not understand, on both sides of the issue of the value of a human being, is that there are more people who agree with that proposition, up there, the one about equality. In some parts, they are maybe the minority in their locale, but of all the people of the world, we who so believe outnumber the ones who care only about the Money. It’s just that now, as we have become comfortable, we have become domesticated. We are used to living our lives as they are, in the quiet of the offices, in the considerations of our vested interests. And it is the other side who makes all the noise: not in the streets, but in the media that saturates our eyes and ears. Get mad as Hell. Because they’re taking our most precious thing from us: our heart. Our ability to feel, and be human, to care about anyone. Who is thy neighbor? Why should we love them? Because ultimately, that is the right thing to do.
Because ultimately, our heart is where the soul is human, even if you don’t believe in some kind of Heaven where that soul supposedly goes when you die. Our soul is all that makes us, us. They will speak with many words and make you believe that you are worth more than your neighbor, and that is their lie which poisons your heart and makes your soul die, if little by little. Get mad as Hell. Mad enough to care. Care. Maybe just in case, in case the opportunity should arise, when it might just take a little more effort to do the right thing than not to do anything: to care, just then. To do something. None of us can do it all, but all of us can do something. But first, right now, let them not drown out what is important by their words and their other noises. Hold on. Let them never kill the human of our being. First, to care. What else is the key to the Kingdom?