We’re not im­mune from in­tol­er­ance

Northern Pen - - EDITORIAL - Ed Smith The View From Here

I re­cently watched a doc­u­men­tary of that hor­ren­dous poi­son gas at­tack on the Syr­ian peo­ple a few weeks ago.

We all heard about it on tele­vi­sion when it hap­pened. We saw clips of peo­ple who had suf­fered a ter­ri­ble death ly­ing in the streets and, worst of all, the bod­ies of chil­dren and ba­bies who died that day when war­planes rained death from the skies.

We watched those scenes of “man’s in­hu­man­ity to man” in ut­ter dis­be­lief that so-called civ­i­lized peo­ple could per­pet­u­ate such cru­elty upon oth­ers of our kind with whom we share this Earth. An Earth shat­tered and torn by bombs and now turned into open char­nel houses not seen since the Nazi con­cen­tra­tion camps of the Sec­ond World War, or the gases that rolled across the front lines of Al­lied sol­diers in the First World War, chok­ing and burn­ing them to death.

But many of th­ese Syr­ian peo­ple were chil­dren and ba­bies, the in­no­cent vic­tims of power-mad tyrants. Most in­cred­i­ble of all was the fact that this atroc­ity had been car­ried out by their own coun­try­men, their own leader, and not for the first time.

Some of us are aware of ter­ri­ble things that have hap­pened in the last few years, es­pe­cially that we have be­come hard­ened to the sights and sounds of peo­ple dy­ing from the many and var­ied kinds of death that can be forced upon them by the en­e­mies of a civ­i­lized world. Over time, th­ese aw­ful events slowly fade from our con­scious­ness, or are crowded out by other equally hor­rific suf­fer­ings around the world.

And then there was that doc­u­men­tary.

The videos of vi­o­lent death were not just snap­shots of mo­ments in time. They were slow­mov­ing, ag­o­niz­ing films of peo­ple of var­i­ous ages dy­ing in gasp­ing and wretched agony. More than ever, the sights of in­no­cent chil­dren hav­ing to en­dure this un­speak­able hor­ror was etched upon our minds, and our hearts as well, where they are more in­deli­ble and can­not as eas­ily be erased.

The next morn­ing, as I was watched our own lo­cal chil­dren do­ing their bit in their Sun­day school Mother’s Day pro­gram, I thought — as I have of­ten thought be­fore — how for­tu­nate they are to have been born here in this place. And in­deed, we their fam­i­lies, like­wise.

So why are our homes and com­mu­ni­ties so dif­fer­ent from so many in the Mid­dle East and else­where?

Many books have been writ­ten about the dif­fer­ences in cul­tures around the world, but I think it boils down to two words: ha­tred and in­tol­er­ance. In a so­ci­ety where peo­ple are not ac­cepted be­cause they look dif­fer­ent or even more, think dif­fer­ently, in­tol­er­ance and ha­tred will thrive. Per­haps you’re think­ing it’s good we don’t have that prob­lem. If you are, you need to take your head out of the sand.

The seeds of in­tol­er­ance and hate are be­ing sown all around us, ev­ery mo­ment of the day. Ev­ery time a group of adults get to­gether for a few drinks and start telling jokes about blacks or Jews or Pakis or Po­lacks or Wops or any one of 100 dif­fer­ent cul­tural groups, we sew the seeds of in­tol­er­ance.

When you speak in dis­parag­ing tones about gays, or even worse sug­gest they are in for ev­er­last­ing pun­ish­ment, we add to the cul­ture of in­tol­er­ance and even ha­tred.

When you join the cho­rus of voices, no mat­ter how few, who warn against the “Mus­lim ter­ror­ists” about to take over our coun­try, you add to that in­tol­er­ance.

When we al­low our rea­son and hu­man­ity to be taken over by nar­row fun­da­men­tal­ist and/ or ra­tio­nal­is­tic ex­treme ideas, we are fos­ter­ing — if not ac­tu­ally fo­ment­ing — big­otry and racism.

We do not need to look very far to see where that stuff comes from or where it can lead.

You’re right — God pre­serve us.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.