We’re not immune from intolerance
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.