Those of you who follow my blog know I write on a wide range of topics. July 4th, the day we celebrate our independence as a nation, is almost upon us (I’ve been writing on some weighty topics lately, so I promise my next post will be lighter). This year, with the many events swirling around us nationally, globally, and unfortunately for Orlando, even locally, I have given special thought to this day.
You would have to be hiding under a rock not to know about the tragedy which occurred here in Orlando with the recent mass shooting at a nightclub. Yes, there are many who may not agree with the victims’ lifestyle choices, but these people were sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, friends or lovers. Their lives were cut short in a brutal way. I spoke with an individual who knows one of the first responders on the scene. Her friend told her how awful it was to see all of the cell phones ringing on so many bodies.
Though we went to war for independence from England over issues related to taxation, our nation was also founded on the concepts of celebrating our individuality, our freedom of speech, and our religion. We as a country are supposed to be tolerant of others’ beliefs, even if they conflict with our own. To paraphrase some of what Father Dennis Edward O’Brien, USMC, said, a soldier embodies this very ideal in his or her willingness to sacrifice themselves for our flag in order to ensure that someone else has the right to burn that very same flag.
Any time I am told I should fear or hate a group of people, I find it disturbing. It’s easy to point fingers at faceless groups and blame them for something, or say we should fear or hate them for x,y,z reason, or because they are different from us. Hitler was very good at that.
I imagine that the leaders in countries like North Korea, or in radical groups, tell their citizens and followers the very same thing about us. That they should hate or fear us because we are different, or because we don’t believe as they do.
When you break a group down, it consists of individuals, each with his or her own hopes, dreams, and thoughts. Just like the group who lost their lives at the Impulse Nightclub here was only a collection of individuals, each with the capacity to be good or bad. An individual, or even a subset of individuals, does not define a group.
It seems to me that when we allow fear to cause us to lump people together as a homogenous group rather than looking at the individuals, we begin to put our feet on the proverbial slippery slope. Once before, we allowed that to happen and much to our shame, the United States rounded up Japanese people an interred them in camps during World War II. These were regular, legal citizens who were taken away from their homes, businesses and lives, and thrown into camps which were, to all intents and purposes, for nothing more than fear of their ethnicity. Note that our history books don’t like to dwell much on this little detail.
As we celebrate our independence, think about what true independence is.
I saw a good bumper sticker the other day. It said “Don’t believe everything you think.”