Night thoughts are what I call them. They’re those trips of the mind that come when you’d like to sit for an evening’s quiet moment or go to sleep or are middle-of-the-night sleepless. Mine of late have led me down an unsettling path of questioning a world that’s exploding with divergent beliefs, values, motives … making me ponder what I know, what I don’t know.
I don’t know how to live in a society that accepts death by stoning. I don’t know how to live in a society that limits a woman’s value as a human. Or limits anyone’s value. I don’t know how to live in a society that teaches annihilation of a religious or ethnic group.
I’ve never had my life threatened. Or lived in a war zone. I don’t know that kind of fear, for which I say thank you to all who serve and protect. I’m having trouble understanding societies, groups, and leaders who direct their people to these ends. I ache for those who endure it.
I’m a product of a democratic society, a culture which is young in terms of the world’s cultures, that practices, through laws and education, equality under the law and believes in the value of human dignity. A process exists for grievances, for making law, and for changing it. Yes, we have our in-house villains. Yes, we make mistakes. Yes, we have injustices. And out in the world, we don’t and can’t go grandly about, wagging our innocent tails. America tries to lead by example and negotiation, but has to act when attacked, when Americans are harmed, when groups want to annihilate us.
Perhaps the key to what we have is that we’re a young society. Our forefathers wanted a better way which involved change and great risk. Today we have the ability to evolve or change. The citizens have time to progress in education, art, science, technology, literature because they are relatively free from want and fear, and have a sense of security. They have food and shelter. There’s something to be said about an older society learning from a younger one, about not being bogged down by centuries of old ways.
Change takes time. Vast differences in core values are difficult to overcome. In emerging countries, clean water, food, medicine, shelter, security, and a way to earn income help. But greed, power, and zealousness in those in positions of power are strong forces to counteract. They use fear, old ways and beliefs, superstition, desire for revenge, a worldview of hate toward certain groups to keep the status quo.
As has been said many times, education and exposure are a way to new thought, to new values. The biggest asset anyone has is the mind, and the education and training that empowers that mind. Getting to that mind is another thing. In America we have those unique traits of individualism and independence, not tribalism. We value education and progress. We question injustices. We’re part of a team.
The internet is an interesting phenomenon. Yes, opposing and threatening points of view are published on it daily. But so also are ideas, different ways of thinking, of living, and of treating each other. Of spreading ideas and publicizing injustices. We’ve seen it happen. It may be up to the young.
Inclusiveness is a concept not all societies practice. Embracing diversity is an important key to coexistence and it enriches a culture. You have your beliefs. I have mine. One isn’t better than the other. They are simply different. I don’t try to impose mine on you or try to take yours away. We also realize we experience much in common … family, love, a sense of safety. There’s a belief in the processes that protect the greater good.
I attended a speaker series in which actor Richard Dreyfus spoke. I thought I would hear about his acting career. But that wasn’t the case. He spoke about the need for civility in our society. He spoke about the need to teach history and civics in our schools. We need to know whose shoulders we stand on and what events have shaped us. It’s up to us to learn from and take care of that heritage. I don’t disagree.
At the mall recently, I saw a blue tee shirt on a young boy. On the front were the words “Too Cool to be Cruel.” On the back were the words “#Bully Free.” Perhaps the world needs an anti-bully campaign.
Sometimes I feel sad for the world and saturated by the media. That said, I’ll keep hope. I’ll keep faith in our leaders to be focused at home and abroad. I’ll keep faith in our values. I’ll look for heroes, whether wise statesmen or emerging young men and women. I’ll keep involved, vote, donate. I’ll try to understand. I’ll wander about in my night thoughts.
Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness. Desmond Tutu
(Photos courtesy of public domain collections.)