The Primal Urge(s)

Peace Party (UK)

Peace Party (UK) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is hard to come up with words when horror rears its ugly head. I find myself envious of those who manage to do so both prolifically and with grace in the face of terrible days like today. So many people hurt and killed here and abroad, it becomes hard to believe we can ever get past our baser instincts. When does it become OK to target innocents for violence, for your religious or political beliefs, or for your “security?” What cold, cruel logic do you have to follow in order to approve of two groups of people being terrorized at any time much less during what should be a happy occasion?

Already I have seen the ugly responses. The maddened cry for swift and bloody justice, due process be damned. I have seen the minimizing of one event as justification for the other. I see bigotry bear its venom tinged fangs at one group or another. I read these horrors used to legitimize calls to rash action, to give weight to the othering of this group or that. I see blame levied though no authority has claimed knowledge and no villain taken the credit. I watch as once again, prompted by fear and anger, my countrymen are willing to give in to the least of their natures and be led into greater tragedy.

Through this all I wonder: can we ever be better? History has shown us so willing to be the worst we can be. We murder in the name of want, in the name of fear, in the name of simple egotism. We erase entire cultures from the history books because their existence is an affront to our superiority. The environment that supports us is despoiled in the name of expedience and greed. We betray trust in the name of an abstract tool that is supposed to signify trust. It sometimes seems like our entire species is bent on a mission to oppose, for its own sake, Hippocrates first rule.

Then I look, I remember, I see it unfold: we are better. I see first responders rushing to the rescue. I read accounts of strangers comforting each other through the pain and panic. I remember tales of men of power weeping openly at the sight of Holocaust victims. I read the words of those reminding us not to rush to judgement, and not to give into our anger, our need to drown our grief and fear in the blood of those we name “enemy” simply because those that hurt us were born in the same place, of the same culture. I witness people praying for peace in the wake of violence, and I can believe again.

There is so much evil in all of us, but there is also so much good. I have been both hero and villain in my life, and I suspect most of my fellow Homo sapiens are the same. At the end of the day, all any of us wants is to live or life in peace among those we love. That is true if you are a working class Joe, an executive in a corporation, an Afghan father watching his daughter get married, a marathoner finishing her first race, or a farmer in Africa. We have it in us, all of us, to give each other the gift of peace. We have it in us to live by our better urges, but first we need to unpack the others.


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