When I think about humanity (and as I get older, I more frequently do), I think about our duality. On one hand, people are capable of incredible acts of selflessness. This week there was a terrible fire in the Bronx and a young man, home for a week from his first year in the Army, perished trying to help others escape. I recall how the whole world held its collective breath a few years ago when 33 Chilean miners were trapped underground and furious work was performed to save them. They were hoisted above ground in a rescue basket and it was like they were being born again in front of us – a crystalline moment that the whole globe cheered. In these and many other moments, we recognize how precious life is. How we are all together in this life, in the one place that can sustain life. And yet, humanity has been capable of the worst acts of depravity imaginable throughout the eons and these continue to this day in places like Syria, North Korea and many others where self-interest rules over the common good. I’ve read much about the Holocaust and heard its echoes in a little girl’s hideaway in Amsterdam, but that was only one terrible, sad chapter of far too many. In this great country of ours, we enslaved millions, then fought a brutal war to stop the practice, then carried on with a system of apartheid for another 100 years afterwards that was scarcely better, well into my lifetime not in some ancient time. We dehumanized Native Americans because they were in the way of Manifest Destiny; our own largely successful attempt at genocide. These are the sins of the past and the living today are not guilty of them, but if we don’t understand the forces that have shaped our present – if we refuse, for instance, to remove statues celebrating men whose avowed purpose was to enslave other men, erected by following generations to intimidate and oppress- than we are not capable of moving forward as we should. President Reagan famously declared in Berlin, “Tear down this wall!” I say we have a few of our own that need removing, some literal and some figurative. I believe most people in this country have evolved beyond hatred and our nation has become ever more inclusive. Signs of this are everywhere. This is the source of our strength. Yet there are people in positions of power of every political and demographic persuasion who remain racists, sexists, bigots and abuse that power until they are caught. Thankfully, they are caught more frequently now because people fear speaking out less. It helps that everyone is carrying a camera and a recording device! 2017 was a banner year in that regard. We can’t turn back now no matter the people that would like to.
The forces of good are winning against the forces of evil. I’m certain of that. It’s just taking a lot longer than it should. Here’s to further progress in 2018!
“You may say I’m a dreamer/but I’m not the only one/I hope someday you’ll join us/And the world will live as one.” John Lennon – “Imagine”