Before I plunge into my subject matter, I wanted to quickly acknowledge the significance of today’s date. Although April 20th is known as the anniversary for many things, it marks one the most horrible events in American soil, the Columbine High School Massacre. My love goes out to all the families and victims of this terrible and unjust event that occurred eighteen years ago. It is in trying to stop injustice that I write this blog today.
As we have all witnessed throughout our lifetimes humans segregate, separate, look down upon, differentiate and discriminate against others that are different. This tendency is ego driven and it provides us with a way to feel superior and more blessed than those we look down upon.
Although some would argue that this kind of self-designation is good, I submit that it does not serve a greater good. When we elevate ourselves above others we fill ourselves with a sense of self-righteousness that we are better, more entitled, more worthy, or worse yet, that we are justified to extract revenge against our perceived transgressors. When this identity grows into the national level, it is called nationalism.
There is nothing wrong with being proud of one’s heritage and culture, but when we use it to justify the preservation of our national interests at the expense of all other nations, then nationalism can have a corroding effect. We can use this premise to propel our fears that others are after what we have. We can use it to build up our armies and power our most lethal weapons. We can use it to cast out or keep out those who look and act differently or worship God in a dissimilar fashion.
It is not hard to find examples in our history where people were looked down upon, blamed and discriminated just because of their origin. The Holocaust and the internment of Japanese Americans come to mind.
When we see ourselves as different from others, we forget that we all come from the same source. We blind ourselves from the things that unite us and we designate a lower standing to those who are different. If we are to create a greater world, we must extend a welcoming bridge of acceptance to all people regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnic origin and political ideology. I am stopping with these descriptions but we know there are many more.
Recently Pope Francis visited an immigrant Muslim family from Morocco: Mihoual Abdel Karim and his wife, Tardan Hanane, whose children participate in the after-school program run by the local parish in order to bring to emphasize this point. The Pope knows that nothing divides us except fear and hatred. By shedding this light, he reminded us of our unanimity as human beings. This is what we should expect of our world leaders, to unify us and not fuel our fears so that we can shun those who are different. The Pope’s words during his visit remind us of our source of all things,
“We are members of the great People of God, which is made up of many faces, histories and places of origin, a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic people and we are called to be host to the differences, and to integrate them with respect and creativity, to celebrate the newness that comes from others. We are part of a people that is not afraid to embrace the borders, the frontiers and is not afraid to welcome the one who is in need because it knows the Lord is present in that person.”
Yet nothing puts our sameness into focus more than matters of life or death. Recently I met a widow who shared with me that her beloved husband of many years died while waiting for a heart transplant. Her description of their journey was a sad but empowering story of love and perseverance. Unfortunatelly, his body gently gave in during the search for an available heart.
I was moved by her story for many reasons, but it also opened my eyes to a new discovery. Imagine if you were in need of a new organ or a blood transfusion in order for you or an immediate family member to live. Add to this vision that the only source of these life giving substances comes from someone who is a non-Christian, a different culture or a different race and so on, would you turn the new body part or blood down?
No, of course you wouldn’t, your basic survival instinct and love for life would demand your acceptance without any hesitation. I submit to you that this desire at its most basic level is the greatest proof of our unity. The very source that empowered you to choose your survival did so by stripping you of your fear and prejudices and reminding you that we all come from the same source.
It should not take this kind of discovery to convince us that the separateness from one another has never been real. These differences have simply been arbitrarily created and fostered by the human species. I beseech you to let go of these false attitudes and beliefs and open your eyes to our greater unity as citizens of this planet and universe. When we succeed in this endeavour, our behavior will lead towards peace and prosperity for all.