Being Human

I never talk politics just as I never talk religion. Both are matters of personal choice and belief. Who’s to say I’m right and you are wrong? (or vice-versa).

However I am making an exception today. Not to really talk politics because let’s face it, politics are games people, who either are in power or want to be, play. Politics is a dirty, dirty game that I refuse to play. What I really want to talk about today is common decency, being a human being, being a mensch.

The world is scaring me lately. There seems to be a tidal wave of fear and divisive ideas rolling through the whole planet.  I won’t lie; it keeps me awake sometimes. I understand being scared. There are a lot of bad people out there, capable and willing of doing horrible things in the name of religion, ideals, or just because they can. But should we let that fear rule us and allow it to turn us away from being compassionate and true human beings?

Humans are animals. We do have that survival instinct embedded in us. There is no denial than when in danger, people let their claws come out or the instinct to flee surfaces. However humanity means we have the power, unlike other animals, to make choices; to be empathetic, to be compassionate. We have the power to choose not to flee, not to attack.

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The world is at war. Here in the US we are lucky because it’s not being fought within our borders, so to speak. But others are not so lucky. I never lived in a country at war. I have lived through a revolution, though. Fortunately for all Portuguese, the revolution of 1974 (The Carnation Revolution) was not a bloody one. There were only a handful of deaths and not many injuries. It was a “war” of words rather than guns and violence for the most part. But I remember the fear. The constant, mind-numbing fear that at any minute that air force jet flying overhead could start bombing the populace, that the popping sound we heard in the wee hours of the morning was a lot more than the backfire of a car’s exhaust, that someone would suddenly break through our doors and take one of us prisoner. I remember one day driving with my family to the capital for a day out in the city and the panic that ensued as we heard the telling pops of gunfire. Living in fear is like living with an elephant sitting on your chest; you can’t breathe, you can’t move.

I cannot imagine what it’s like to live in a place where bombs are destroying your neighborhoods, where you can’t be sure you won’t have to get up in the middle of the night and flee never to see your home and friends again. I can’t imagine not knowing whether I will have anything to feed my children the next day or fearing that someone will walk through the door and rape my daughter. I just can’t imagine.

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I also can’t wrap my head around the idea that fear is telling many of us to shut these war victims out of our countries, to refuse giving them a hand, to show them basic human compassion. But there are terrorists among them. I’m sure there are. Bad people are very creative and are not above using the misery of others to wreck destruction and pain. That’s the definition of a bad human, a criminal, a terrorist. Ask yourselves though, is it right to condemn thousands of innocent people—just hoping to be safe, to have the chance to wake up without the fear of death or pain, to have a future that does not involve guns and destruction—for  the evil of a few?

I don’t know about you, but I know I couldn’t live with myself knowing that because of my own personal safety I sacrificed the safety of many others. Let’s look back in history and remember not to make the same mistakes, not to repeat bad decisions…history is a great teacher. But like any other lesson, you must take heed in order to learn.

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Belgian Refugees fleeing ahead of the Nazi Army

(photo credit: World War II Today)

 

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