I debated if I wanted to write something about the Boston bombings, because truth be told, it’s not only been talked to death but everything at this point is speculation. I suppose I could talk about how we’re a culture of violence or write a piece about how the reaction may sadly take away more of our rights in this country or I could even go the route of discussing how many hate groups we have milling around.
I could sit here and write something about the explosion in Texas, talk about how the fertilizer plant was somehow able to avoid inspections for five years, so this is what happens when we don’t do things honestly. But I won’t.
I won’t write about how, though these incidents are tragic, they are small in comparison to what is happening all over the world – too often because of the choices made by our own government. I won’t talk about how I am completely confused how 9/11 could create the Iraq war, or how Newtown could create no gun legislation. Those won’t make sense no matter how many trips I make to a thesaurus.
And lastly, though tempting, I’m not going to write about how in a country as big and diverse as ours, if we really think about it, our incidents are few and far between. I won’t say that for two reasons. One, with our 24 hour news coverage, nothing feels small anymore. Secondly, by belittling a tragedy by comparing it to the larger context, that is offensive to those who lost a loved one forever.
But I will say this. To quote Forrest Gump when he stepped in a pile of dog poop, “Shit happens.”
And it’s always going to happen. But sometimes I wonder, how much of that shit are we responsible for?
Of course we still need to fight for things like background checks for guns, because no matter what the naysayers say, when it was in effect for those 10 years, over 2 million people were stopped from purchasing a weapon. That’s significant.
We still need to stand up against wars based on lies, companies who work the system, not having affordable healthcare and all those things that make us fear just being a human on the earth. That’s common sense as well.
But overall, when you take everything into account, we need to start focusing less on the bigger picture and more on our small part in that picture. I know too many people who talk about how we need to be a less violent country, yet yell at their kids without a second thought or treat their employees like cattle. I know too many people who will post memes about how we need to be kind to one another, yet seem completely oblivious that they treat others like shit, even those they swear to love. The amount of people who will post on Facebook to ‘hug your kids tonight’ after a tragedy, yet seem to not be concerned how they are raising those kids in the long run, that’s just frightening.
The litmus test is actually a simple one:
At the end of the day, if you aren’t helping someone grow, become, create or flourish in some way – that’s not love – and if you really loved them, you would back away so that they can become the human being they were meant to be.
Those teachers who just teach because it’s a job, those police officers who think having egos and bravado makes them trustworthy, those bosses who can’t seem to separate their personal problems from how they treat their employees – these are American tragedies happening every single day in this country and we really should be horrified more often.
We are massively over-worked, over-stressed and over-drugged in this country – yet we keep screaming we need to create a better world. Who do you think creates that world? Those are OUR kids who are shooting those guns, those are OUR kids who are planting bombs and those are OUR kids who are voting for wars based on lies. Those are the children of generations of men and women who just pushed on, struggled to survive and didn’t much look at their role in the bigger picture.
We spend so much time just trying to survive, it’s almost like we forgot how to live. And yet, again, we scream for a better world and act baffled why it isn’t happening.
Until we start taking a closer look at our role in the bigger picture, every single time we say things need to change, that’s about as helpful as those people who drive by a stray dog and say ‘someone needs to help that poor guy.’
So I’ll say it again; at the end of the day, if you aren’t helping someone grow, become, create or flourish in some way, that is not love. It never has been.
And until enough of us stop the way we are living, and realize that moving backwards or standing still is not moving forward, nothing is every going to get better. Until we actually make the effort toward fixing things like education, mental health reform, factory farming or seeing war as always the answer – shit is going to keep happening. Until we figure out that stopping to help that dog at the side of the road IS NOT an extraordinary step, it just seems that way in a world of no real steps, that realization is how we start moving toward a better place.
That is how we start having nice things in this world.
And yes, I realize this wasn’t so much a slap, but after the week we’ve had, I think the last thing we need is more violence toward one another. Consider this your Reality Hug.
Vince is the author of Einstein’s Shutter and other works that can be found HERE.