As many times before, last weekend I debated world issues with some wonderful and wise people. We discussed social and individual responsibility, the role of government, race and religion in our lives and we agreed that for those who are still disenfranchised something needs to be done, but we did not know what.
I agreed with every point that ever person made just about regarding the hurtles of discrimination on various basis that still exist and pose a barrier, I agreed that there are numerous barriers to progress other than discrimination and then I thought, but what about individual responsibility?
No matter what the powers that be decide, do we not each have a higher individual choice to make in our own lives and in the lives of others to improve things with in our circle of influence?
Despite all of the social injustices; despite unfair laws and policies; despite historical abuses; despite familial dysfunctions; does not each person have an individual choice to make that could make things better collectively for everyone?
Now I know that situations and life are extraordinarily complex, beyond simplifying it to a one sentenced inquisition. But I ask on a very basic level, does not how the community scene plays out affecting everyone in it collectively, not boil down to individual responsibility and choices?
I think back to Nazi Germany and I always wondered what each individual soldier told himself in order to carry out the heinous commands of Hitler. I wonder if each person had purposed it in his heart to take individual responsibility for his own individual actions, if there could have not been a cooperative change on a basic level to not do what would cause harm to others; if the holocaust may have been prevented by numerous individual refusals to hate. What if each soldier chose to not do to any human what they would not want done to them, or their family.
What of American slavery? What if each man identified buying a human laborer as unjust? What if each man said to himself “Would I want my daughter or son purchased and bred like farm animals?” What if he asked himself “Should the mighty American dollar have more value than the sacred human life?” or “Are fighting for my own freedoms and liberties more important than helping someone else live so that we can all be free together.” I wonder if American history would be different if each person asked himself those questions. I wonder if American history will be different in 200 years if we can start asking ourselves some of those questions today.
It seems that we, as an American community, are so consumed individually with the holes in our own shoes, that we no longer care that there are many right around us here in America who are still walking miles without shoes.
In our debate someone said that the downfall of the black community was the introduction of crack into the community. I wonder if the introduction of mind destroying drugs into other communities devastated them as well? I do not know, my primary experience living around poverty has only been in the black community, but if drugs were the downfall of the community, did not the crack or meth user have a choice to make at some point? Did not the crack or meth dealer have not a choice to make?
Do not the people who pull the trigger, who buy the gun, and who sell them, have not a choice?
What of individual responsibility?
I grew up hearing from my parents and grandparents firsthand accounts of an era when black people were dragged out of their homes and innocently shot or hanged with no justice expected to be pursued. When black girls were burned alive and black boys were lynched for no reason other than hate. When blacks were not permitted into various neighborhoods nor social groups and neither could use the same bathrooms sit in the same seats on the bus, drink from the same fountains, neither vote nor attend the same colleges as their white peers.
If my grandparents and parents remember these events then they weren’t so very long ago. But my have things changed! There are still a ways to go in the way of true equality, but we as a people have come pretty far…
… Except that
I grew up seeing my neighbors shot on the corners over petty arguments or drug feuds. I saw people being killed for gold chains and sneakers. I, before I was 18 was help up at gun point twice. The first time they got a cheap pager I had and a brand new Eddie Bauer jacket. The second time I ran for help as my friend lost her jewelry. Someone, ironically, the neighborhood drug dealer saw me running and did come to our aid, thankfully neither time I was shot, but not because the stick up boys were far beyond shooting the young teenaged victims that they robbed.
So now then, what of individual responsibility?
After our debate, we figured a lack of leadership is a part of the problem. Many people have had these experiences, they decide on an individual level to do something better, but have no idea how to help the community as a whole. There are way more good apples around than bad ones still, but how do the good ones come together, raise their children to do better and not tolerate the terrorism of the bad apples? I don’t know- I do agree that there is a lack of leadership. Or even just a lack of role models, but I am hopeful that we, who are now the adults will give back and each one of us has to individually figure out in what way we will. I confess that I have fallen down on my individual responsibility to give back to the community that I was raised in. I made it out, I know better and now I have to do better.
It is not enough to just blog about love, but I, we, need to get out into the city of brotherly love and do just that.
Will let you know what I come up with.
Here is a story that I came across today that I found very inspiring.
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Journeyman/167865816737032 (this article is about the men in the photo above)
Don’t let anyone judge the way that you decide to express your love for others. Individually, selflessly, fearlessly, we can collectively make a change!