Samantha Borders- Future Voices of America
“Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding. ” ~Gandhi
Today, I got a little overwhelmed. Not because of my new circumstances with living abroad in the Middle East (indeed, I’m quite relaxed and at home), but because of a deeper problem that goes far beyond myself and the sentiments within.)
It’s the violence inside that moves me.
What is this, you ask? It is the carnal tendency in every person towards hate that, although manageable, can paradoxically make humans become inhumane. And I see it every day. We all do.
It all started this morning when I woke up. Mom came into my room (the rooms are connected by a door, it’s basically a suite) and let me know I had to get ready to run errands. No problem. As I was getting dressed, she asked me if I’d heard about the riots in London. Oh, I’d heard about them all right. It had been plaguing my thoughts for days. What started as a peaceful riot became a series of terrible bombings (homemade gas bombs, mind you), beatings, killings, and lootings across the city of Tottenham and eventually into London. Domestic terrorism has literally sprung up in London and is running mad! These youths who are perpetuating such violence have potentially little or no connection to the man who was shot and killed by the Tottenham police last week (the source of the original protests), yet they are now the tyrants that would bring innocent people harm and great loss. Individuals, homes, and livelihoods through businesses are now lost because some decided to take advantage of a weak moment. Really? Really?
But that’s not all.
You should see the violence going on in Syria. It makes me want to puke. Literally. I get physically ill when the newstations (particularly Al Jazeera, which I love) bring up live footage of the government’s troops firing guns AND tanks into civilian neighborhoods.[i] I watched with my heart in my throat as the store shook with sounds of gunfire and tank-cannon blasts roaring from the TVs on display, feeling weak in my knees at the thought that innocents are being murdered because one man decided all had to be silenced, whether they spoke or not. And thousands are dying like this, because there are dissenting voices; and yet people abroad are largely ignoring it. They remark “How sad, but how typical” or “It doesn’t affect us, we should let them deal with their own problems.“
No, no, NO!
God forbid the day that I decide an entire people are not worth my time because of incorrect stereotypes. This has come in the wake of the Oslo shootings due to domestic terrorism, more shootings in the US like the incident at the pharmacy in Pennsylvania (which is very much domestic terrorism), dire famine in Somalia (I wept while reading the newsarticles over the weekend)[ii], heightened child sex trafficking in India (read up on it!)[iii], and countless other incidents around the world. These only demonstrate the truth that great atrocities are not typical to just one group of people, but to the entire world. To human nature. True, we cannot solve everyone’s problems, but to not try to help improve the situation or even care is disgusting.
I don’t intend to beat you over the head in some self-righteous manner. Indeed, I find myself constantly realizing just how little I have done and how much more I could do to change things around me. But this was something I could not ignore or not publicly discuss. My generation’s apathy about the world and the people in it has a profound effect upon me, and I wish to help alleviate this dastardly stain upon my fellow youth. And the first step is to inform.
It sounds like some kind of silly campaign that tells us we can change the world by doing x,y and z. But if you look at the facts, you being aware and in some small measure proactively fighting against injustice is the way to change the world. Truly. I firmly believe Gandhi’s saying “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” It points out the power of our personal influence over others around us. Movements do not begin on international scales. They start with one person who’s fed up with the status quo, and decides it needs to be changed.
The scary truth?
If no one steps in to defend the helpless, then someone will certainly step in to crush them. You and I, every living person, can be the difference between life and death. If united, then when injustice rears its ugly head, we can stop it. But if we choose to comfortably sit in our homes and pretend nothing happens, we will one day have to confront the fact that others suffered because we found it inconvenient to stand with them. We are all capable of great compassion or great violence. And sometimes, the latter comes in the form of disinterest, which hardens our hearts and makes us blind to the bloodshed at hand.
I believe that each and every one of you has a voice that can affect change and promote the greater good, and I am proud to call you my friend. I write this because I know you all have hearts to help others, so you can understand my frustration. Start small with your efforts, and the love you demonstrate will catch like wildfire. The peace and humanity within, and not the violence, is the way to combat the greatest evils. And it will win.
“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”~Elie Wiesel
[i] See footage at Al Jazeera English, http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2011/08/20118785421245255.html.
[ii] Full story at The National News, UAE. http://www.thenational.ae/news/worldwide/africa/food-has-run-out-in-somalia-and-so-has-time
[iii] Full story at The National News, http://www.thenational.ae/news/worldwide/south-asia/until-my-last-breath-ill-look-for-her.