A white-supremacist group is about to gather in Lafayette Park across from the White House. It is just one year since a similar group gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, and violence broke out killing one person. It’s been three years since the riots after the death in Baltimore of Freddie Gray. That was just a year after the riots in Ferguson, Missouri, after the death of Michael Brown. It’s been nine years since the 2009 riots in Oakland after the shooting of Oscar Grant. It’s been twenty-two years since the riots protesting racial profiling in St. Petersburg, Florida. That was three years after the LA riots after the acquittal of police officers in the beating of Rodney King.
That wasn’t unlike the Miami riots of 1980 after the acquittal of four police officers in the death of Arthur McDuffie. He died while being arrested by four white police officers after a high-speed chase.
Forty-seven years since the summer of riots throughout the country.
Fifty years since the riots in 125 cities after the assassination of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.
Fifty three years since the Watts Riots.
That was a year after the Civil Rights Act.
Which was one hundred and one years after emancipation.
In 2016, 38,658 people were killed by a gun in the United States, either in an assault, suicide, or accident.
According to a report out of Stockholm in May of this year, the world’s military budget is $1.7 trillion a year. Human Rights Watch notes a minimum of 50 million people were killed in the twentieth century because of their race or religion.
Wars currently active in the world accounted for, in 2017 alone, 14,000 deaths in Afghanistan, 13,000 in Iraq, 14,700 in Mexico in drug conflicts, 39,000 in Syria, and 17,000 in Yemen. I’ve left some off. Those are just the conflicts where over 10K have been killed; more than a dozen more are out there right now with more than a thousand deaths last year.
This is us. This is who we are. The human race, noted for being just slightly below the angels. Hell yeah.
Humanity’s default position has become assertive, aggressors. Power and greed have always been in control, but it used to be the other side didn’t have to lose for one side to win. It used to be when both sides of a conflict benefited, it was better for the world. No longer.
No wonder suicide is higher than ever; depression is diagnosed more than ever; the number of heart disease and stroke victims are higher than ever.
No wonder I have tried to turn off the news, turn toward nature, turn back my expectations of administrations around the world and their ability to solve any—ANY ONE—of the problems. Something has been missing. We need Superman. If Christ is coming back, now’s good.
I’m wondering more and more lately if there are any Mother Theresa’s alive and well, any Schweitzer’s, any King’s or Gandhi’s. It certainly doesn’t feel like it. In the years between my birth and turning ten, we saw the initiation of the Peace Corps, Earth Day, NASA’s moon launch, the Civil Rights Act, and more, including idealistic events like Woodstock. It is hard to find hope now. It is difficult to put a finger on possible solutions. I understand the world was a bit too idealistic in a time that also brought us so many riots, the Vietnam War, assassinations of heroes, and more. But just a little more idealism wouldn’t be so bad, would it?
I spend most of my time near water; maybe because of its constant unpredictability; maybe because of how true it is. It is cleansing; it is purifying. I really am finding it difficult to believe in much else anymore, but when I look out I remember what Gandhi said:
“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”
I’d like to believe that.