In the 1950s our home in Houston, Texas was bombed, because my newspaper editor father had endorsed the first African American candidate running for a position on the local school board. Though no one was injured, as a teenager it was terrifying to feel so vulnerable to a hatred I couldn’t understand. So, I am certainly not an advocate for terrorism. And as both the daughter of one newspaper editor and the mother of another, I am a strong supporter of freedom of the press, but not of a press without a conscience.
Words can be as inflammatory as bombs, as most revolutions have proven. Certainly sarcasm and ridicule are generally recognized as deadly for peaceful relationships, whether personal or political.
The violence involving the newspaper Charlie Hebdo in France seems almost a chicken and egg situation with both sides shooting from the hip at anything they don’t like. We tend to applaud the revolutions seeking democracy, violent or not, because we understand them. Other than the Irish, most of us don’t understand the ones that use a religious excuse for violence as a way out of being helpless as a minority.
So much of the violence in the world, even genocide, grows out of a long and painful history of conflict, that is only known up close and personally by the participants. The rest of us only see the resulting boiling over of centuries of equally shared hate filled interactions.
I certainly don’t know the solution, but in my eighty-two years as an American, I’ve been taught to fear, and thus hate, the Germans, the Japanese, the Italians, the North Koreans, the Russians, the Chinese Communists, the North Vietnamese, the Pot Pol Cambodians, the Communist Cubans, Al Qaeda, the KKK and more.
Though I accepted America’s excuse of shortening World War Two by dropping atomic bombs on two civilian Japanese cities that resulted in at least 250,000 civilian casualties, from much of the world’s view, Harry Truman could be grouped with Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot as a mass murderer of the innocent.
How do we begin to break the unending cycles of fear and hate that perpetuate violence?
I oppose violence in any form, including vindictive, abusive, ridiculing, hate filled and irresponsible writing, cartooning or speech. Again, I wholeheartedly support the right of free speech, but not freedom from conscience or responsibility. Ridicule is not an effective response to any threat. It is self-serving egotism. It simply pours fuel on the fire.
Pouring fuel on the fires of hate and fear, however we do it, is not only immoral, it is self-defeating. Every one of us is called to become a peacemaker in whatever way we can. There are no winners in wars. Violence of any kind kills our souls.