Hating Isn’t Helping

March 22, 2016


More sickening, heartbreaking news. This time it’s a terrorist attack in Nice, France. Tomorrow it could be in Rome, London, the Middle East, or even the middle of America. Mother Teresa said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” She of course was referring to ripples of kindness, love, and compassion, but right now it seems the only ripples most of us see and feel are those of hate, fear, and chaos. These ripples are becoming waves, dividing both our nation and the world.

Let me remind some of you — I worry a growing number of you — that the creation of hate, fear, chaos, and division is exactly what terrorists lust after. I’m in no way suggesting that we turn a blind eye, but we must not allow hate to breed upon itself. We can’t allow ourselves to wrongly assume that all Muslims hate Christians, and we must let it be known that the majority of Christians (and the rest of our diverse population) do not hate Muslims. Remember who the enemy is. It is a relatively small group of extremists, cast out by friends and family who once loved them. These people who have turned their backs to terrorists are now being judged as inherently evil by too many Americans. Let us not get caught up in the hatred. If we decide all Muslims — or any other group of people as a whole — are bad, we are only playing into the hands of terrorism. We are literally making new enemies out of innocent people, many of whom are living peaceful, productive lives in the United States.

The division of our country is as dangerous to us as terrorism; possibly even more so. Obviously there is media sensationalism, but the rift between our political parties, races, religions, and nationalities is truly a widening fissure. It is a gap that will soon become difficult to bridge. Anyone reading this has heard the phrase Make America Great Again. If we sincerely want America to be great again, we must stand together. We can (and will) disagree, but we cannot disrespect. We must believe that most people — at home and abroad — are inherently good, then fight against evil, terrorism, and oppression as a united front. Only then will we be great again. Only then will we have a chance to succeed.

Some will say I’m naive and dreaming of some unrealistic utopia, but that is not the case at all. In fact, I’m a realist. Hate is a strong force that will never completely cease to exist, but adding more hate — even under good intentions — only strengthens its power. Please join me in casting stones of kindness and compassion. I alone can only make small ripples, but together we can make a mighty tide. Hating just simply isn’t helping.

Every Voice Matters

January 18, 2016


“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This is one of my favorite inspirational quotes. It is fitting in so many different circumstances, not only in the context that Dr. King used it. I believe the crux of the quote is that we are all responsible for the well-being of others, and when we strive for this, we improve our own lives in the process.

Dr. King could have remained silent. He could have quietly gone about his life and still made an impact as a pastor, father of four, and husband. He could have died an old man. But he had to do more. During his short life, Dr. King made a lasting impression that continues to impact our nation and world today. He was a proponent of peace, love, and equality — something that, unfortunately, we are still searching for nearly fifty years after his death. Many people (especially men, it seems) will roll their eyes when the words peace, love, and equality are mentioned. Perhaps there is some correlation with flowery hippies that comes across as unmanly to some. But, honestly, what could be more important in life? To me, as a father and husband myself, there is nothing I want more. Not just for my family, but for everyone.

Various sources report that FBI files contained hundreds of death threats towards Dr. King. Despite these threats, he repeatedly stood in front of thousands, delivering his message. That’s manliness in my book — standing up to the fear of death in order to help make change a reality. I know that I have never had to be so brave. As we all know, Dr. King was ultimately assassinated. A peaceful, loving, Nobel Prize winning pastor, father and husband’s life was ended by the bullet of a racist coward. I won’t mention his name, although I imagine that Dr. King would want him to be forgiven.

Whether you are enjoying a day off work or school, complaining about the bank being closed, or just going about your day as usual, please take a moment to think about what Dr. King did to help not only the civil rights movement, but the progression of our nation as a whole. Despite his early death, Dr. King had an extraordinary life. He lived like few others until his final breath, refusing to remain silent about things that matter. May we all do the same.

  
I rarely use my blog as a podium, but today I found myself inspired.

I have been following the recent news about Quentin Tarantino, who is very upset because he feels that numerous police forces are sending the wrong message about him by threatening to boycott his new film, “The Hateful Eight.” In case you missed this story, the potential boycott is due to Tarantino participating in an October 24 protest at New York City’s Washington Square Park, where he encouraged people to “rise up” against police brutality and the killing of suspects. “I am a human being with a conscience…I have to call a murder a murder, and I have to call the murderers (police) the murderers,” he said.

Despite receiving a lot of flak, Tarantino has not backed down, other than conceding that not all police are bad. He has been in the news often, giving peace signs and talking about the fact that police are getting away with murder because of the “blue wall” that provides unjust protection. I have no problem with anyone speaking their mind. No one can question that there are good and bad cops, and standing up against injustice or corruption of any kind is not only admirable, but is something that is sorely lacking in the world today. However, I’m curious about Tarantino’s outspoken issue with murder.

“Reservoir Dogs,” “Pulp Fiction,” “Jackie Brown,” “Kill Bill (both volumes),” “Grindhouse,” “Inglorious Bastards,” and “Django Unchained” have one consistent characteristic that stands out more than any other. Extreme violence. More specifically, grisly murders of (sometimes) innocent people. After this recent protest, I thought Tarantino might be changing his ways — then I saw the trailer for “The Hateful Eight,” and quickly realized he isn’t slowing down in the death department. (By the way, “The Hateful Eight” premiers on Christmas Day. What better time to serve the world a giant slice of hate and violence?)

I can’t help but wonder why someone who would publicly denounce killing and declare, “I have to call a murder a murder,” would make movies that glorify what he is apparently so against. Fans might make the argument that in many films the “good guy” is killing the “bad guy,” but remember that Tarantino said a murder is a murder. Oh, and let’s be honest, his protagonists aren’t exactly good people.

A 1994 Newsday piece had the following Tarantino quote:  “If you ask me how I feel about violence in real life, well, I have a lot of feelings about it. It’s one of the worst aspects of America. In movies, violence is cool. I like it.” Unfortunately, his opinion hasn’t changed.

I understand that he is an artist, and he isn’t expecting or wanting people to recreate the fantasy world he puts on the screen. I also believe people are responsible for their own actions, and that art can’t (and shouldn’t) be to blame for things that happen in reality. But perhaps — if he is sincere about wanting to decrease violence in the real world — Tarantino could use his art to inspire people to be better. Over a century ago, Oscar Wilde wrote in his essay The Decay of Lying that, “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” That may be more true now than it was then. The more our society is exposed to violent death, the more we are all desensitized to it — even our supposed real life “good guys,” such as policemen.

Tarantino has a booming voice in this world. He is protesting violence, but doesn’t seem to walk the talk. He could make movies glorifying peace, love and understanding, which could be seen by millions. He could be a real agent for positive change in America and the world. I hope someday he will be.

In the meantime, remember that we all have a voice — a podium — even if it’s in the form of a blog read by a very few. Change starts with each of us. Please, go out and let your voice be heard.