It’s Mindful Monday again, and, with the current state of national affairs, I’ve been thinking about the value of life, and the perhaps unseen consequences of minimalizing people. This is largely stream-of-consciousness as I try to resolve all the thoughts and emotions running through my mind right now...
That’s a Vulcan koan. Of course, it’s not, really; I know that Vulcans are fictional. This koan was written by author Diane Duane in the novel Spock’s World. She’s as human as you and I.
Those facts make it no less true.
The current administration in America, and others elsewhere in the world, seem to be inordinately fond of casting all of us into the dichotomy of “us vs. them.”
“Them,” of course, is anyone who isn’t like “us.”
We’re being told that it’s okay, maybe even necessary, to treat “them” differently.
“They” aren’t like us, after all. They’re different.
Because they followed a different faith, four million people were exterminated in an attempt to wipe them off the face of this earth we all share. That wasn’t so long ago, and there are still people alive who somehow managed to survive those atrocities against humanity.
What did we lose, with those deaths? Aside form the suffering and anguish, and the results of the wars that accompanied it? What potential was lost, in the murder of four million people?
Who were they, and what might they have offered to the rest of us, had they lived instead.
There were men who had careers and businesses before the extermination.
There were women of learning, many of them wives and mothers; some of them pregnant or nursing.
There were young people - newly adults, those about to be, smaller children, infants, and the yet to be born with all the potential of any generations of humans.
What did we lose, as a species, when a race and a faith and an entire race were targeted for extinction?
What great discoveries, medical advances, art, music, and joy was snuffed out, unborn or unrealized, among those four million lives?
We have some clue. We have survivor accounts, and the diary of one young girlwho might have become so much more than she was allowed to be, because, instead, she was made the Other. And for that she was forced away from her life, into hiding, then into torture and starvation.
We’ll never know who that young girl, or any other of that four million, might have been, if they’d been allowed to live their lives unimpeded.
We won’t know because these people were marginalized, made other, and murdered. Anne Frank was one life among many.
She was equally as human as you and I. She died because another human deemed her life to be without value. That human was elevated to a position where he could act upon his prejudices.
The current American administration is in its infancy, but it was clear before it began that the focus would be on cementing the “us vs. them” dichotomy. So far, it seems as though the “us” is a very narrowly defined group, and “them” is anyone else. It’s easier to belong to the first group than the second.
That’s the problem with this dichotomy. There will always be winners and losers, and those in power are not going to make sacrifices for those whom they’ve deemed of lesser value. They may not hesitate to deny basic rights, and they may orchestrate situations where they can do so. There may be reasons stated for this which seem reasonable, or even necessary. They’ll be defended. As long as it’s “them” and not “us,” there are people who will accept it.
The problems with that is that, as noted above, it’s easy to become “them.” It takes very little to shift, and there might not be anything you can do about it, if it happens to you. But there’s more to it than this. It’s a question of decency, and humanity. If any people are minimalized or denied, then, in some sense, we all are. We’re poorer of spirit, and poorer in resources of the kind that can’t be renewed, because each of us is unique and irreplacable.