Posts Tagged With: compassion
The past five days have been extremely emotional. It started with the horrific terror attacks in Paris that overshadowed a slew of other coordinated violence and natural disasters across the globe. But, it didn’t stop there.
Since then, my Facebook feed has become filled with a stream of animosity and hatred that is primarily fueled, I think, by a deeply emotional and irrational reaction to terror attacks on Western soil. When you add a dose of ignorance (that is, an absence of facts or logic) to the mix, you get a dangerous concoction of arrogance, aggression, and xenophobia.
It makes me wonder: Have we learned nothing from 9/11? In the days and months following that September day, Americans were horrified, angry, and scared. We allowed a deceitful administration to lie to us and talk us into launching not one, but two wars. And the truth of the matter was, we didn’t need much convincing. We were craving vengeance, revenge, justice…anything. But, we’ve now seen what happens when we make such important decisions based on emotional, knee-jerk reactions. The same thing is happening now in the wake of the Paris attacks. People clamor for more war while we let our fears dictate our reactions….And this is exactly what the terrorists want.
So, I want to take a moment to address some of the things that I’ve seen making their way through the Facebook universe, and offer a historian’s thoughts on the situation.
Be smart; don’t click “share” without first checking to see if it’s true. I think this is the first step to addressing the tide of fear and hatred. Just because someone on Facebook shares something from a random website or blog, that doesn’t make it true. In fact, a lot of the stuff I’ve seen out there is just simply wrong, false, inaccurate, fake, deceitful, incorrect, fictitious, misleading. Take the following picture for example:
The caption reads (at least in one of its variations) that these are Muslim women HERE in America showing their “appreciation” for American freedom by writing “Down with USA!” on their hands. When I saw this, I was shocked, and thought, if this is true, it is certainly absurd and infuriating. BUT, instead of clicking “like” or “share,” I simply opened a new tab and Googled “muslim women America down with usa on hands.” ALL of the results on the front page easily and quickly revealed that this picture is actually from Iran, NOT America. Mind you, as a historian I have years of experience doing hardcore, extensive archival research on complex topics. But you don’t need all that to confront such blind, ignorant bigotry. All you need is Google. So, PLEASE do humanity a favor and do some basic fact checking before you contribute to the spread of falsities and hatred.
The claim that President Obama is weak on ISIS. Of course, this sentiment is driven by political allegiances. Obama is not a gun-toting tough guy who sounds like he’s from the Wild West, using phrases like “dead or alive” and “smoke them out” of their holes… so, he must be weak, right? After the Paris attacks, France lead a series of airstrikes against ISIS targets, and I saw people shouting (or, the caps-lock equivalent thereof): WHY AREN’T WE DOING ANYTHING?!
Well, here are some numbers for you to put some things into perspective: According to statistics just released by the U.S. Department of Defense, in the last 15 months, President Obama has authorized 6,353 airstrikes against ISIS. All of the other 12 coalition countries combined have launched 1,772 strikes. That means that 78% of the bombs being dropped on ISIS are American. So, Obama leads more than 3 out of 4 of the attacks against ISIS, and yet his opponents are still claiming that he is weak, taking a back seat?! The extreme right-wingers even go as far to say that this “reveals” that he’s not-so-secretly a Muslim terrorist himself. Give me a break. Get your facts straight instead of mouthing off about things you don’t understand. And whether you want to believe that President Obama is weak or not, the fact remains that we are still leading the fight against ISIS – by a large margin. And the pesky thing about facts is that they remain true whether you choose to believe them or not.
Refusing to take Syrian refugees. I want to express my thoughts on this in length, because as I’ve said before, I believe that the treatment of Syrian refugees is not a political issue – it is a test of our moral fortitude. But first, I want to get a few facts out there:
(1) No one is suggesting that we just throw open our borders and let people from Syria just run across and do whatever they want to. Did you know that the vetting process to obtain refugee status in the United States is one of the toughest in the world? In many cases, it is more difficult for a refugee fleeing war to be allowed into the country than it is for someone to get a student visa to come attend college. As it is now, America’s vetting process for refugees takes TWO YEARS and involves multiple international organizations. First, refugees must go through 2 interviews at the United Nations; then, they are fact checked by three US government departments, including the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and the FBI. That’s just for the normal, everyday people. If, at any time, a red flag goes up, they go through a lot more. This vetting process has an EXCELLENT track record. The United States has taken in 784,000 refugees since 2001. None of them have carried out attacks. It’s not 100% fool-proof, mind you; nothing can be. Out of those 784,000, three men have been arrested under suspicion of potential involvement in terrorist activities. That means, that out of all the refugees we’ve taken in during the last 14 years, exactly 0.0000038% wanted to (potentially) do America harm – – AND WE CAUGHT THEM. That’s the thing about these refugees. They’re in the system; the government keeps closer tabs on them than any of the rest of us. (And, no the Tsarnaev brothers [the Boston Marathon Bombers] were not “refugees.” Their family came over under the protection of political asylum, which is different.)
(2) There is a particularly ignorant idea that I’ve seen floating around Facebook…and it goes a little something like this: “Why are all the Syrian refugees men?!?! They’re sending over their men as an invasion! Wake Up America!!” Really, I’m not sure how ignorant and scared you must be to believe this line of “reasoning.” The Syrian Civil War has been going on for over four years, and of course when a family decides that there is no future for them in their home country and that they must make the hard decision to leave, the father or oldest brother will go first – not to invade Western countries, but to find a place to live, to establish a little bit of stability so that when he calls for his family to come, they’re not all living on the street or worried about how to survive. THAT is why men came first. But now that the war has gotten so incredibly horrible, entire families leave everything they’ve ever known, and pay bandits to help them pile onto a boat and flee the constant danger. Now there is no time for men to go first; everyone has to flee as soon as possible;
(3) Syrians aren’t “looking for a better life.” That’s incredibly naive and degrading. The VAST majority of these Syrians would choose to stay in their home country, given the chance. They’re not looking for a free ride on American welfare; they’re not wanting riches and endless possibilities in the US of A. They’re not simply looking for a “better” life. They’re just hoping to live. Period. They want to be able to wake up and see another sunrise. Do you want to know why they’re risking their lives to cross open seas and walk across entire nations? Take the horrors of Paris on November 13, 2015. And now imagine that is your life EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. That is what these people are fleeing. The fear that they, or their children may suddenly be BLOWN UP, reduced to ragged pieces of flesh or pink mist. And it’s not only one set of bombers that they have to fear: They get to worry about whether it will be their own government killing them, or if it’ll be Russian jets, American drones, or ISIS suicide bombers. Everywhere they look, there is only death.
(4) There is a mindset that we shouldn’t “take care of” anyone else until there is no poverty or hunger in America. In other words, this argument states that somehow these refugees will be getting money that would otherwise be going to feed starving children or homeless veterans. This is simply an illogical, gut-response argument that isn’t based on knowledge of the facts. There are starving children and homeless veterans for a number of political reasons that I don’t have the time or effort go to into here. We are the richest nation in the history of the world; we COULD pay for every single person in our country AND every single refugee if we wanted to. But we don’t. It’s not that we CAN’T pay for our own; we don’t. This problem has nothing to do with the refugees. (Not to mention that refugees wouldn’t simply be getting a check and living off of our government, so their lives wouldn’t cost us a whole lot…Don’t worry.)
(5) All of these governors who are vowing to refuse any and all Syrian refugees…Guess what – you have no legal authority to do that. You don’t have a legal leg to stand on. The Refugee Act of 1980 gives broad, discretionary powers to the President of the United States to accept and handle refugees.
I’ll end with my thoughts on the morals and ethics at play here. Because, it’s easy to get bogged down in the political fights of numbers, statistics, jabs, lies, and sound bytes. We forget that, at the heart of all of this, are people. Human lives. Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, children. All of whom have fears of their own, along with things that bring them joy; people who have just one life to live – and this is it.
The United States of American is a country of immigrants. We are made stronger, not weaker, by our cultural, religious, ethnic, sexual, and racial diversity. We constantly think of ourselves as a moral leader in the world, the “beacon of hope” that stands for freedom and compassion and acceptance. There is a plaque on the Statue of Liberty that reads: Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
If we shut our doors to these Syrians whose homes and lives have been destroyed, then we are betraying everything that we as Americans proclaim to stand for. I was horrified to learn that Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz believe that America should only let in Christian refugees! These men want to become the next President, and they believe that some lives are more worthy of saving just because they adhere to one particular religion over another. There is no religious test for true compassion. In fact, that’s the definition of compassion – it’s a sympathy and concern for the suffering of others based on their common humanity, nothing else.
Moreover, the people who are screaming and clamoring to keep the Syrians out are the same ones who claim to be “Pro-Life” – who shout that “All Lives Matter!” So, the lives of unborn fetuses matter more to you than the refugee children and mothers and fathers who seek safety and life? Is it because the “life” that you so desperately defend is white and “Christian” (even though it’s unborn and hasn’t had the chance to choose a religion yet)?
And for those of you who use religion as a way to justify the ignoring of Muslim suffering, I suggest you read your own Bible. Take, for example, Leviticus 19:33-34: “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were once foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” Or how about Matthew 25:41-46:
“”Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For, I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not love after me.” They will answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?” He will reply, “Truly, I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
I came across this disgusting, repulsive picture this morning:
It compares all Syrian refugees to rattlesnakes. It dehumanizes them, robs them of their very humanity as a way to justify Islamaphobia and xenophobia. You can have compassion for a human, but you can’t have compassion for a rattlesnake. Funny thing though, the Nazis dehumanized the Jews. They called them rats, vermin, a plague. It made it easier for the Germans to gas the Jews if they didn’t see the Jews as human. It makes the decision to ignore the suffering of Syrian refugees if you don’t think of them as humans.
I understand that much of the fear of terrorist attacks is justified. But, we shouldn’t let that fear drive us to devolve to a point that we ignore the fact that the same terror and same enemy that we face is also what these Syrian refugees are fleeing from…only their fears aren’t of potential attacks to come in the future. They are fleeing from daily war. One of our greatest founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin once said: “Those who would give up essential Liberty to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” I think this applies to our current situation as well. We can not be willing to sacrifice our values (which include sharing liberty with others) just out of fear for safety. Otherwise, there is nothing that makes America exceptional. Otherwise, we are nothing but a large group of people who are only interested in ourselves. “Freedom should never be at the expense of someone who has no freedom.” Elie Wiesel said that. He’s a Holocaust survivor, so he knows something about human nature and the fragile existence of freedom and life. We should never purchase our freedom by denying it to others. But, luckily, compassion, the value of all human life, and national security are NOT mutually exclusive. We can still be a shining beacon of hope to those fleeing warfare and death AND keep ourselves safe. We just have to double down on our security efforts while also taking a breath and pausing to remember what it is we stand for before we make drastic decisions.
Do you want to know the ironic thing? This reaction is exactly what ISIS wants. Having 30 or so US Governors declare that there is no room for Muslim refugees…Having millions of Americans (and other Westerners) spew anti-Muslim hatred on social media…It’s the perfect propaganda for the ISIS cause. They will be able to say: See, the West hates Muslims! When anything goes wrong, they show their true nature! ISIS leaders have made this goal clear, stating in January that they hope their endless string of attacks on Western civilians would “compel the Crusaders to actively destroy the grayzone themselves.” In other words, they’re hoping that Western government and civilians will react violently, over generalize, and destroy the “grayzone” of the world, creating an oversimplified worldview where the West = Good; and Muslims = Evil. ISIS is hoping that innocent Muslims will become the victims of discrimination, bigotry, even violence. This will only drive others to become radicalized and join the ISIS cause. In other words, ISIS is setting a trap for the West, and we’re walking right into it.
So, if we forsake our American values, our belief that “all men are created equal,” and give in to base, animalistic emotions and fears…then the terrorist win. Then, they have transformed us into a nation that is willing to declare that some lives are worth more than others, and that we don’t think rationally, and don’t even care to. We have to destroy the threat caused by ISIS and international terrorism, but we shouldn’t forfeit our values and sell our souls to do so.
Following are some songs that, when I hear the lyrics, I know have to be among the most romantic songs ever written…or at least among the most heart wrenching or moving songs ever. Not all of the songs on my list are romantic in the “I love you so much” sense, but they all have something to do with love, whether it’s a lost love, or simply expressing a bond.
The list is in no particular order (except #1 and 2, because I think they are the most romantic songs ever), and before each video, I’ve included some of the lyrics that I think make that song particularly special. After you browse through them, feel free to leave a comment with any song that you find incredibly romantic!
“Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel
I think this song could be for a lover, or even the closest and truest of friends. Either way, it’s passionate.
“When you’re weary
When tears are in your eyes
I will dry them all
I’m on your side
When times get rough
And friends just can’t be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down…
…I’ll take your part
When darkness comes
And pain is all around…
I will ease your mind
Like a bridge over troubled water
“From Here to the Moon & Back” by Dolly Parton (& Kris Kirstofferson)
The mixture of Dolly & Kris’ voice in this one is fantastic. In the movie, they’re dancing and looking into each other’s eyes in such a way that you know that their love for each other definitely goes beyond the moon…and back.
How much and how far would I go to prove
The depth and the breadth of my love for you?
From here to the moon and back
Who else in this world will love you like that?
Love everlasting, I promise you that
From here to the moon and back…
I would blow you a kiss from the star where I sat
I would call out your name to echo through the vast
Thank heaven for you and to God, tip my hat
From here to the moon and back
And I’ll spend forever just proving that fact
From here to the moon and back
“A Little’s Enough” by Angels & Airwaves
Maybe this isn’t your typical love song, but the words are very sweet.
I can do anything, If you want me here
And I can fix anything, If you’ll let me near
What are those secrets now
That you’re too scared to tell
I’ll whisper them all aloud
So you can hear yourself
“Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers
I don’t really find the lyrics to this one to be the most original or the particularly sweetest in the world, but the honest way he sings is why this one’s on the list!
Oh my love, my darling
Hungered for your touch
A long lonely time,
And time goes by so slowly
And time can do so much,
Are you still mine?
I need your love, I…
I need your love
God speed your love to me
“Shelter” by Ray Lamontagne
This guy’s voice will rip your heart out. You can’t sing like this unless you have really felt those emotions. His whole album “Trouble” is amazing and heart-wrenching. This particular video features a live version of both “Shelter” and “Trouble.” Both are worth watching!
I guess you don’t need it
I guess you don’t want me to repeat it
But everything I have to give, I’ll give to you
It’s not like we planned it
You tried to stay, but you could not stand it
To see me shut down slow
as though it was an easy thing to do
All of this around us’ll fall over
I tell you what we’re gonna do
You will shelter me, my love
And I will shelter you
“Secret Crowds” by Angels & Airwaves
Yes, another from Angels & Airwaves. Again, it may not sound like a love song, but listen to some of the lyrics. Angels & Airwaves are all about Love.
If I had my own world
I’d build you an empire
From here to the far lands
To spread love like violence…
Let me feel you, carry you higher
Watch our words spread hope like fire
“I Will Always Love You” by Dolly Parton
I know that Whitney Houston’s version of Dolly’s song is great, too. But, Dolly’s voice is so pure and true, and I’ll take that over Houston’s power any day. I love you too, Dolly!
And I hope life will treat you kind
And I hope that you have all
That you ever dreamed of
Oh, I do wish you joy
And I wish you happiness
But above all this
I wish you love
I love you, I will always love you.
“It’s Your Love” by Tim McGraw & Faith Hill
This one’s made even better knowing that it’s sung by man and wife.
Better than I was
More than I am
All of that happened
By taking your hand
Who I am now
Is who I’ve wanted to be
Now that we’re together
Stronger than ever, happy and free
Oh, it’s a beautiful thing
Don’t think I can keep it all in
And if you ask me why I’ll change
All I gotta do is say your sweet name
It’s your love.
“Something About the Way You Look Tonight” by Sir Elton John
It was hard for me to pick which Elton John love song was my favorite. It was either this one, or “Your Song.” Ultimately, I think I chose “Something About the Way You Look Tonight” because the music is just awesome, too.
I need to tell you
How you light up every second of the day
But in the moonlight
You just shine like a beacon on the bay
And I can’t explain
But it’s something about the way you look tonight
Takes my breath away
It’s that feeling I get about you, deep inside
And I can’t describe
But it’s something about the way you look tonight
Takes my breath away
The way you look tonight
With your smile
You pull the deepest secrets from my heart
In all honesty
I’m speechless and I don’t know where to start
“Stand by Me” by Tracy Chapman
I know that a lot of people have sung this song, but Tracy Chapman’s version is the best. Hands down.
If the sky that we look upon
Should tumble and fall
And the mountains should crumble to the sea
I won’t cry, I won’t cry, no I won’t shed a tear
Just as long as you stand, stand by me
“He Stopped Loving Her Today” – by George Jones
A sad song about a love that lasted until the end. This one breaks my heart.
Kept some letters by his bed dated nineteen sixty-two
He had underlined in red every single “I love you”
I went to see him just today
Oh but I didn’t see no tears
All dressed up to go away
First time I’d seen him smile in years
He stopped loving her today
They placed a wreath upon his door
And soon they’ll carry him away
He stopped loving her today
“Honey Bee” by Blake Shelton
This one’s a nice change of mood from number 11 – more upbeat and positive. I’m not normally a fan of new country music, but I like Blake Shelton, and I definitely love this love song!
You’ll be my soft and sweet
I’ll be your strong and steady
You’ll be my glass of wine
I’ll be your shot of whiskey
You’ll be my sunny day
I’ll be your shade tree
You’ll be my honeysuckle
I’ll be your honey bee…
I coulda said “I love you”
Coulda wrote you a line or two
Baby, all I know to do is speak right from the heart…
If you’ll be my Louisiana
I’ll be your Mississippi
You’ll be my Little Loretta
I’ll be your Conway Twitty
You’ll be my sugar, baby
I’ll be your sweet iced tea
You’ll be my honeysuckle
I’ll be your honey bee
“True Love” by Angels & Airwaves
And a last one from my favorite band.
You won’t be alone, I am beside you…
The stars in the sky illuminate below,
The light is the sign that love will guide you home.
Okay, so tell me what your favorite romantic/love songs are!
Here’s a link to a website that I love : TED Talks. It’s a simply awesome collection of speeches, talks, and conversations that last anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes – perfect for our culture whose attention span has diminished since the onslaught of Twitter, Facebook statuses and 2-minute sound bites.
The topics of the talks run the gamut – from technology, to religion, to business, to adventure and compassion. You click on the topic and TED.com will bring up all videos related to that theme. And then you sit back and absorb some wisdom from some of the planet’s most brilliant, creative (and perhaps idealistic, but then again, what’s wrong with being idealistic) minds. I’m hoping I can find one or two that fit into my class this semester and I can share them with my students.
The website began with offering just the twenty minute clips, but now they have TED Conventions, TED Conversations, and even TED grants and fellowships. TED.com also offers iTunes Podcasts for free: Here.
From the About TED webpage:
“TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with two annual conferences — the TED Conference in Long Beach and Palm Springs each spring, and the TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh UK each summer — TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site, the Open Translation Project and TED Conversations, the inspiring TED Fellows and TEDx programs, and the annual TED Prize.”
Here are a couple of TED Talks that I found interesting this morning while drinking my tea:
Lakshmi Pratury on Letter Writing:
For any of you out there who still cling to the idea that Islam is only a religion of violence, please educate yourself. Also, these 16 and a half minutes may shed some light on just how central a role Jesus plays in Islam. As Imam Rauf implies, it’s time to let go of our egos and practice Compassion…
Here is my Sunday sermon:
The Son’s Salvation
He is sitting on his throne, hands gripped tightly on the rests. He is powerful and frighteningly vast; lightning flashes in his eyes and thunder is his voice. A blinding light hides his face, so that no one may look upon it and live.
There was an empty throne to his right, for I stood before him. He looked down at me and I knew he was angry. “I will destroy man whom I have created. They shall know my wrath!” he bellowed, “for I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End; I am the Creator and Lord of all; I am who I am.”
He was, once again, ready to start over, declaring that the next time, Mankind would choose the correct path.
Even I, his son, felt small in his intimidating presence. “But you have done this,” I told him. “You decided upon freewill. And since then, you have given them nothing but cold tablets and a book filled with rules, and you then expect them to worship you without ceasing. They only fear you because you have shown them no real grace.”
Roaring tongues of fire erupted and consumed his hair and beard. “I created the heavens and the earth for them!” he thundered.
He settled back into his throne and I waited until I could no longer feel the heat of the fire on my face.
“Spare them. Please.”
“Why?” he retorted. “They have such a brief, fleeting life. Nothing awaits them in the end.”
“It is precisely the shortness and fragility of their life that causes me to care. It’s all they have. Why destroy it?”
The light radiating from his face suddenly blazed and I had to shield my eyes. It then slowly dimmed until I could see an outline of his face. At first he revealed no emotion. And then, he looked… disappointed.
“If you care so much for them, then you may take their Fall. But, if you leave here, you will never return.”
His statement took my breath. I knew my father’s care had its limits, but to banish his own son for eternity? I looked over at the angels, who were still bowing to and worshiping my father. One looked up, anticipating my answer.
I glanced at my throne and then turned to look at the miniscule speck of blue situated in an immeasurable ocean of blackness: Earth; the realm that my father provided for his favorite creation.
I looked my father in the eyes. “Thank you,” I told him. I then turned and entered the world of Man.
Crude spikes penetrated my hands and both legs. A soldier below stabbed my side. I cried out in agony. The pain is something that I had never before experienced and its excruciating sharpness consumed me.
The crowd below laughed and spat at the base of the cross that held me high and exposed before them all. “Some Messiah you are!” one man yelled. Despite the fact that I had never claimed to be a messiah or king, they had shoved a crown of thorns into my scalp.
Perhaps my father was right. Man shouldn’t be saved. No; they didn’t deserve it. I tried with all of my might to call upon my father’s angels to free me from that cross and to destroy those ungrateful mortals who mocked me even then.
What had I done to make them hate me so? I merely taught to love your neighbor and your enemy as you love yourself. And yet they were crucifying me.
Yes, I called on legions of my father’s warriors.
But none came. There was no answer from my father at all.
“Father, why have you forsaken me?” I called out. I relaxed and let the weight of my body pull against the stakes.
Then I looked over and saw him. He looked like the Rest, but I knew him: he was Racism and Bigotry; Ignorance and Greed.
He was smiling.
I tried to lunge forward but only succeeded in tearing more flesh.
He spoke, though his mouth did not move. “To think that you could prevail in such a world. What a silly, idealistic notion.”
“If I could just teach them,” I heard myself saying, “If I could just open their eyes, they would see that what they share is greater than what divides them. I can teach them Compassion.”
“Your father forbade that Apple and hid it from them long ago, keeping it for himself. Why do they bother you so? Even He has left them,” he said, glancing up to the heavens.
“Yes, but I am here –”
“You are nailed to a cross!” he shouted out loud.
I blinked. And then looked down and saw blood, so much blood. There were two men, one on either side of me, both talking, but I paid them no attention. I was dying.
The sun dipped below the horizon and the world grew dark. I knew my father had turned away from this world. A tear slid down my cheek. I breathed my final breath and then hung my head.
I’m sitting in an alley, just off the busy, main street. I readjust myself, trying to find a more comfortable position against the concrete wall of the skyscraper behind me. I place a cigarette between my lips and search my pockets for my lighter.
“God?” someone asks. I look up and see a man, incredulous look on his face, stepping into the alley.
“Close,” I mutter before lighting my cigarette.
“Are you really him?” he asks.
“On who you mean,” I say and take another drag. The man doesn’t say anything for a moment.
“May I have a seat?” he asks.
“Of course,” I say and spread out some newspaper for him to sit on. “Sorry I didn’t offer sooner.”
“It’s alright,” he says as he sits down.
I smile. It’s alright he told me. I chuckle. He forgave me.
“Do you mind?” he asks, and I look over to see that he’s pointing at my cigarette. “The smoke kind of bothers me.”
My smile continues and I snub out the cigarette. “Yeah, dirty habit,” I admit. “So,” I say, “Ask anything.”
The man exhales; the enormity of the opportunity is obviously daunting. “Since you’re here, does that mean that the End is here, as well?”
My smile drops a little, but I answer him. “People speak of a Second Coming, but what they don’t realize is that I never left.” I pause, and then,” That wasn’t the question you really want to ask.”
He looks over, looks me in the eyes, and then quickly glances away. “I just don’t understand. Any of it.”
I take a moment to think. “People often mistake the simple outcome of History as my father’s favor. But do you think that some living so lavishly while others suffer from the day of their birth is all part of some mysterious plan?”
The man just stares at his shoes. I continue. “My father retreated from this world long ago. Only I am here now.”
The man clenches his jaws. “So much blood has been shed in your name,” he says with a forced calm. But, his next words spill from his mouth. “Why don’t you reveal yourself?! Why don’t you come forward and straighten out the world? Why don’t you perform miracles and show people that you are still here?!”
He is angry, but he is angry at the rampant injustice that has existed since the beginning, and so I stay calm.
“Miracles?” I ask. “I stepped into the world of Man armed with the most powerful and infinitely beautiful miracle of all: the message of Compassion. It is not a new message and it is a miracle that you yourself can perform every single day.
“I have watched acts of Compassion since the very beginning, but unfortunately, it always seems that its enemies are more aggressive. I thought if only I could come and devote my life to teaching that Message…”I trail off.
But then continue. “But since then I have watched one empire fall only to be replaced by another just as driven by Power and Greed. I have ached as Exploitation and Indifference spread seemingly unchallenged. My Words are highlighted in red, but are seldom actually read.
“But at the same time, I’ve heard dalai lamas, imams, and preachers alike teach my Message in ways I never could. I’ve seen my works carried out by single parents, farmers, peasants, and students. I’ve witnessed atheists follow the Scripture of Compassion closer than ‘believers.’
“You see, these people who recognize the humanity of others, who appreciate the diverse human experience, they understand what it really means to be saved, to be released from the bonds of Ignorance and Hate. That is the salvation that I, Compassion, bring. You don’t need a book or any deity to realize that salvation has been available to everyone, and through everyone, since this world began.”
We sit in silence for several minutes. The man is thinking and I can sense that he is even a bit hurt. Knowing that salvation lies in the hands of humanity can be overwhelmingly disheartening. But, I am comforted in knowing that I am sitting next to my Equal; his heart is full of Compassion. It feels good to be in his presence, and perhaps I am once again saved.
But I know that there is one more thing that he wants to ask; it’s the same question that everyone wants to ask me.
“Go ahead,” I tell him.
He bites his lip, partly because there is a little bit of anger welling up in him. But I also think it’s partially because he is afraid that he may already know my answer.
He stares somewhere past me. “There has been so much suffering, so much hurt.” He then looks at me in the eyes. “Where were you?” he pleads.
I don’t blink, but hold his gaze for a moment. I can feel my heart beating in my chest.
My voice cracks slightly. “Where were you?”
He hangs his head and rests his hands on his knees. A single tear runs down his cheek, and it reminds me of that day so long ago when I too realized that it was Mankind that had nailed me to that cross.
“The Son’s Salvation” by W. J. Newsome is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.