Wednesday, July 20, 2016

You Can Lock Up a Few Evil People, but You Can't Lock Up Everyone

photo by Gil Medina

Sometimes I click on a link out of morbid curiosity.  9 Much-Needed Reminders That Humans are Inherently Good.  Seriously?  I thought.  I've got to read this.

The article assures us that even though terrible things are happening in the world, we can take heart because humans are wired for empathy, kindness, unselfishness, romance, and hugs.  And dogs like us, so we must be pretty amazing.

Well, that's reassuring.

I sigh and think, Only in America.  I guarantee that if you ask anyone in Rwanda, Cambodia, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, or South Sudan if humans are inherently good, they'll laugh in your face.  Except maybe not because they are too busy crying, running for their lives, or languishing in prison.

I know it feels good to believe in the goodness of humanity.  And of course, humans are capable of incredible acts of self-sacrifice, courage, and kindness, and it is exemplary to aspire to those ideals.  We were made in the image of God, and vestiges of Eden--of who we were meant to be--are still evident in our friendships, our parenting, our service.

But the belief that mankind is inherently good?  Really?  How many acts of terrorism, genocide, child slavery, albino murders, or rape does our world need to experience before we abandon that belief?

The problem is that we keep thinking that everything would be okay if we could just stop the bad people.  We conveniently forget that we are bad people too.  

Germans stood by passively while the ashes of six million Jews floated over their heads.  Rwandans picked up machetes and hacked to death the neighbors they had lived by for generations.  Freed American slaves used their freedom to colonize Liberia and oppress the indigenous people.

That's them, we think.  Not me.  I would never do that.  Sure, it's easy to believe I am a decent person when my stomach is full, the electricity is working, and my children are healthy.  But all I have to do is look at myself when I've lost a night of sleep or have a bad headache, and that beast inside me rises from its slumber and turns me into a person I don't want to be.  I wonder sometimes, what would that beast look like if I lived under the shadow of violence, if I couldn't feed my children, if terror had scraped away my desire for self-sacrifice?  Or what if a powerful but evil leader promised to make all my problems go away?  What would I be capable of?

I do believe that it is healing and inspiring to look for the good and the beautiful in people and in this world.  It's there.  But believing that somehow the goodness of humanity will one day rise up and save us all?  Just not going to happen.  You can lock up a few evil people, but you can't lock up everyone.  

We are presented with three options:  suicide, hope in humanity, or hope in God.  Everyone has that choice, and everyone chooses.  There are no other options.

photo by Gil Medina
Post a Comment