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Monday, December 31, 2012

Fighting Back Against the Heart of Darkness

"With such a killer culture in the United States, with such a dismissal of the value of all life, is it any wonder that little children are killed in Connecticut, people gunned down in Aurora and American military wipe out Afghani families? There are clear connections here–no difference between slaughtering wolves and their cubs and killing children. The heart of darkness rules this nation and has since its origins in Colonial times. The people must change."

This comment was posted recently on a blog called Howling for Justice, which monitors the ongoing slaughter of wolves for 'sport' and 'fun.'

It does seem that "the heart of darkness" has taken up residence not just in America, but throughout the world as a whole. Syrian army troops routinely shell civilian neighborhoods. Palestinian terrorists detonate bombs on crowded Israeli buses, while Israel lobs bombs into residential areas of Palestine. Thousands suffer and die in Somalia while armed factions fight. In the U.S., innocent school children are murdered as their teachers try in vain to protect them. Firefighters are ambushed by a crazy person who set his house on fire, then shot and killed two of the firemen who responded. Congress goes on vacation after failing to deal with the nation's pressing problems. Animal abuse is rampant, and usually unpunished. The president of Russia this week signed a law banning all adoptions of Russian orphans by U.S. citizens, dooming the children to a life of poverty and discrimination. Wolves are murdered with guns and traps simply for being wolves -- for 'sport.' What a sick sport it is to kill animals for fun.

What has happened to the human race? What makes us so cruel and uncaring about others? People are rude. I see it all the time when I am out walking. Cars blast by me on the dirt roads of my neighborhood, leaving me in a cloud of dust. I frequently pick up trash tossed from cars onto the nearby streets -- often a McDonald's bag in the same place day after day -- an obvious repeat litterbug. Drivers run red lights and stop signs. Children and animals are abused, perhaps even killed. People trample other shoppers in a frenzy to take advantage of some must-have 'deal' on Black Friday.Thieves empty storage sheds full of donated toys for needy children. Innocent commuters are shoved in front of on-coming subway trains. And yesterday, as I finished my daily walk, I passed my neighbor skinning a deer carcass suspended from a large hook on the back of a truck. Two deer heads lay on the ground nearby. This is NOT something that should be done on a public street, in full view of everybody who happens to pass.

But more than simply being rude, so many people are filled with hate and anger. Rather than settling their differences in a civilized fashion, they pull out a gun and murder their opponent. Or they show up with a whole arsenal and murder countless innocent people. Sometimes people are killed because they are different -- gay, Hispanic, Asian or African-American. The prevailing attitude seems to be that everyone who isn't like us is 'less than' human and doesn't deserve respect. If somebody has something we want, we feel justified in taking it.

Where, and how, do we start to cleanse ourselves, our nation and our world of this darkness? How do we regain a more civilized society? Obviously, the causes of evil are many and varied. Today's newspaper contained an editorial cartoon that suggested the following reasons for the prevalence of evil in today's world: exposure to violence, dissolution of the family, decaying morality, mental illness, apathy, desensitization, lack of social contact, pop culture and unearned fame.

Turning around our society won't be easy. It isn't so much a matter of money (aside from doing a better job of providing mental health care) as it is a matter of attitude. The 'me first' attitude must change. We need to teach our children respect and healthy boundaries. We need to instill in them a sense of compassion, caring and sharing. We need to control or eliminate the violent video games and television programs to which our children are exposed. We need to teach our children about the wonders and beauty of nature. The natural world is not here for us to exploit; it is here to teach us and to restore us. We need to help those in need, whether we know them or not. We need to connect with others in person, not just via e-mail or Facebook or Twitter. We need to make time for our families, not just for our jobs.

There is no easy solution, and whatever we do won't result in an immediate change. But we must start. The 26 acts of kindness movement initiated by NBC News reporter Ann Curry is a wonderful start, with people throughout the world carrying out their own acts of kindness in memory of the 26 people killed in Newtown, CT, just before Christmas.

How about it? Whether you do 26 or one act of kindness, I encourage you to make 2013 the year you -- we -- start to fight back against the heart of darkness. Happy New Year, everyone.