As human beings, we are a carbon-based life form.
We are close kin to the higher order apes.
We are homo sapiens, a bit of earth that can think.
We stand up straight; have an opposable thumb; have the capacity for rational thought; are able to use symbols to communicate abstract thoughts; we can use symbols to communicate about symbols; we can remember the past and plan for the future.
The gospel according to Jamie Lannister of the television version of “Game of Thrones”: “Strange thing, first time you cut a man, you realize we’re nothing but sacs of meat, blood and some bone to keep is all standing.”
I say: we are bags of water, flesh, blood, and bone called by a proper name.
We are body soul mind mysteries as long as we breathe the breath of life. We are character and personality that loves and hates, that laughs and cries, that sings and dances, that wills and desires, and sometimes just does not give a care. And when the breath leaves for the last time, our bodies become dust and ashes. We leave an empty space. Other human beings grieve.
The chemicals in our bodies are worth about one dollar.
So, what sense does it make to think that the color of the bag of water flesh blood and bone called by a proper name makes an individual more or less than any other? What sense does it make that the shape of it or the strength of it gives an individual the right to treat the Other as an object for one’s own drunken pleasure to be tossed away and forgotten like used tissue? What sense does it make that some bags think that they are superior because of the bit of earth upon which they were born or upon which they now stand or that they have a right to keep other bags from coming to that place? What makes the bags that we are fear the Other, hate the Other, and want to kill the Other to point of war?
World War I stands as one of the most deadly wars in the history of humankind. Between 15 and 19 million human beings died. Some 23 million military personnel were wounded. We do not know how many lives were shattered because of post-traumatic stress disorder, known at the time as shell shock.
The bits of thinking earth that we are thought of horrific ways to kill -chemical warfare, flame-throwers, the first tanks and war in the sky. The stupidity of war was then and still is breathtaking.
However, more than the war itself, this was a time of genocide and pogroms across the world and even in the United States of America. As we commemorate the centennial of the end of World War I, we have already commemorated in the last few years the centennial of America’s pogroms against African-American people in Springfield, Illinois in 1908 and in East St. Louis, Illinois in 1917. Next year will be the centennial of Red Summer when there were pogroms and race war in America from coast to coast.
As we remember the end of World War I, the war that was supposed to make the world safe for democracy, the war that was supposed to end war, as we remember the veterans who have fought in all of America’s wars before and since the Great War, it is important to remember that African Americans also served. According to armyhistory.org:
“By the end of World War I, African Americans served in cavalry, infantry, signal, medical, engineer, and artillery units, as well as serving as chaplains, surveyors, truck drivers, chemists, and intelligence officers.” (https://armyhistory.org/fighting-for-respect-african-american-soldiers-in-wwi/)
An estimated 350,000 African Americans served in World War I and 171 were awarded the French Legion of Honor. However, when they returned to the United States, proud of their service to their country and proud of the uniform, they were reminded in brutal, violent, savage, barbaric, no uncertain terms that they were not equal citizens in the United States. Not only were they killed and in many cases lynched, but their bodies were burned and mutilated. It was not enough to kill them, they had to be torn limb from limb in order to strike fear into the hearts of African Americans across the country. No amount of bloodshed, or sacrifice of body and mind; no amount of heroism would be enough to earn equality in the United States.
Again I ask: what sense does it make for one bag of water, flesh, blood, and bone called by proper name to think that the color of the bag or the god to whom it prays or the people it loves gives one the right to desecrate another human being in this way? The stories of the violence are horrific. The Equal Justice Initiative has issued a report on the targeting of African American veterans for lynching. (https://eji.org/reports/lynching-in-america-targeting-black-veterans) It is a history that ought to be remembered.
This is especially true for people who want to represent We the People of the United States in Congress. Today, I read about the remarks of a white woman candidate for the United States Senate from Mississippi. She made what she thought was a joke, saying of a supporter: “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.” She defended her statement as an “exaggerated expression of regard.”
This woman is at once ignorant and insensitive.
There was a time in America that white people did attend public hangings and mutilations of African Americans as entertainment. They packed picnic lunches to go. They made post cards of the events to send to friends. They kept body parts as souvenirs. Much of this barbaric history happened in Mississippi. Yet, she wants to represent a state where 37 percent of the population is African American. (https://www.npr.org/2018/11/12/667050590/gop-senators-public-hanging-comment-roils-mississippi-runoff-election)
The greatest deception that has deceived humankind is the idea the one bag of carbon based material, one human being, has the right to disrespect and to demean another human being in any way. This is why the moral teaching of most spiritual teachers is to see ourselves in the Other. They are us and we are them. And, time makes dust and ashes of us all.
Valerie Elverton Dixon is founder of JustPeaceTheory.com and author of “Just Peace Theory Book One: Spiritual Morality, Radical Love, and the Public Conversation.”
As human beings, we are a carbon-based life form.