Has there ever been a time when mankind wasn’t causing pain and destruction? It’s all over the news and social media. It’s on television and in our streets. Violence, terrorism, hatred, prejudice, selfishness and despair. It takes a sudden act of violence to shake us out of our complacency. Most recently, the terror attacks in Paris have brought out the rage. It’s a righteous rage. We should be angry and devastated at the senseless brutality. The sad part is that this rage doesn’t last.
This is what happens…
We live our lives concerned with our own issues and problems, trying to make life work for us. We are vaguely aware of events across the globe, coming up for air long enough to be shocked at another hostage beheading, or we’ll cock an ear at the news of a suicide bomber striking a dilapidated desert village. Then, out of nowhere, somewhere “civilized” is attacked. Paris is targeted and over 120 people are killed. Suddenly, everyone is awake and demands action. Security levels skyrocket and everyone is a suspect. For now. Until it passes. Then, after a fairly short time, after a few reports of prevented planned bombings, or some other media blast takes our attention, we go back to our lives. We go back to ignoring the death and suffering and hatred until it touches us or our favorite tourist spots again.
We, as a species, are inherently selfish and protective. We look after our own. We may complain about conditions, we may even be moved by the plight of the oppressed and homeless, but we don’t dwell on it. We step over the person sleeping in the street. We change the channel when we see reports of far off lands being decimated and enslaved. It’s not confined to foreign lands, either. How many of us are truly aware of the suffering and killing in our own country? Beyond your own town, how concerned are you?
It seems that people will always find a way to kill, whether it’s other people, animals or our natural resources. We’ve been doing it for centuries. We kill, hurt and persecute. We consume and discard. Take away the weapons and we’ll fashion new. Silence the voices and we’ll find another way to make a point. We will punish a whole group for the benefit of a single agenda. We’re a fragmented, hateful society, too wrapped up in dogma, judgment and our own interests to see the plight of others except in times of tragedy. Every individual thing of beauty mankind creates is negated by every act of hate and violence. I really feel that if we stop caring about symbols, status and what divides us and start focusing more on the living, the breathing what makes us a single community, we’ll have a chance.
Of course, everything I write here is more a reflection on me than the rest of the world, isn’t it? Am I actually looking at the population in general or am I really turning the lens inward? I’m really describing myself, and my overall apathy to the world at large. What it takes, really, is for the violence to hit close to home. To impact someone I love, to wound a person I hold dear. That violence is why this foundation exists.
I consider myself lucky for having met Rita. It was only a short time, but we did chat for a while at her daughter’s birthday get together. She was funny, happy, very sharp and very young for her years. The love she held for Lin was palpable. Seeing the two of them together was like witnessing a physical manifestation of joy. Nobody can ever tell me the love between an adopted parent and her child is any less intense or real than any biological connection. I’ve seen it firsthand.
When I learned of Rita’s murder, I was heartbroken; for Lin having to lose her mum in such a cruel fashion and for the world, for everyone she touched. A spirit like hers should not be stolen away. Nobody has the right to take such a thing. Yet it happened. The violence hit home. Flint, Michigan became a real place to me and many others who never gave the city more than a passing thought, if that. It shook me out of my complacency. It made me think of who else was being victimized, killed and forgotten.
Thanks to Lin and The Rita Langworthy Foundation, her spirit lives on in the work and in Lin herself. The message and example Rita put forward in life will live on well after her death. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll have taken a step back from the hatred and the self fixation and the complacency. Maybe we can make compassion our default instead of ignorance, distrust and hate. Don’t let it take something like this to happen to you.