(Another essay published in All About Women September 2006.)
Bombs are dropping across Southern Lebanon and Northern Israel as I write this. And I suspect neither my editor nor most readers will want to go beyond that first sentence.
It’s a terrible opening, a line that would deter me from reading further, too. Like most of my family and friends, I prefer turning away from intentional, human-led destruction. It’s not because I lack compassion and genuine concern. It’s not because my own life is so consuming that I can’t extend my reach around distant shoulders. I can’t even blame it on confusion, for I have studied the region and its conflict for years. Instead, I can’t absorb the fact that human beings routinely choose to destroy each other. It makes no sense. It actually makes me nauseous.
I won’t talk about the Middle East and the historical payload that fuels these recent missiles. I won’t extol the horrors of war in general, and the myriad of deaths it causes. I certainly won’t offer an opinion suggesting one side or another is more or less justified in its actions. Don’t get me wrong – I have extensive information and strong opinions with dozens of resources to bolster my platform. But that’s the problem. I have information and opinions about a lot of things, yet they’re nothing more than my ego trying to sound smart. I dress them with objective facts, but peek under my skirt and my opinions are merely fancy outerwear for my own naked influences, experiences, desires, and fears.
And for some inexplicable, bewildering, unfathomable, irrational reason I actually believe my own over-dressed opinions are Correct – even though the color and fabric are purely personal. What’s worse, more often than not (like right now) I try to force my taste on others, too.
What is that? What is my impulse to think I’m Right? And why am I then compelled to convince others I’m Right, even, presumably, to the point of killing over it?
I’m not blaming “human nature” or some Darwinian misinterpretation. Natural selection, in fact, suggests species adapt precisely in order to preserve, not destroy, themselves. Individuals may die prematurely along the way -- too weak to escape a predator, too small to complete a birth, too fragile to withstand the environment – but the goal is species strength, not individual domination.
Instead, I’m blaming my own undisciplined compulsion to insist I’m right. Humans are unique – we are so wedded to our opinions that we threaten our own existence in their defense. Both Israel and Hezbollah believe they are right, and each intends to destroy the other as a result. It’s really no different elsewhere … Iraq, Afghanistan, Congo, East Timor, a U.S. street corner plagued with gang shootings, a fence between two national borders, behind the shadow of domestic violence, a parent slapping her child … different opinions and the strongest hand violently wins. But not for long in evolutionary terms. And certainly not for any species-enhancing purpose.
I’m sorry. I am uncharacteristically angry. But that happens when a handful of adults throw deadly temper tantrums, and, as a result, distant screams from dying children wake me in the middle of the night. Opinions run amok may prove our most deadly plague.
So, I’m doing my share to quiet my views, adopting healthy strategies used when all kinds of relationships – personal, professional, political -- are in trouble.
My individual life is small, but ultimately all interactions – from personal to global – are simply relationships among individuals. So when engaged with others, my opinions and behavior should remain the only things I try to control.
The Golden Rules ...
The Golden Rules ...
is disagreeable to yourself do not do unto others. Zoroastrian Faith, 600 BCE