What Unites Us?

In today’s blog title, the question mark is all mine.

Right now, there are calls for unity and for people to put aside their differences to work together for a greater good. The problem is, these calls are ringing out in a very hollow way. They ring out in a hollow way because this call for unity is disregarding accountability and justice for those that broke the law and committed murder, and continue to call for violence and killing.

Even if people renounce violence and hate, even if they express and show genuine remorse and take full responsibility for their guilt, it still won’t be enough. At least not in the present. The only thing that eases pain is time, a lot of time. And even after a lot of time, the pain is always there. Worst of all, the pain comes back up no matter how time has passed, and sometimes it comes back up like the wound was just inflicted yesterday.

Can there be unity without trust?

My answer to that question is this: for me, I can’t be truly close to someone who has hurt me before when I did nothing to deserve that. Because as I think that thought, I hear what my mother said to me: if they’ve done it once, what makes you think they won’t do it again?

For me, the only bridge of unity I can think of is this: to ask those who are truly repentant and remorseful not to hurt anyone else like they did. The damage is done to me and nothing will take it away. But if my pain can save someone else from going through what I have, then I will find peace and healing.

Another thing I think can build a bridge to unity is people letting go of revenge though this would mean people would have to take full responsibility for their wrongdoing, and for causing pain to others by embracing lies and cruelty. It means they would have to accept their loss of power was caused by their own wrongdoing and the pain they caused to others. This would mean taking responsibility for wrongdoing and committing to a life of not doing that again. They would have to realize this commitment is not a loss of pride, but of going onto the right path in life. There is no pride and dignity in causing pain and suffering.

Now I look to history for answers to my question on unity:

After World War Two, the first war crimes trials were convened in Nuremberg, Germany and Tokyo, Japan to bring the perpetrators of the war and mass murder to justice. It was the first time in human history perpetrators of war and genocide were brought to justice and the full extent of their crimes against humanity were shown to the world. This in turn showed the world was done, and that it couldn’t be done again. In the decades since, the people of Germany and Japan have confronted their past and sought to educate the world in order for it not to happen again and so that others wouldn’t to suffer and die like so many did before.

In 1987, US President Ronald Regan stood at the Berlin Wall and said to the Soviet Russian Leader, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” In 1989, the Berlin Wall came down. I honestly thought I wouldn’t see that happen until I was the age I’m at now (46) and not the age I was in 1989 (15). I didn’t expect it because I thought the wall was so much higher than it really was even though I knew there were people behind that wall who didn’t want to be there and were just imprisoned by fear and lies.

For there to be true unity, walls built on hatred, fear, pain, and suffering must be torn down. Perpetrators of crimes against others must be held accountable and brought to justice. History must be taught in truth, and the stories have to be passed down from generation to generation. Most of all, we have to let go of the desire for revenge, and learn to trust enough to move forward to make life better for future generations. People will have to learn that every single person on this planet has to find their own place in this world, and that if that journey is not causing harm to others, that they can’t be held back from following their own path and living their own lives truly, freely, and without fear.

Most of all, I believe unity comes from accepting that each person has a right to their thoughts and feelings no matter what they are, good, bad, ugly, or anything in between. And that they have the right to deal with them in whatever they choose.

What Divides Us, Part 2: Never Good Enough

A few days ago, I wrote about what I feel divides us as a nation right now. Not just a difference in ideology and politics, but of facts and truth. But there’s more to that as I’ve come to realize.

All my life I struggled greatly with feeling like that no matter how much good I did, how hard I worked, how much I tried to learn and be a good person, that it was never good enough. Worst of all, I felt like that whenever I made a mistake, even a mistake that I took ownership of and fixed as much I possibly could, I felt like that mistake proved that people were right about me: that no matter what I said or did, or how I lived my life, I would never be good enough.

Luckily, five years ago this April, I stopped thinking that way. That’s a story for another time but on that fateful day in April when I was told I should have known better, which is just another way of saying I would never be good enough to succeed at anything, a thought came to my mind:

Everyone else is just as full of shit as I am sometimes, but that doesn’t mean I’m a bad person.

What this means is I’m wrong sometimes and I make mistakes. But so does everyone else and no one has all the answers, nor has the ability to be perfect every second of their lives. And to expect anything like from someone else is wrong, and incredibly mean and cruel. I know. I’ve spent the last four years working through that and unloading huge amounts of shame and guilt I should never have taken on because of that.

But to narrow my discussion here, I will say this: if presented with verifiable facts and unaltered visual proof and someone says that’s not good enough, then I think you have to walk away from people who say that. Because if someone says that facts and truth are not good enough, you can’t get through to them. And until that person lets go of their belief in lies and cruelty, there will be no unity with them.

Right now there are calls not to impeach the President of the United States for what he said last Wednesday. There are calls not to prosecute those who broke the law simply because it might further inflame tensions. To say that I say: no way in Hell. Justice must be served because without it, the actions of the guilty will continue. Even those who renounce their beliefs and apologize for the word and actions must be held accountable for them.

Being held accountable for your words and actions is not the same as being told you’ll never be good enough no matter what you do in life. If your words and actions were wrong and caused pain and suffering, then you must answer for that. And if someone chooses not to forgive you, or trust you, that doesn’t mean you’ll never be good enough for that. It means that you were never good enough to be trusted to begin with. When someone knowingly and willingly chooses to do wrong, they will suffer the consequences of their actions sooner or later, in this life or the next. Those of us who have been hurt have to work through the pain and find ways to heal, learn that is good enough even we’re told to forget, or deny, or minimize the wrong that was done to us.

I believe in our system of justice in the United States, that a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. That they are afforded legal representation even if they can’t afford it. They have the right to remain silent, and not to incriminate themselves if they choose not to. I believe the burden of proof is on the State. But in the face of facts and hard evidence, I don’t believe you have the right to say that’s not good enough and never will be. That’s not justice. Justice is truth beyond a reasonable doubt, and punishment that fits the crime.

So until we live by the idea that truth and evidence must be accepted, and reject the belief that will never be good enough, we will be divided.

I’m going to close out with something I saw today from Bernice King on Twitter:

We cannot unify around injustice and lies in an authentic quest for healing and peace. Healing requires honesty. Peace requires justice. May God, who is Love, be with us.