This I believe: I will go to my grave immensely disappointed that man cannot live with his fellow man peacefully; that killing each other, often over very small differences in beliefs, is a justifiable action which will be seen as a positive by God.
I was born seven months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. My parents were happy to have me: I was raised in South Dakota as an only child, doted on by proud Norwegian-heritage grandparents, tutored vigorously in the faith of the Lutheran church, schooled in public schools. I was a child during the Korean War, a teenager at the height of the Cold War with its scare of nuclear annihilation, and stared Vietnam squarely in the face as a draft-age male. I was in college when JFK was assassinated, when the Civil Rights movement gained momentum, as the sexual freedom and drug culture kicked in.
Looking back, I can remember confusion, lots of personal angst. In college, I learned that there was a much bigger world out there than I had known in my small and protected sphere in South Dakota. It was a world of history – the course my freshman year in college called Western Civilization introduced me to great strife over religious beliefs: the crusades, the Inquisition, the Dark Ages. As a sophomore, I found out it was a world of five major religions – not just the Christian ethic of my childhood, but Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, not to mention the naturalism of the Great Plains Indians and other beliefs. Man has always needed an explanation for his being and for the unknown and unknowable. And the great religions have not only provided that explanation, but more importantly, they have also given rules by which to live with one’s fellow man.
From that foundation, I am ever more puzzled by man’s penchant for doing harm to his own kind. Day after day, monstrous stories about man’s cruelty to other humans come across the nightly news programs. Murders, revenge killings, rapes, abuses of children – and hatred which drives some misguided individuals to blow themselves up in the midst of ordinary and innocent civilians in the name of their God, most likely yelling “God is Great” as they pull the detonator. Why is it, I wonder, that we cannot live side by side with our differences; why we cannot tolerate another’s opinions or beliefs; why too many of us insist that our opinion or view of the world is the only acceptable one; why the American Founding Fathers’ concept of individual freedom and right to believe as one wishes does not prevail? Why has God – whomever we might perceive him to be – put this streak of meanness into the “human condition”? We are all humans….Why can’t we live side by side in peace?
Maybe I will learn the answer when I pass from this world. In the meantime, I believe that I will continue to feel daily and immense disappointment that mankind cannot rise to the potential inherent in being human.
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