Live Together or Die Alone: Reflecting on an Angry America

Live Together or Die Alone: Reflecting on an Angry America July 8, 2016

DallasShooting(Photo property of Ting Shen/The Dallas Morning News)

“Last week most of us were strangers. But we’re all here now. And God knows how long we’re going to be here. But if we can’t live together, we’re going to die alone.”

That’s a famous speech from an episode of “Lost,” in which Jack Shephard (Matthew Fox) tries to rally his fellow plane crash survivors to start cooperating and getting along with each other instead of starting a civil war. The people of the United States should take those words to heart as well in this week of violence and vengeance.

For too long, loud and powerful forces in this country have been labeling each other and stripping each other of the dignity and respect due to all human beings. And often, these voices are enabled by a media establishment that thrives on anger and conflict which produces high ratings which produces lots of money.

People on the left demonize “the one percent” or pro-lifers or conservatives in general. People on the right demonize gun control advocates or immigration reform advocates or liberals in general. The problem with demonization is that we think of demons as hellish, evil creatures that need to be crushed and eliminated. We don’t see them as fellow citizens who believe differently than we do. So instead of arguing passionately about issues – and perhaps acknowledging that the other side has some valid points of view – we give in to our instincts to destroy each other. To quote the famous Yoda line, “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

Hate sure led to suffering in Dallas last night, when 11 police officers were shot, and five of them died from their wounds. This was allegedly in response to the deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in Minnesota at the hands of cops, along with previous incidents. Because of incidents like these, police departments around the country have garnered the reputation of being racist. The sniper in Dallas was seeking vengeance against white people and police officers in general and so he went on a killing spree.

The nation was shocked and appalled by the deaths of Sterling and Castile, and they’re even more shocked and appalled at the additional deaths this morning. Our anger is destroying us.

That’s not to say that injustice and racism don’t need to be rooted out. They do. But the problem with labeling an entire group as bad is that innocents may suffer more than the actual perpetrators. It’s a shame that it even needs to be said, but the truth is that all police officers aren’t racists and all black people aren’t criminals. If either of those two ideas represents your mindset, you need to humbly re-examine your beliefs and acknowledge that you’re part of the problem.

Ironically, the protest in Dallas was peaceful and even friendly as this article points out. Then, the sniper started firing, and hatred claimed even more victims.

For all the lives lost this week in whatever manner, there are fathers and mothers, wives and husbands, sons and daughters mourning their loss. Both public officials and ordinary people need to say, “Enough is enough.” Or as Leticia Ochoa Adams tweeted:

So even though most of us are still strangers, we’re all here now in this sharply divided, increasingly angry America. “If we can’t live together, we’re going to die alone.”

Maybe the first step toward genuine progress is to start saying the Prayer of St. Francis every day. It was adopted as the Prayer of The Christophers when Father James Keller founded us in 1945, and its message holds true eternally:

StFrancis Prayer

RELATED: Pray for Dallas

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