The Orlando massacre. The Stanford rape case. The bathroom bills. Hateful rhetoric coming from political and religious leaders of all stripes. An economic system that pits the middle class against the poor while the only winners are the ultra rich.
Candidates for high office who promise to make things right if we’ll just vote for them. Voters who believe Trump or Bernie will be their savior (say what you will about Hillary supporters – and I’ve said a lot about them lately – at least they aren’t expecting a savior). Radicals who call for a revolution to burn it all down, on the assumption that what comes next has to be better (history says it will be different, not better).
If you yearn for a simple answer in the face of these tragedies, atrocities, and injustices, it means you’re human. Evolution has “programmed” us to favor black or white, good or evil, us or them solutions. Much of life as hunter-gatherers depends on quick, decisive action when there is no time for elaborate plans. Even after 10,000 years of civilization and with supercomputers to handle the computations, elaborate plans still have a tendency to go awry. Simple is good.
But if you believe you’ve found a simple answer to our tragedies, atrocities, and injustices, it means you’re wrong. The great problems of our world are complicated and deep seated and they defy simple solutions. They defy quick solutions. They make liars of would-be saviors.
I’ve had well-meaning Christians tell me “the world won’t be right till Jesus comes back.” Now, I completely disagree with their eschatology, but there is a certain lived wisdom to that statement: the world is never going to be “right.” There’s too much fear, anger, greed, and self-centeredness in human society. Our children are not born into original sin, but they quickly learn from observation, and we train them to perpetuate harmful institutions simply because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.”
This leads to the kind of despair I’ve seen in real life and on social media the past few days. Even the games of “blame it on the people we don’t like” aren’t going nearly as far as they usually do. I think most of us intuitively understand just how complicated things are. The Orlando massacre wasn’t just easy access to guns, it wasn’t just a radical and violent perversion of Islam, it wasn’t just homophobia, and it wasn’t just mental illness. It was all of that, and more.
We can process grief, but grief on top of grief on top of grief wears us down. And there seems to be no end to the grief these days.
Remember who you are, what you are, and what’s most important to you. Dark times are here, but there are ways to get through dark times.
Most importantly, remember that while we can’t fix the world, we can make the world better.
Go make the world better.
Don’t try to fix it all, just make the world a little better than it was before. Plant a flower, kiss a lover, pet a cat. Give blood, give money and time to groups that help others, give money to other people who need it. Charity is no substitute for justice, but until we can establish justice we need some charity. And sometimes a friend needs some help and you have the means to provide it.
North Texas friends and other interested folks: please consider donating to OUTreach Denton.
Sometimes we need to fight. Let people know where you stand. Tell your homophobic uncle to shut up or go home. Remind your elected officials they work for all their constituents, not just their contributors.
Hey Dan Patrick: you’re an embarrassment to the State of Texas. Again.
Support compromises and partial measures. As the old saying goes, half a loaf is better than no loaf at all. Complicated problems can’t be fixed all at once. If a political measure makes things better, support it. Now, there are some lines that can’t be crossed, such as those who are trying to run transgender people out of the LGBT community to make things more palatable for reluctant straight people. Policies are negotiable – people are not. But if you can get something today, a little more next year, and a little more after that, pretty soon you’ve got most of what you wanted.
Martin Luther King Jr. said “Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men [and everyone else] willing to be co-workers with God.” Dr. King was a Christian, but he worshipped a God of Liberation and of Justice. We Pagans have our own Gods of Liberation and Gods of Justice, and They will work with us (and allow us to work with Them) to promote Their values and advance Their virtues.
I’m hurting too. I’m grieving too. I’m angry too. I’m so, so tired of all this, and I can’t see how to fix it.
But we don’t have to fix it. We just have to do our part, trust others to do their parts, and trust the Gods to do Their parts. We take what we can get, and we do what we have to do.
Starting with doing one little thing to make the world better than it was.