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Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Last Thursday, I did something I haven't done in quite some time. I cried during class. Just right there with a bunch of random people I don't even know, I cried. I cried over a film about suicide and the war in Iraq. I cried over the way in which we value (or don't value) human lives... and the way in which public policies reflect these values. I cried over dehumanization and structural violence.

In most cases of my life I would find this to be terribly embarrassing, but lately I have been valuing my humanity so much, I just took a deep breath and embraced my tender-heartedness. I thought: time to practice what you preach, little one; those tears are a physical expression of your compassion, and your words, a refusal to accept the world as it is. So just let the tears fall and calmly explain why they are falling.

They were falling because it hurts my heart every time I am hit with the reality that each human life is not given the same value in our world. Who matters and who doesn't? Who gets to decide who matters and who doesn't? How do they decide? Why? And, more importantly, can this ever change?

Then I read Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter and now I'm just pissed. (If you haven't read it, I suggest reading it, or even a summary of it just for the purpose of the thought experiment it evokes.) We, societally, judge people so easily, but, even worse, we allow those judgments to stick, to mark a person, to identify human character in a way in which, realistically, doesn't happen, doesn't line up, doesn't make any freaking sense. Maybe it's easier to categorize people in this way. Maybe it's safer not to take risks. Maybe it's less scary to shut out entire segments of the human population. I don't even know!

All I do know is that I might actually believe each and every human being is worth the risk of knowing, of accepting, of learning about, of open-mindedness and understanding. That, and I might spend the rest of my life questioning taking the easy way, especially when it involves human beings.

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