Then, As Now

Syria has been on my mind these days, somewhat of an unavoidable topic, since I have been consistently bombarded by every possible news outlet in existence, as well as my Twitter newsfeed (a beast in and of itself), with the atrocities being committed there.

Truthfully, I have no idea how this conflict started, or when, or why it has escalated lately.  As a former journalist, I accept that I fail here. All I’ve picked up on this side of the pond are cries of “chemical weapons” and “let’s go to war.” Sounds all too familiar. It still amazes me, to this day, that humans have such an uncanny ability to forget the lessons of the past, as if thousands of years of brutality against others hadn’t taught us anything.

One of the most poignant moments of my career as a journalist was the night I completely broke down in tears to my boyfriend of the time, practically yelling at him – the poor thing!—because of how upset I was. All I did at the online newspaper I was working for was post negative content to the website during eight never-ending hours, day in and day out. Not one article with a glimmer of hope. Just murders, robberies, corruption stories, and threats between politicians and countries. I understand that the world isn’t always rainbows and butterflies, but I certainly had NOT signed up for this.

You can feel free to blame my sensitivity here; at least, I do, and I’m completely OK with it. I am extremely perceptive of others, and I suffer when I see suffering, especially when there’s nothing I can do about it. What worries me about the Syrian crisis, as with any other crisis around the world, are the innocent, the ones caught in the cross-fire… Those we tend to forget as we continue our lives within our own bubbles simply because no one really talks about or focuses on their struggles.

Inaction is one of my biggest weaknesses, I’ll admit it. I see so many people on the street that I could potentially help, yet I don’t always move to do so. It’s even worse when I see a picture of a child, or mother, or father, or family, that have lost everything due to the selfishness, anger, and hatred of other human beings.

Why are we like this? Seriously. Why are we so broken? What is it with us not being able, for the life of us, to accept love, fill ourselves with it, and then spread it? Have we not yet realized that neither power nor money are coming with us when we die?

We are all connected, therefore, our actions create reactions, which eventually turn into a chain of events. We HAVE to start with ourselves. We have to. It’s our only duty to future generations, in my opinion. Not only will WE reap what we sow, but so will our children. Please, please, please choose to sow love. Yes, it is much more difficult. It requires a certain acute awareness that hatred and anger tend to hijack and avoid, yet the benefits of our hard work in that area are, and will always be, infinite.

Syria is really far from where I am. The best I can do from my little bubble is to keep everyone there in my thoughts and prayers. Yet, I believe these are two very powerful tools that we can and should take more advantage of.

I want to leave you with the excerpt that inspired me to write this. For those of you that are not religious, please give it a chance anyway; the underlying message applies to all –believers and non-believers—:

“He must increase; I must decrease,” observed John the Baptist (Jn 3:30). What does that mean? What does ‘decreasing’ look like in daily life?

To decrease doesn’t mean being a doormat, but it does mean that we stop fighting anybody and anything, even evil. “Resist not evil,” said Christ: in other words, let’s not waste our energy fighting. Let’s use our energy to learn how to love. Let’s use our energy reflecting on the strangeness, the astonishment, the upending nature of Christ.

The scandal of Christianity –that the antidote to violence is not more violence, but love—is so extreme, so radical, that in two thousand years we have not begun to accept it. Our egos can’t bear such meager results, such plodding slowness, such invisibility.

Then, as now, people were butchered for a trifle: an obscene dance; the whim of a call girl. Then, as now, the voice calling us to come awake was demeaned, devalued, snuffed out. ‘Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you,’ Christ taught (Mt 5:44). The world, then as now, plots to kill Christ.

John, a voice crying in the wilderness, proclaimed: “Repent and believe the Good News.” And the Good News, almost unbelievably –the antidote to the mindless brutality that would kill first him, then Christ—is to love one another as Christ loved us. Wishing people well in our hearts, especially people who have hurt us. Letting people off the hook. Saying, “I’m sorry”; when appropriate, saying, “No,” saying, “Come higher, friend.” Transforming our anger, rather than transmitting it. Praying to be relieved of the desire to be the favorite, to be consulted. Refusing to respond to violence, whether physical, psychological, or spiritual, with more violence.

Then, as now, the voice saying, “Look at the violence and dishonesty in your own heart” is the most dangerous voice of all. The most rare. The one we least want to hear.

– By Heather King, blogger at shirtofflame.blogspot.com. “The Martyrdom of John the Baptist,” taken from Magnificat, August 2013.

Let us hear that inner voice and start changing the world, each one of us at a time.

Photo: Belén Alemán
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