This reading of names, this insistence on the particularity of each person who was murdered, is the kernel of my philosophy. People are not groups. They aren't "liberals" or "conservatives" or "men" or "women" or "black" or "white" or "Christian" or "Hindu" or "Muslim" or "American" or "alien" or "the 99 percent" or "the 1 percent". Those are labels that the political cynics and the race baiters and the haters use to divide people from one another in order to accrue power, prestige, and wealth to themselves. It's time that we stop playing into this tactic.
The news from this past summer has been unrelentingly bad, both internationally and domestically. In April, 276 Christian schoolgirls were kidnapped in Nigeria, presumably to be sold into slavery or kept as sexual chattel by a branch of the Islamic death cult, Boko Haram. Another branch of the Islamic death cult, the Islamic State (ISIS) spent the summer cutting a swath of destruction through northern Iraq, beheading soldiers and sticking their heads on spikes, raping women and children, cutting the heads off little Christian boys and girls, driving people from cities and villages that had had a Christian presence for 1,700 years, murdering, raping, and displacing members of the Yazidi ethnic and religious minority, driving them to utter ruin,starvation, and dehydration on Mt. Sinjar in Northern Iraq. I defy anyone to watch the YouTube video of Vian Dakhil, the Yazidi representative to the Iraqi Parliament, beg for help without weeping. Meanwhile, it was revealed that gangs of men in Rotherham, England had spent the past fifteen years raping and prostituting English girls without being hindered in any way by police and social service authorities who, while aware of what was going on, were reluctant to intervene because the perpetrators were Asian (i.e. Pakistani) Muslims and the victims were white Christian English girls. Instead of addressing the crimes being committed, they sent social workers off to "diversity training" and threatened them with firing if they ever again referred to the criminals as "Asian" (i.e., Pakistani Muslim).
On the home front, we spent weeks watching riots in Ferguson, Missouri over a racially-tinged fatal shooting of a black man who may, or may not, have been threatening a white police officer who may, or may not, have been responding to reports of a suspect fitting the man's description who had just committed a strong-arm robbery. Businesses, homes, and the city itself were well-nigh destroyed. Respected civil-rights leaders were calling for the police officer to be arrested, indicted, and convicted before an investigation was completed, thus demonstrating their utter lack of interest in due process on national television. Politicians who are facing tough elections in their districts are distancing themselves from a President who appears ever more disengaged and uninterested in leading, even from behind. The economy sputters along, cost of living rises every week (for example, my grocery bill at Aldi, the cheapest grocery store I can find, has risen from an average of just below $100 per week at the end of last school year to between $110 and $140 per week at the beginning of this school year), and I recognize that I live in a boom-town in comparison to most other places in the country.
This is where my mind has been this summer, caught up in all sorts of dark places. It's hard to concentrate on the goodness in my life, which is undoubtedly more than I deserve, when, emotionally, I feel that it is teetering on the brink of chaos. And so, I find it tempting to retreat into the make-believe certainty of a world with labels, of us vs. them. It feels good. It feels right. I have even done it, to a certain extent, in this very post.
Yet, all the while, in the back of my mind, I hear those names. Those particular people:
Emmanuel Akwasi Afuakwah,
Angela Reed Kyte,
Philip D. Miller,
Rhondelle Cheri Tankard,
Ching Wang, and
Christopher Rudolph Zarba, Jr.,
among so many others.
Each one a gift from God.
Each one precious in the sight of God.
Each one willed into existence by the Lord.
Each one taken from this world by an "us vs. them" mentality, ripped from existence by those who had succumbed to what we used to call "Evil" with a capital E.