Friday, July 8, 2016

This is How We Lose Our Humanity

Today, my heart is breaking, and that deserves to be addressed because there are others out there whose lives have been turned upside down in the wake of events this past week. 

Right now, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile's families are grieving their deaths. Deaths that seem so senseless and unnecessary. They are trying to figure out how to rework their lives into a new normal without these men. And now, we've added 5 more families who are dealing with the same grief, the same struggle to find a new normal without someone they love. 

America is hurting. She is angry, and she is wounded. 

Here is the problem, this is how we lose our humanity: we forget that people are individuals. In our fear and ignorance we assume that every time we look at someone they are nothing more than the group we associate them with. I am guilty of this. Everyone is guilty of this. 

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." - Psalm 139: 13-14

God created each person individually. He took time to knit each person together. Each individual is fearfully and wonderfully made. Frankly, you don't even have to believe in God to understand the idea that each person is an original. When we forget that, we begin to lose a little of what makes us human. When we stop recognizing people as individuals with their own thoughts and feelings, we let fear take over. Fear is dangerous. Fear allows us to justify truly heinous actions. Fear allows us to forget that and individual is human, because if we can associate that individual with a group we don't like, then we can treat them as a danger and a threat instead of as a person. 

Not all black people are thugs. 
Not all police officers are racist.
Not all Muslims are terrorists.
Not all Christians are bigots.

Each of those groups is comprised of individuals. And individuals are very different. Individuals are unique. An individual can think for himself or herself. In fact, the idea we have in our heads of each of those groups only really constitutes a small percentage of that group. 

We need to stop retaliating. That solves nothing. The sniper in Dallas didn't accomplish anything. He is nothing more than a coward, just like the police officer who shot a man for the simple crime of reaching for his ID. The truth is, I can agree that black lives matter AND I can support the police. I can agree that there needs to be repercussions for officers who act out of ignorance and fear, while also acknowledging that those individuals do not represent the entire group. 

When we think of people as individuals, then it becomes very difficult to fear or hate them. When we force ourselves to think about a person's feelings, their family, the hobbies they love, the things they believe, then we realize that they are human. Racism and stereotyping are just different ways to describe fear. Fear blinds us from seeing an individual and encourages us to ignore our humanity. 

Only love can heal America. Love is the salve that soothes the wounds we inflict upon ourselves. Love is the opposite of fear because, "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love" (1 John 4:18).

The fact is, EVERYONE matters. The sooner we recognize that, the sooner we enter the path to healing.

This is How We Lose Our Humanity

Today, my heart is breaking, and that deserves to be addressed because there are others out there whose lives have been turned upside down in the wake of events this past week. 

Right now, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile's families are grieving their deaths. Deaths that seem so senseless and unnecessary. They are trying to figure out how to rework their lives into a new normal without these men. And now, we've added 5 more families who are dealing with the same grief, the same struggle to find a new normal without someone they love. 

America is hurting. She is angry, and she is wounded. 

Here is the problem, this is how we lose our humanity: we forget that people are individuals. In our fear and ignorance we assume that every time we look at someone they are nothing more than the group we associate them with. I am guilty of this. Everyone is guilty of this. 

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." - Psalm 139: 13-14

God created each person individually. He took time to knit each person together. Each individual is fearfully and wonderfully made. Frankly, you don't even have to believe in God to understand the idea that each person is an original. When we forget that, we begin to lose a little of what makes us human. When we stop recognizing people as individuals with their own thoughts and feelings, we let fear take over. Fear is dangerous. Fear allows us to justify truly heinous actions. Fear allows us to forget that and individual is human, because if we can associate that individual with a group we don't like, then we can treat them as a danger and a threat instead of as a person. 

Not all black people are thugs. 
Not all police officers are racist.
Not all Muslims are terrorists.
Not all Christians are bigots.

Each of those groups is comprised of individuals. And individuals are very different. Individuals are unique. An individual can think for himself or herself. In fact, the idea we have in our heads of each of those groups only really constitutes a small percentage of that group. 

We need to stop retaliating. That solves nothing. The sniper in Dallas didn't accomplish anything. He is nothing more than a coward, just like the police officer who shot a man for the simple crime of reaching for his ID. The truth is, I can agree that black lives matter AND I can support the police. I can agree that there needs to be repercussions for officers who act out of ignorance and fear, while also acknowledging that those individuals do not represent the entire group. 

When we think of people as individuals, then it becomes very difficult to fear or hate them. When we force ourselves to think about a person's feelings, their family, the hobbies they love, the things they believe, then we realize that they are human. Racism and stereotyping are just different ways to describe fear. Fear blinds us from seeing an individual and encourages us to ignore our humanity. 

Only love can heal America. Love is the salve that soothes the wounds we inflict upon ourselves. Love is the opposite of fear because, "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love" (1 John 4:18).

The fact is, EVERYONE matters. The sooner we recognize that, the sooner we enter the path to healing.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

My Summer Book List: Part 3

If you haven't already (and, of course, only if you are interested) check out My Summer Book List: Part 1 and My Summer Book List: Part 2 for the full list.

8. East of Eden by John Steinbeck


This one was a doozy. First of all, it's huge. Not that I'm complaining. I love my books big and fat. This book, though, there's so much in it. This is considered Steinbeck's greatest work and the one he was the most proud of. I enjoyed this book because I love character stories, and this story has a ton of great characters. It's not an easy read, but it fosters a ton of thought and conversation. Steinbeck weaves together the lives of so many people and he presents the idea that you are who you choose to be, in spite of your blood or circumstances. One of my favorite quotes from the book was, "In uncertainty I am certain that underneath their topmost layers of frailty men want to be good and want to be loved. Indeed, most of their vices are attempted short cuts to love. When a man comes to die, no matter what his talents and influence and genius, if he dies unloved his life must be a failure to him and his dying a cold horror. It seems to me that if you or I must choose between two courses of thought or action, we should remember our dying and try so to live that our death brings no pleasure to the world." In truth, everyone has a desire to be loved, and this novel explores that idea as well as what happens when a person is loved too much, too little, or just enough.


9. Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard
This is the second book in the Red Queen series by Aveyard. The first book is titled Red Queen. I've really enjoyed this series. In fact, I'm a little bummed that the final book doesn't come out until February of 2017. This story follows Mare Barrow, a girl with red blood. Which sounds obvious, but the setting of this series is in a future where humankind has evolved into two different types; those with red blood, and those with silver blood. The "Silvers," as they're called, have powers and rule over the Reds...not very kindly either. But Mare is different than most Reds, and things might be about to change. This story is kind of like a cross between The Hunger Games and a Marvel comic. Mare bears a striking resemblance to Katniss, both in her physical description and in her attitude. She is very independent and has a nasty habit of pushing the people she loves away. There's also a love triangle element that is similar to the whole Katniss-Peeta-Gale thing. Only, some of the characters can fly, create electricity and control lightning, control flame, tell the future, invade minds...you get the idea. It's young adult dystopian future/fantasy at it's finest. 


10. My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh
My first reaction upon finishing this book is simply, "Wow." A friend of mine and I read this at the same time, and I can't wait to talk to her about it. On the surface, the book seems to be a simple crime novel set in Baton Rouge, but it is so much more than that. I will give a disclaimer. This book is for adults. Not because there is any 50 Shades of Grey type content, but because the crime in question is a rape, and that in and of itself is enough to make it a mature read. This is a coming of age story centered around one terrible event that changed the way one boy viewed the world he lived in. It's about watching people grow up and change, and how sometimes they change for the better, but sometimes they don't. It's about the depths of depravity to which some men are capable. It's about the dangers of refusing to pay attention. It's about how, in order to care about someone, sometimes you need to listen to them and what they need instead of making it all about you. This was one of those books that had me sitting and digesting everything after I finished. Then, I immediately started writing this paragraph, because I didn't want to lose any of the effect - which is hard to describe unless you read it. This is a book that will leave you feeling sad about the world, but hopeful at the same time. 


11. The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The best word I can use to describe this book is "lonely." Everything about the story, even down to the way it is written, just oozes loneliness. The characters are not given names, which further perpetuates the theme of loneliness and loss of humanity and individuality. Even the third-person limited point of view keeps the reader isolated from the entire world the same way the two main characters are. That feeling of isolation makes this a difficult read. It wasn't my favorite, but it was worth the time it took to read it. It's heartbreaking and desolate, but somehow manages to leave you feeling hopeful by the end. 

12. The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey
I read The Fifth Wave and really enjoyed it, so of course I decided to continue with the series. The Infinite Sea picks up right where The Fifth Wave left off. This book actually presents most of the story from Ringer's perspective. If you read The Fifth Wave, then you know Ringer was only a supporting character in that novel. She takes a much more central role in this one. I like this series because it's a new take on the post-apocalyptic genre. There are no zombies or Independence Day or War of the Worlds type aliens. It kind of reminds me of the book The Host by Stephanie Meyer, only this series takes her idea and improves it. Right now, I'm in the middle of the final book in the series, The Last Star. This whole series keeps you reading to find out what happens next. 

That's all for now. I'm hoping to have at least one more list out (maybe 2) before the end of the summer. It just depends on how much reading I can get in before then. 
Have a wonderful week and, as always, please leave me a comment and let me know what you think of any of these books if you've read them, or if there is a book you think I would enjoy. I love recommendations. I've already added a few to my list.
Until next time.

My Summer Book List: Part 3

If you haven't already (and, of course, only if you are interested) check out My Summer Book List: Part 1 and My Summer Book List: Part 2 for the full list.

8. East of Eden by John Steinbeck


This one was a doozy. First of all, it's huge. Not that I'm complaining. I love my books big and fat. This book, though, there's so much in it. This is considered Steinbeck's greatest work and the one he was the most proud of. I enjoyed this book because I love character stories, and this story has a ton of great characters. It's not an easy read, but it fosters a ton of thought and conversation. Steinbeck weaves together the lives of so many people and he presents the idea that you are who you choose to be, in spite of your blood or circumstances. One of my favorite quotes from the book was, "In uncertainty I am certain that underneath their topmost layers of frailty men want to be good and want to be loved. Indeed, most of their vices are attempted short cuts to love. When a man comes to die, no matter what his talents and influence and genius, if he dies unloved his life must be a failure to him and his dying a cold horror. It seems to me that if you or I must choose between two courses of thought or action, we should remember our dying and try so to live that our death brings no pleasure to the world." In truth, everyone has a desire to be loved, and this novel explores that idea as well as what happens when a person is loved too much, too little, or just enough.


9. Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard
This is the second book in the Red Queen series by Aveyard. The first book is titled Red Queen. I've really enjoyed this series. In fact, I'm a little bummed that the final book doesn't come out until February of 2017. This story follows Mare Barrow, a girl with red blood. Which sounds obvious, but the setting of this series is in a future where humankind has evolved into two different types; those with red blood, and those with silver blood. The "Silvers," as they're called, have powers and rule over the Reds...not very kindly either. But Mare is different than most Reds, and things might be about to change. This story is kind of like a cross between The Hunger Games and a Marvel comic. Mare bears a striking resemblance to Katniss, both in her physical description and in her attitude. She is very independent and has a nasty habit of pushing the people she loves away. There's also a love triangle element that is similar to the whole Katniss-Peeta-Gale thing. Only, some of the characters can fly, create electricity and control lightning, control flame, tell the future, invade minds...you get the idea. It's young adult dystopian future/fantasy at it's finest. 


10. My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh
My first reaction upon finishing this book is simply, "Wow." A friend of mine and I read this at the same time, and I can't wait to talk to her about it. On the surface, the book seems to be a simple crime novel set in Baton Rouge, but it is so much more than that. I will give a disclaimer. This book is for adults. Not because there is any 50 Shades of Grey type content, but because the crime in question is a rape, and that in and of itself is enough to make it a mature read. This is a coming of age story centered around one terrible event that changed the way one boy viewed the world he lived in. It's about watching people grow up and change, and how sometimes they change for the better, but sometimes they don't. It's about the depths of depravity to which some men are capable. It's about the dangers of refusing to pay attention. It's about how, in order to care about someone, sometimes you need to listen to them and what they need instead of making it all about you. This was one of those books that had me sitting and digesting everything after I finished. Then, I immediately started writing this paragraph, because I didn't want to lose any of the effect - which is hard to describe unless you read it. This is a book that will leave you feeling sad about the world, but hopeful at the same time. 


11. The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The best word I can use to describe this book is "lonely." Everything about the story, even down to the way it is written, just oozes loneliness. The characters are not given names, which further perpetuates the theme of loneliness and loss of humanity and individuality. Even the third-person limited point of view keeps the reader isolated from the entire world the same way the two main characters are. That feeling of isolation makes this a difficult read. It wasn't my favorite, but it was worth the time it took to read it. It's heartbreaking and desolate, but somehow manages to leave you feeling hopeful by the end. 

12. The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey
I read The Fifth Wave and really enjoyed it, so of course I decided to continue with the series. The Infinite Sea picks up right where The Fifth Wave left off. This book actually presents most of the story from Ringer's perspective. If you read The Fifth Wave, then you know Ringer was only a supporting character in that novel. She takes a much more central role in this one. I like this series because it's a new take on the post-apocalyptic genre. There are no zombies or Independence Day or War of the Worlds type aliens. It kind of reminds me of the book The Host by Stephanie Meyer, only this series takes her idea and improves it. Right now, I'm in the middle of the final book in the series, The Last Star. This whole series keeps you reading to find out what happens next. 

That's all for now. I'm hoping to have at least one more list out (maybe 2) before the end of the summer. It just depends on how much reading I can get in before then. 
Have a wonderful week and, as always, please leave me a comment and let me know what you think of any of these books if you've read them, or if there is a book you think I would enjoy. I love recommendations. I've already added a few to my list.
Until next time.