There is darkness all around us. This week, of all weeks, that is clear.
Young black men shot by police thousands of mile apart - and then five police officers killed in an ambush by an angry assailant seemingly intent on vengance. Police officers, in this case, who were doing their jobs of protecting a peaceful protest against those earlier shootings.
Just a week earlier a bomb exploded at an airport in Istanbul, Turkey killing over 40 people and injuring hundreds more... a terrorist attack at a bakery claimed over 20 lives in Dhaka, Bangladesh... a weekend bombing in a market in Baghdad, Iraq, left close to 300 dead... and bombs rocked three cities in Saudi Arabia, including near a mosque in the holy city of Medina.
Meanwhile tempers flare against immigrants in the UK after the Brexit vote... a U.S. Presidential candidate stokes the fires of fear and hatred... as do similar leaders in European countries... and bombs continue to fall in Syria's civil war...
The list could go on and on...
The divide between "us" and "them" grows stronger... where "them" is really "anyone not like us".
So much anger. So much hatred. So many killings.
There is darkness all around us.
As I struggled to concentrate on my work today, I found a browser window open to a piece written 10 days ago by Umair Haque: The Age of Light. He writes in part:
Dark ages are human creations, remember? The darkness isn’t somewhere “out there”. It’s in us. That is how we choose them, make them, create them.
The true hallmark of a Dark Age is this. We call the darkness the light, and celebrate it, revel in it, seek salvation in it. Darkness isn’t a meteor hitting the earth. It’s a mentality. The impoverishment of the mind, brought on by rage, envy, fear.
No Dark Age thinks it is one. Every Dark Age calls itself an Age of Light. Isn’t that exactly what’s happening across the globe today? As the middle collapses, as people grow poorer, they are regressing. They are literally choosing to go backwards. But that very choice is celebrated on the streets, applauded in the towns, and shouted from the rooftops as great, noble, and wise.
That is all a Dark Age really is.
Institutions crumble, leaders fail, and there is a turn to tribalism, feudalism, conflict, and dynasty.
He goes on... his full article is worth a read.
There is darkness all around us.
In the face of all of this, how, then, do we push back against the darkness?
I don't really know.
Sitting at my desk trying to get work done online today while every site brought more news of the madness...
... I just don't know.
I am reminded again of the powerful words of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.:
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
In a world where so much darkness threatens I think our only solution is for each one of us to be a light.
To ask ourselves each moment: can we be kinder? can we be better? can we help others in some way?
Umair is right - the darkness is within us. We cannot change others - we can only change ourselves and the choices we make.
And while that sounds hopelessly naive and cliche, I see no other way forward.
Or, at least, no other positive way forward.
We seem to have lost some kind of understanding of our common humanity.
Of the fact that all of us have the same basic needs and desires: food, drink, a safe place to live... friends, family... to laugh, to share... to be loved.
Black, white, yellow, pink, red, brown... liberal, conservative or anywhere in between... male, female or something else... we are all breathing the same air and living on the same planet, no matter what language we speak or how we dress or how we look.
We need to rebuild that faith in each other. That trust in each other.
We won't always agree - in fact we may violently disagree - but we need to recognize that even in that worst disagreement we are still... fundamentally... human.
With parents and sons and daughters and wives and husbands and brothers and sisters and friends and partners and...
Each with our own dreams and desires for the future...
We must believe in that. And we must bring that belief within us.
And we must act in that capacity. Deeds, not words, as they say.
And through our actions maybe, just maybe, we can be a beacon of hope for others.
It will not be easy. We will fail. Repeatedly. But this week reminds us that we must keep trying.
We must be the light.
Or else darkness wins.
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