It has become altogether too normal; shots are fired by a cowardly assassin only for the usual suspects to run to their corners of dogma and leverage shattered lives for persona motives. Human suffering transmuted into talking points and bloodshed leveraged as political cudgels; the victims of unspeakable carnage are twice shot—once by the gunman next by partisan gunners. Times that call for somber reflections are hijacked by demagogues on all sides who see nothing wrong with using tragic incidents to further their ambitions.
Henry David Thoreau once said that there are a thousand hacking at branches of evil to one who is striking at the root. We are a nation that is being led by a coterie of branch hackers who profit each time the toll of injustice rings. Since the rampage that took place this weekend in El Paso and Dayton, an endless procession of opportunists have sprung to the forefront to decry the senseless acts of terror that have been inflicted upon both cities. Instead of seeking solutions and offering healing words, they make it their purpose to rip apart communities in order to prosper through dissension.
National calamities and extensive loss of lives were once occasions that galvanized the public and brought our nation together. Those days are long gone; now every iniquity is latched on to and turned into political football by a society addicted on vindictiveness and insistent on monopolizing pains. Each act of violence and a hint of transgression is immediately broadcast through the prism of identity politics; before we find out the names of victims, we are told their complexion, their ethnicity or their affiliations.
In this paradigm of hyper tribalism, compassion is nullified and replaced with pervasive grievance. There is profit to be made by politicians, pundits and media personalities who enrich themselves by slicing and dicing humanity and ghettoizing us behind America’s caste system of race and identity politics. For the rest of us, there is only compounded anguish. Instead of coming together as a people to address pressing issues of inequality and income disparities that give rise to most social ills, we end up bickering and bashing each other. Breaking news has become an occasion to break each other.
Fifty one years ago, Robert F. Kennedy gave a speech at the Cleveland City Club where he talked about the mindless menace of violence in America. In a most moving speech, he talked about how bloodshed and the senseless acts of terror are not the concern of black or white people but a human imperative. When empathy is rooted in identity and when the quest for justice is based on color, gender, orientation or ideology, we perpetuate the very diseases of indifference and animosity that give rise to inequity.
It might feel good to bleed our spleens on social media and to point fingers at each other, but these temper tantrums and acts of petulance do nothing to address the root causes of discrimination and prejudice. What is ailing America—the erosion of opportunity and the despair that is palpable in towns and cities throughout the United States—cannot be fixed by political posturing nor through partisan infighting. We cannot tamp down hostilities by turning up the volume of antagonism.
The only way to lessen hatred is not through malice but through kindness. We are meant to live in communities, the reason why violence and horrific acts of terror keep increasing is because we are being separated from each other. Until we stop seeing our neighbors and our fellow brothers and sisters—irrespective of our differences—as objects of conquests and instead realize that we are all in this together, cruelty and unthinkable massacres will only continue to escalate. The only way to stop the mindless cycle of violence is to realize that we all bleed the same and the only way to alleviate suffering is through inclusive justice. Click To Tweet
Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.
Latest posts by Lij Teodrose Fikremariam (see all)
- Ethiopia’s Choice: Poverty through Grievance or Prosperity through Unity - September 9, 2019
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- A Matter of Life or Death: We Cannot Afford to Ignore Mental Illnesses Any Longer - August 17, 2019