The first thing I heard this morning was “at least forty-nine people are dead in a two mosque shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand” (NPR). The second thing I heard this morning was that perpetual “why” that has lingered in my head ever since visiting the National Holocaust Museum last year.
Here I am, looking forward to spring break, and 50 people are dead from a horrible act of despicable evil. Again, why? Why is it them and not me? Why does anyone have to die this way?
But I know thinking this way is unproductive. Instead, as we mourn the death of our brothers and sisters, we should not focus on the hate and despair caused by this heinous act, but on loving one another. I don’t care how ideologically different you are from your neighbor; you are still called to love them. Not tomorrow, not next year, but today. Because you cannot guarantee that your neighbor or yourself will still be here tomorrow.
Life is fragile and sacred. Disagree with me all you want, but too many people have died today for philosophical debates. So give that homeless person a meal; pay for the man behind you in line at Starbucks. You never know if this is the last meal they’ll eat, the last drink they’ll have.
Give others your love not because they deserve it, or because it’s fair, but because you love them. This is how we counteract hate in the world. Which leads me to the third thing I thought when I got up this morning: who did this and why?
It doesn’t really matter who did this except that he acted out of evil. It is not my place to forgive this man; I am not the victim here. But what I can do is not extrapolate. The BBC described the shooter as “extremist right-wing” Australian. Just as knowing this does not mean I suddenly think all Australians are evil, I do not think right-wing people are evil.
As we focus on loving each other in light of this catastrophe, I call you to love people who do not have the same ideological opinion as you. Pew Research shows that politics divides people in this country more than any other division (e.g. race, religion, ethnicity, etc).
Yes, someone from the political right may have done this, but that does not mean all right-wing conservatives are inherently evil. Let the shooter be responsible for his own actions, not his group.
Rather, I implore you to reach out to someone who is of a different political opinion than you and talk to them. Learn about their interests, their hobbies, their life. Then learn about their beliefs, their assumptions, and let that person know yours. In other words, make an effort to develop a relationship with someone ideologically different from you. Involve yourself in depolarizing organizations like Better Angels (better-angels.org) in order to listen to and learn from people you fundamentally disagree with. Because “they” are people too, and they, like you, deserve a voice.
Extremists are made from isolation; at least, that is what the data shows. We liberals talk about being the inclusive party, representing and including many minority groups. But in our journey to achieve inclusion, we have excluded the people who disagree with us, and we never bothered to learn why.
I am not saying to become a conservative, and I am not saying that your current beliefs are wrong. Quite the contrary; we are inclusive people, and we should live up to that title by loving each other, even when the “other” seems so distant from ourselves.