Twenty years ago, I emerged from the IRT #2 subway line at Fulton Street to what could only be described as a perfect day, blue skies, not a cloud to be seen except it wasn’t a perfect day; it was a day of unbelievable horror. I remember standing on Fulton Street, staring at the towers only a few blocks away, smoldering. I remember running when the first tower collapsed and a dust cloud came roaring down Fulton Street. I remember standing on the FDR Drive only a short time later watching the second tower collapse and with tears in my eyes, turning to a colleague who also had tears in their eyes and muttering the words, my God, how many people do you think were in that building. Evil and hatred took so many from us that day, but for those of us who lived through the horror of that day, we also remember how we all came together for each other. Black or white, male or female, it didn’t matter; religious or sexual orientation was irrelevant. It was the best of humanity showing itself in the face of those who knew only hatred. It was as if we were saying; even if we didn’t realize it, hate could not define us. We are all in this together. We are all one people. Today on the 20th anniversary of that horrible day, let us remember how we bonded together, how for one moment we understood we are all human. Let us hope one day that moment can be every moment.
It’s March Madness, so I figured I would go to youtube and relive some of the great one shining moment videos from years past, and you know what stands out the most? It was watching young adults, black and white celebrating together or consoling each other, even opposing team players. At that movement of jubilation or sadness, they didn’t see or look for color. It didn’t matter because they were all in it together.
What a concept!
If only the world could act like that, I think to myself, what a wonderful world it would be. Oh yeah,
I am pleased to see that we have differences.
May we together become greater than the sum of both of us.
-Surak of Vulcan
I am the child of Charles and Frances Cooke two African-Americans born in the early 1900s in the southern part of the United States. As such I have always identified myself as African-American and from time to time was reminded of this by society. From being chased out of a park while being called a nigger when I was 10, having a police officer point a gun at my head when I was 15 simply because I made the mistake of tossing a football around the yard of a white friend who lived in the suburbs, to being pulled over numerous times in my early 20s despite not fitting the “profile” because as kind of a nerd I normally had on penny loafers with argyle socks and matching sweater but my skin color was still the wrong shade.
While my self identification is the result of being raised, loved, and natured by two exceptional individuals who themselves were also African-American I am also adopted, a fact that was kept hidden from me until my late 30s. I know nothing of my biological father other than the fact that he wasn’t African-American. Recently I completed one of those DNA test and found out I was in fact 54.6% Sub-Saharan African and 43.9% European. Interesting I thought as I looked at my results how many of those Europeans had looked at me and seen just the color of my skin and thought of me as inferior? How many of them don’t look like me but have a similar ancestry? Does it really matter what my ancestry is? Does it define how I should live my life?
Our ancestry defines our culture and to a large extend our culture is a leading factor in defining who we are. But while it is a leading factor it does not change the fact that we are all human. Humans with differences but humans nevertheless. It is our differences that If embraced instead of feared would in fact make us stronger as a species. The sun, Earth’s primary source of energy, emits white light but that white light is actually a composite of all of the visible frequencies of light. Without the differences all the colors bring there would be no light at all. So is the case with the human species? Where would we be without our many differences? How would we advance and grow without the varied contributions of so many cultures?
The question before us now is how do we begin to embrace our differences as a species when our entire existence shows we let those differences divide us. Seemingly there is no answer to that. Man has always fostered a sense of loyalty rooted in group identity. We pit race against race, religion against religion, prejudice against prejudice. Divide and conquer has always been mankind’s rallying call. I am pessimistic about our ability to overcome the us versus them mentality in the short term. However I am optimistic that the human is a very promising species and as Captain Jean Luc Picard once said “inside you is the potential to make yourself better…and that is what it is to be human. To make yourself more than you are.” Today our difference divide us perhaps tomorrow we will be better and our differences will be our strength.
Some of us are Republicans, some Democrats, and some independents. Some of us are people of color; some of us are not. Some of us are heterosexual, some homosexual, some bisexual. Some of us Christian, some Muslim, some Jewish, some atheists, and a host of other beliefs; in the end, we are all American, and most importantly, we are all humans.
There is often a fear of the unknown in some of us, an irrational fear that leads to isolation. Isolation leads to a lack of knowledge and understanding about those that are different from us. If history has taught us anything, a lack of knowledge often leads to disastrous results. It also can lead to the continuous growth of the prejudices we all have within us. Those prejudices are stripped away as we begin to understand those who differ from us. However, for those who remain isolated, those prejudices remain and can be easily stoked by people in power who do so for the goal of advancing their wealth and power. These individuals thrive on chaos and division. They speak non-truths and keep the people divided against each other rather than uniting for humanity’s betterment as a whole. They want us to be afraid of each other; they want us to hate each other, want us to lose our compassion for each other, and build walls to separate us. This strategy allows them to take advantage of us all. As Suzy Kassem wrote:
When two brothers are busy fighting, an evil man can easily attack and rob their poor mother.
We must strive as Americans and humans to rise above the evil that seeks to divide us. We must stand together and keep moving forward as a society. We must marginalize those who refuse to embrace diversity. For in unifying one voice into many voices, we will be able to change the despair of today into the promise of tomorrow, and from that, we all will be better.
As Yoda would say: Do not think. Do.
As children, we do not look at each other and think.
How are they different than me?
Do they believe in the same god I believe in?
Where were they born?
What is their sexual orientation?
As children, we do. We see other children and look to interact with them. We do not think about the unknowns of the child across from us. We reject the fear that they may be different than us because we do not believe there is an unknown. We allow our minds to be free, to embrace the unknown and new possibilities. In these possibilities is the growth potential that is essential for the existence of humanity. As we grow, we learn to question the culture, religion, and religion of others. Subsequently, we cease to grow; we stagnant and wither away, unable to or afraid to dream of a better future for humanity.
Yoda had it right. Do not think. Do
The Bible tells us that humans have free will, a mind, and will of their own and, as such, are morally responsible for our behavior. As we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, one must wonder if the Lord gazes upon us with sadness. Sadness that so many of us have availed ourselves of the gift of free will not to follow the lessons that the Lord and his sons taught us, not to benefit humanity in general, but to indulge in selfish behavior. Even sadder is that so many use his name as the cornerstone of their actions.
In 2020 the well-being and health of Americans were sacrificed for personal and political gain. Racism and bigotry thrived and were used by our leaders to divide and conquer. The pursuit of happiness for many was impeded by existing economic and social injustice roadblocks and exacerbated by Covid. The use of masks turned into a political football by leaders and those who follow them—seeing their self-centered refusal to wear a mask as a badge of honor but a sign of disregard for the lives of their fellow man.
The result? Hundred of thousands of Americans waking up on Christmas morning to an empty chair with a heavy heart. The chair that was once occupied by a loved one regrettably lost their life to a virus that killed far more Americans than it should.
As American leaders celebrate this Christmas with their families and golf, isolated from the harsh realities of the real world, millions of Americans wait on growing food lines and face the possibility of homelessness. Simultaneously large corporations receive billions in bailouts, and millionaires continue to see their portfolio grow.
The Bible is clear we are given freedom. But we are not to use that freedom in the pursuit of our selfish desires.
Galatians 5:13: You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.
It is not so far fetched to say that the evil man is growing in power and gaining followers each day as they are preying on the intrinsic human behavior for power, greed. Bringing out man’s true nature.
Luke 6:45: A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
It is up to those of us with true and pure faith to resist the evil around us by leaning on our faith in the Lord, and hopefully, we will one day defeat the evil from among us.
Alien #1: Are you prepared today with your recommendation on the humans?
Alien #2: I am.
Alien #1: Then this evaluation hearing shall come to order. Please proceed.
Alien #2: Thank you. As you know, I have always been an advocate of humans as a species because of their cognitive ability. When tasked with evaluating them, it was my hope that I would find them to be worthy of admission into the Collective of Advanced Planets; however, as I studied them, I was dismayed that they have not even identified themselves as one species.
Alien #1: What do you mean?
Alien #2: When faced with their differences, they do not draw strength from each other, learn from each other, grow. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Rather they choose to make it us versus them. They are drawing lines of race, ethnicity, gender, language group, religion, age, socio-economic status, and so on. That, combined with their thirst for power and money, has led them, at best, to turn their back on and subjugate the weak or, at worst, kill each other. Undoubtedly this has stunted their development as a species.
Alien #1: Yet they still do not change. Why?
Alien #2: Well, I have theorized that the human mind, despite all its unique and special characteristics, is lazy.
Alien #1: Lazy?
Alien #2: Yes, lazy. The human mind prefers to be comfortable. It is more comfortable accepting that which is familiar than that which is different. Even when they come to the realization that their actions are morally wrong and counterproductive, they choose the comfort of turning a blind eye rather than the discomfort of confronting it. Their nature is to live in the moment at the expense of their future good. One can see that in how they treat their own planet. Coupled that with their creation of and need for a socio-economic system in which each group strives to climb over the other. I can only surmise that over the course of their history, there has been a loss of a great many minds that, if not extinguished, would have flourished and led to the growth of their species. Regrettably, it is this lack of self-awareness that humans, despite many tremendous qualities, have proven they are not ready to join us.
Alien #1: Thank you; we will enter your recommendation into the record, and the human’s admission to the Collective of Advanced Planets has been denied.
Alien #1: Looking at the humans again?
Alien #2: Of course, they have always puzzled me.They are
simultaneously remarkable yet an unadvanced civilization.
Alien #1: I concur they are blessed with such vivid
imaginations and curiosity and they have come so far in such a short period of
Alien #2: Indeed one can only imagine what they would be capable of if they
only realized the obvious.
Alien #1: That they are one people?
Alien #2: Of course
Alien #1: What is remarkable is that their history has shown time and time
again the error of their ways yet they refuse to work together for the
betterment of their world.
Alien #2: True, they choose to kill and oppress each other from what what I
can best guess are imaginary lines they themselves have drawn in the ground,
religious belief systems they themselves have invented, the amount of melonin
in their skinand a host of other nonsensical things.
Alien #1: Do not try and make sense of it as it it has always been their
way. Frankly I am amazed they have advanced this far. It is unfornutate and
there is no denying that in time it will be their downfall.
Alien #2: Such a waste but on the bright side this beautiful ball they
reside on is rather unique and breath taking and their actions will undoubtly
leave it vacant and move in ready.