If you #standwithisrael, this letter is for you.
If you #supportgaza, this letter is for you, too.
This letter is for the parents, siblings, friends, and loved ones of the thousands of men, women, children, toddlers & babies who have been killed.
This letter is for all those humans who see their counterparts on the other side of the wall as “evil,” “animals,” and “the enemy.”
This letter is for my relatives and in-laws who mutter about “eliminating Gaza,” and for the Imams and Ayatollahs who encourage & celebrate “killing the Jews.”
But most of all, this letter is for all those humans, around the world, who think that they are “helping” by taking one side, vilifying the other, and fighting with each other on social media.
Stop for a moment.
Take a deep breath.
Step back from the whirlwind of thoughts and emotions, so that you can clearly see what’s going on.
People are dying.
Innocent children and families are being torn apart in ways that are too horrific to imagine.
Words cannot describe it.
Images and videos provide a tiny glimpse, but they can never convey the horror of what these men, women, and children are actually experiencing right now.
This needs to stop.
Our #1 priority must be to put an end to this violence, death and destruction, as soon as possible.
This fact seems so obvious that it feels almost unnecessary to assert.
Obviously this needs to stop.
Unfortunately, most humans around the world are acting in a way that perpetuates the violence that they wish to prevent.
Our instinctual reactions are making it worse.
We humans tend to become angry, hateful, and vengeful when we witness the suffering of innocent people. Our hearts fill with rage. We jump into the fray, and become part of the violence ourselves.
Our instinctual reactions toward anger, hatred, and vengeance may have evolved to help us fight off intruders harming our families and tribes, and it may have been helpful in those circumstances.
But in a complex situation like The Middle East — involving decades of history and millions of people — taking one side and vilifying the other only serves to exacerbate the problem.
Let us not become so consumed by hatred that we perpetuate the cycle of violence and lose sight of peace as our actual goal.
We all feel the pain.
Grief spreads throughout the world like ripples in a pond, radiating outward from those who are hurt, killed, abducted, and from their horrified, heartbroken families, friends, and loved ones.
For every person killed, a raging storm of grief sweeps out, through family, friends and loved ones.
The pain spreads into their communities, their towns, their countries, and the rest of the world.
This pain is natural. It gives us the ability to feel empathy and compassion for our fellow human beings.
But don’t turn pain into anger, hatred and rage.
Sorrow and grief are gut-wrenching emotions. We don’t want to feel these things.
It’s a natural human instinct to protect ourselves from pain. So we repress the grief, and harden our hearts, by turning our attention toward anger, hatred, and rage.
These are “powerful” emotions that make us feel strong, righteous, and in control.
But these instinctual reactions perpetuate the problem, as anger, hatred, and rage inevitably spill out as violence, terrorism, and war.
Violence begets violence, as vengeance breeds revenge.
It is impossible to take revenge on a rocket, a bullet or a bomb.
Grieving parents, siblings and friends don’t know the name of the soldier who fired that bullet, that rocket, that took the lives of their loved ones in the chaos of war.
And so, with no specific target for their rage, their hatred is directed broadly, toward everyone on “the other side.”
Vengeance is taken randomly, on innocent men, women, children, and families… creating yet another wave of grief, heartbreak, hatred, rage, vengeance and senseless violence.
And so the cycle continues, forever.
Social media warriors expand the conflict.
When we see the violence on TV or social media, there is a fleeting moment where we feel the pain, heartache, horror and grief.
But we don’t like to feel those things. They make us feel sick. They make us feel weak. They make us feel like breaking down in tears and falling apart emotionally.
So, like the combatants in the war zone, we harden our hearts. We grit our teeth, narrow our eyes, and clench our fists in anger and rage. We feel hatred toward the ones who carried out these horrific acts of violence. We rain fire down upon them… in our minds, our hearts, our facebook pages, and to anyone who will listen.
But we don’t know exactly who fired that rocket, that bullet, that bomb. So our hatred is directed broadly, toward an entire group of people.
We stop thinking of them as humans. We don’t think about the millions of individual men, women and children. We don’t think about the mothers whose babies have been killed. We deny the existence of those on the other side of the wall whose greatest wish is simply to live in love and peace.
Instead, we think in black and white. Millions of people become a monolith. “They are evil.”
Don’t fan the flames of war by taking one side and vilifying the other.
Millions of years of evolution have made us tribal by nature.
It is natural to think that we are “helping” by taking sides, by supporting “the good guys” and raining hellfire upon the “bad guys.”
But by taking one side and vilifying the other, in your mind, in your heart, or on social media, you are not only making yourself an extension of the conflict… you are actively encouraging the people on the ground — the ones who are suffering from the violence in the war zone — to shift from grief and heartbreak to anger, hatred, and rage. You are encouraging heartbroken families to shift from wanting life, love, and peace, to seeking death, destruction, and war.
You are literally creating new combatants, and encouraging more people to get involved in the violence.
By vilifying one “side,” all you’re accomplishing is perpetuating war.
Taking sides is the very thing that perpetuates the cycle of anger, hatred, violence, terror, war, suffering and death.
No matter how justified you feel in “your position,” if you broadly vilify one side, take a moment to see that you are encouraging violence against that side, and thereby perpetuating a horrific cycle of death and destruction that can only intensify with no end in sight.
The only way to stop the cycle is to choose peace over revenge.
Choose life over death. Love over hate. Humanity over tribalism.
We cannot solve this cycle of violence with more violence.
The only way to end this war is through peace and understanding.
It’s easy to harden the heart. It takes strength to keep it open.
FEEL THE HEARTBREAK BENEATH THE HATRED.
ALLOW YOURSELF TO FUCKING CRY 😭
It is easy to harden the heart in the face of terror and grief.
The heart of the soldier is hardened, so she grabs her gun and goes to war.
The heart of the terrorist is hardened, so he kidnaps, rapes, murders, and destroys.
The cycle of violence is perpetuated by hardened hearts.
Let us keep our hearts soft, and feel the hurt beneath the hatred.
Let us keep our hearts open.
We who want peace are the silent majority.
WE ARE THE SILENT MAJORITY.
THOSE OF US WHO WANT PEACE,
LET US NOT BE SILENT.
LET US STAND UP FOR PEACE
AND AGAINST VIOLENCE IN ALL ITS FORMS.
LET US SPEAK OUT AGAINST
THE TAKING OF SIDES
THE US VS THEM
THE VILIFICATION OF OTHER
THAT PERPETUATES THE CYCLE OF HATRED AND VIOLENCE
WHILE STILL HOLDING THOSE ON ALL “SIDES,”
OUR HUMAN FAMILY,
IN OUR HEARTS,
WITH LOVE AND COMPASSION.
What about self defense?
There are moments that may necessitate violent action in the service of self defense.
In “The Social Organization of Nonviolence“ Dr. MLK Jr wrote about three approaches to violence and nonviolence:
“One is the approach of pure nonviolence, which cannot readily or easily attract large masses, for it requires extraordinary discipline and courage.
The second is violence exercised in self-defense, which all societies, from the most primitive to the most cultured and civilized, accept as moral and legal. The principle of self-defense, even involving weapons and bloodshed, has never been condemned, even by Gandhi, who sanctioned it for those unable to master pure nonviolence.
The third is the advocacy of violence as a tool of advancement, organized as in warfare, deliberately and consciously.”
To summarize, the three approaches are:
- Complete nonviolence, even when under immediate attack.
- Only using violence for self-defense.
- Using violence for “advancement,” to make changes.
We who want peace may strive for approach #1, but in the face of organizations like Hamas who are hell-bent on “extermination,” this approach could actually pave the way for genocide.
Clearly, approach #3 is not good, and only leads to more violence and suffering for everyone involved.
Therefore it may be best to strive instead for approach #2: reserving the use of violence for self-defense.
But what qualifies as self defense? Take our current circumstance for example. Hamas has been continuously murdering civilians for decades. Hundreds of men, women and children are being held hostage, under constant abuse and threat of death. Is a major military operation to eliminate Hamas and rescue the hostages — likely resulting in the deaths of hundreds (or thousands) of Palestinian civilians, continuing the cycle of grief and rage, and sowing the seeds for a whole new generation of terrorists — warranted, as self-defense? 🤷♂️
This is a complex moral question. Those who believe that the answer is black-and-white are likely to be choosing one “side” and vilifying the other, as either choice will result in the continued death, destruction, and suffering of innocents.
In these difficult situations, people must make impossible choices. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, and these are not my choices to make.
But whatever choices we make — whether it is to strive for non-violence, or to take violent action in self-defense — we must keep love and peace (rather than hatred and vengeance) in our minds as our ultimate goal.
Peace in the midst of war.
Actions motivated by love and peace cause less suffering — and sow fewer seeds for future violence — than actions guided by hatred and vengeance.
A soldier who goes to war with the intention of ending violence and rescuing hostages will take different actions, on a moment-to-moment basis, than a soldier who storms in with rage and retribution in her heart.
This can make the difference between the trigger-happy soldier who kills innocent civilians, and the soldier who risks her life to protect a Palestinian child who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Civilians on the ground can clearly feel the difference between the two, and these moment-to-moment actions can change their attitudes toward their “enemies” as well.
By holding love in our hearts and peace as our goal, by eschewing our instinctual inclinations toward hatred and vengeance, we contribute to peace.
Whether we are at peace or at war… whether we are “on the ground” in the war zone or on social media around the world… we must do our best to end the cycle of violence.
Peace begins within each of us.
Let us be the change we wish to see.
May all beings be happy and free ❤️
QUOTES FOR CONTEMPLATION:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”— Martin Luther King, Jr
“Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding. You cannot subjugate a nation forcibly unless you wipe out every man, woman, and child. Unless you wish to use such drastic measures, you must find a way of settling your disputes without resort to arms.”— Albert Einstein
“With guns you can kill terrorists, with education you can kill terrorism.”— Malala Yousafzai
“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.”— Jesus
“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”— Mahatma Gandhi
“Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”— Master Yoda
“All that actually happens, decade after decade, is a never-ending cycle of violence and vengeance. Stoking the fires of hatred isn’t working. Perhaps it is time to consider something else.”— Elon Musk (10/8/23, on the Israel/Gaza conflict)
#israelilivesmatter #palestinianlivesmatter #terrorbreedswar #warbreedsterror #mayallbeingsbehappyandfree #peaceinthemiddleeast #lovenothate #hatebreedshate #hatredkills #stopthecycle ☮️