The Devaluation of Human Life

For generations we’ve been able to fight for the recognition of the rights of more and more people by appealing to the way rejected were being victimized and brutalized. Gandhi counted on the British people becoming revolted when they saw Indians brutalized over and over again for peacefully protesting. Martin Luther King Jr counted on the hearts of the American people being softened when they saw non-violent protests being met with batons, rubber hoses, dogs, and tear gas. But something has changed today. Today, many Americans no longer seem to be able to feel empathy with anyone other than those like themselves.

The outcast now, instead of seeking someplace to be accepted, reaches for a handgun and, without regard to the lives of those they kill, snuff out life after life in an effort to be heard. People whose only crime was being born poor, or being born not white, or making some bad choices, are no longer met with the kind of resoluteness of FDR and LBJ that a solution must be found so that we can all share in the American Dream. Rather, we instead find ways to blame them for their predicament.

People are no longer seen as valuable but, once again, they’ve become expendable. We know that there are people making our clothes and electronics for next to nothing and while being guarded by armed guards and we don’t flinch. We see black person after black person being killed by the police while having done nothing wrong and our first reaction is to look for something they did that was wrong and blame them for their own murder.

Sympathy and empathy seem in very short supply today in America. We feel no qualms about subjecting the poor to humiliating restrictions when they receive financial aid because we now have decided that it is forced charity instead of seeing each person as deserving of adequate wages and looking to fix the system.

I read a story today about a woman who was merely seeking an accommodation from the TSA because she has two metal rods that have been fused to her spine. Instead, she was belittled and ridiculed by the TSA officers. I read another story where some first graders tried to poison and kill one of their classmates out of sheer spite.

Where has our humanity gone? It’s left politics. While I suspect the unprecedented obstruction to President Obama is at least partially racially motivated, in all honesty, I am flummoxed to even begin to grasp what would be bad enough about one man that you would stop the entire country from moving forward for nearly a decade.

I know a lot of us are excited about the growth of those who have admitted they are atheists and that we’re chomping at the bit to find a place of secular community where we belong. But what does any of it matter if we merely end up living together in nihilistic despair?

Many others are upset by what they see as the collapse of religion and with it, they claim, our morals. But tell me, what will saving your religion be worth if, in the process, you lose what made you human?

Our society, the whole thing, has become a seething pit of hatred, viciousness, and revilement. Before we spend any more time learning new reasons to hate one another, how about reaching across the political divide, across the religious/non-religious divide, across the class divide, and start seeing each other as people again who all deserve to live and to have abundance?

After all, do we really have that much more left to lose?

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