#BEDM Day 22: Something That Makes Me Angry
Rant about something. Get up on your soapbox and tell us how you really feel.
Lots of things make me angry. This morning I didn’t really know what I was going to write about. After this afternoon, I do. This afternoon in Woolwich, something frightful and hideous happened, something that reminds me that however hopeful I am for the future, however great I think our species has become, however worthy I believe we have shown ourselves to be of the glorious possibilities that face us… that we are all of us, to a lesser or greater degree, just animals, in the end.
But that isn’t what makes me angry. Sad, despondent even, but not angry. Overcoming events like those of today is how we will prove we are worthy of that promise we occasionally show. Woolwich knocks my belief in that worth but doesn’t topple it. What shakes me to my core is that for a great many of us, fear and anger and hate and suffering will (temporarily I can only hope) drown that worth. Tear that hope. Burn those possibilities. And I don’t even mean the frothing zealots that will try and use this queasy spectacle to further their own sickening, zenophobic ends.
I mean normal people. Everyday people. Mums and dads, brothers and sisters. People who are your friends on Facebook. There will be messages of sorrow and solidarity and that is right, but there will also be calls for new laws and there will be calls to bring back old laws, laws that end lives with rope. There will be status updates demanding violent retribution and there will be shares imploring you to “like if you think the death penalty should be brought back”. They make my stomach churn. They make me seethe. They’re already starting. Some statuses and comments are already calling for torture, death, and blood. Horror has already turned to burning, bare-clawed hate.
I understand that emotion. Vengeance is ours, it’s human. I’m a Humanist, I know our faults. But because I’m a Humanist, I have to believe we are capable of being better. Of rising above the squealing, knee-jerk reactions our chimp brains saddle us with. Of eventually getting to a place in which things like the Woolwich killing are not just unspeakable but impossible. This is the only thing I do believe in, the only thing I’m capable of believing in, and my belief will never become reality if we feed and sustain the bloodlust. Refusal of the death penalty under any circumstances is one of the bedrocks of my belief. We have to be capable of… Not wanting to wrong those who wrong us. Not wanting to kill those who kill us. (Not acceptance. Not turning the other cheek… but an understanding that killing someone, kills something in us.)
The baying and snarling that’s already starting to show itself is what makes me angry. The ignorant, animalistic, pitchforks-and-torches stupidity of the outraged makes me want to shake them until they come to their senses, slap some sense into them. I have to restrain myself from snarling back that if they can’t act like humans they can go off back to the jungle where they belong, throwing their own shit around and tearing each others eyes out. Because an eye for an eye is an absurdity. Do you know what happens when everyone takes an eye for an eye? Have you followed that train of thought to its logical conclusion? Eventually, everyone is blind. Vengeance never stops. It never stops. It can only be restrained, and only with a tremendous force of will.
I don’t believe in much, but I do believe in us. So I ask anyone reading this, as you read the flood of outrage that will flow over you in the coming days and weeks: don’t “like” vengeance. Don’t “share” vengeance. Don’t “retweet” vengeance. We will find the heaviest book, with the sharpest corners, and we will throw that book squarely at any howling, rabid vermin like that which spat in our face today. But it has to end there. We have to be able to be better than that.
Or we’re no better than them.