Hate Only Breeds More Hate
For the past few weeks, my dog—a 10-year-old Great Dane—has been driving me absolutely crazy. He has been crying through the night multiple times for no apparent reason. We let him outside and he still comes back into the house and has an “accident”. I am a very light sleeper and often have trouble getting back to sleep after being awoken, so I have been tired and cranky and in no mood for these so-called accidents. For some time, we have had a love-hate relationship. I mean, we walk him twice a day. He is let out into the backyard anytime of day (or night) that he wants to go. I have had no patience for this and have been progressively getting more and more frustrated and angry at this dog. The last thing I have wanted to do is walk and give him attention.
Then last night, my husband and I were talking and trying to figure out what in the world might be causing this. Finally, my husband makes the connection that I have been gone more recently because (thankfully) my practice is getting busier and I am in the office more during the day. Our dog has been missing me. Instead of anger, he needs reassurance. Instead of distance, he needs my attention. In fact, my reaction to his behaviors has probably made them infinitely worse.
This makes me think of the current world-wide state of crisis we find ourselves in regarding ISIS. Now, I’m not proposing that we coddle terrorists or provide them nurturing after they have blown up innocent people. Acts of terror are very different from my dog’s poop waiting for me in the kitchen. We must protect ourselves, surely.
But take a step back and look at the dynamics that have created the void for fanaticism to take root in the Middle East (or right in our own backyard as seems to be the case in the recent San Bernardino, CA shootings). If you look at the history of the Middle East, you will see a series of wars that seem never-ending. The only time these countries seem to be noticed is when they have something the Powers-That-Be might need—a certain geographic advantage against other nations, oil, etc… Then the powers come in and simply take what they need and leave nothing for the people of the land. Let me be clear, I am not justifying terrorism, but I can understand the hate and bitterness that creates a void ripe for groups like ISIS to fill. Just like I can understand that my dog has very few ways to get my attention. Pooping outside my door is his way of waving his arms and yelling that he needs me. I don’t like it, but I get it.
Ultimately, I believe if we want to overcome ISIS and prevent these acts of terror from happening, what we need is an increase in understanding and an effort to connect–not disconnect, ban, and punish. I mean, I get it. It is easy to move from hating the behavior to hating the people. But we need to focus on the youth and the families. We need to find connection and break bread with them and ask them about themselves. We need to let them know that they are worthy regardless of religion or class or education level. This is what every human being (and dog) needs at our core.
Yes, our government needs to focus on keeping us safe from the men and women who have already turned to fanaticism. But in the meantime, how can we as a people reach out and connect with those who have yet to turn? Maybe it happens when we stand up against bullying and name-calling of the Muslims right here in our own neighborhoods. Maybe we take our children to visit a mosque and learn more about the culture and religion of the Middle East. Maybe we organize support for refugees through our churches. At this point, I’m not sure how, but I do know that I need to contribute. Just like with my dog, being angry and disconnecting is only leading to more problems–more hate. Maybe if we focus on what connects us rather than what makes us different, we can start to move the momentum away from terror and toward human decency.