Content of Character

When Martin Luther King said, “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character” (in his I have a dream speech), he was, of course, referring specifically to racial disparities. Unfortunately, racial disparities haven’t disappeared, and perhaps even more unfortunately, our culture has added a variety of other disparities by which we judge people. Like skin color, they are all superficial in nature and say nothing about the content of their character.

The first thing that occurs to me is the bias many hold against those whose sexual orientation is “other”: Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Transgender (LGBT). Given the current preoccupation with Muslim immigrants, religious affiliation also belongs on that list, as does the desire some have to build a wall separating the States from Mexico. We can add country of origin to the list as well. When we consider most cultures, gender is also a source for unequal treatment. Many cultures, not just the US, treat women as “second-class citizens.”

If such disparities were easy to eliminate, cultures would have eliminated them a long time ago. In fairness to our ancestors and our cultural evolution, we have made progress. Even as recently as the Medieval period, most people lived and died at the whim of royalty. At one time, most of the world’s cultures, had slavery. In the grand scheme of things, it hasn’t been that long ago that husbands were allowed to beat their wives, sometimes to death. As the person responsible for most of Debra’s and my NLP training, Richard Bandler has said, “The best thing about the past is that it’s over. The best thing about the future is that it’s yet to come. The best thing about the present is that it’s here now.” The trick, of course, is to take action in the present that will lead to a better future.

History suggests that violence begets violence. The idea of “getting even” has been around a long time, and we have evidence to show that revenge really is “sweet”. One of the reasons that violence begets violence is the desire for revenge, even if “getting even” takes a very long time. The Serbian genocide of Bosnians during the Bosnian war, for example, had its roots in the Middle Ages, when the Bosnians enslaved the Serbs. As Karol K. Truman has said, Feelings Buried Alive Never Die. They return as zombies and cause all sorts of trouble.

The real question is whether enough of us can be sufficiently courageous and wise enough for us all to avoid a zombie apocalypse. Christians have been taught for a long time to love their neighbors as they love themselves. If it were easy to do, surely we would have done it by now. Our first response to those who are “alien”—not like us—is fear and self-defense. Instead of welcoming our neighbors who need help, we turn them away, close our borders, and build walls and fences. It seems to me that there’s a big difference between defending yourself when attacked and striking first out of fear of attack. Too many of us seem willing to cast the first stone.

Currently, the US military budget is the largest in the world. Why are we so afraid? Or have we been sold a “bill of goods” by those who can profit from keeping us fearful? Who gains when we are made to feel afraid? And when we are afraid, what does it take for us to feel the fear and do the right thing anyway?

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