Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Evil Among Us

None of us are perfect except for maybe cowboys, and I'm probably biased about them. It’s easy to forget that as much as we all want to be good and try to be good we occasionally fall short of the mark.  Then what happens? In a healthy community you don’t have to be perfect. You can be yourself, flaws and all. There is an out pouring of trust in the basic goodness and inherent loving kindness that is in all of us. People are supported and thrive and the community flourishes as a result. That’s easy to write sitting in the corner of the local coffee shop. There are times however, when knowing and doing the right thing is a moral conundrum with no easy answers.

I live in a neighborhood with tree lined streets and sidewalks that are used regularly by the young mothers with strollers and teenagers on skateboards.  Emory, CDC, and the VA hospital are nearby and the neighborhood reflects this. It is a nice mix of young professionals and original home owners from the time it was converted from farm land. My neighbor around the corner was raised here and raised her son here next door to her mother after a stint of knocking around Greece and Turkey. There is a park, a nature preserve, a pub and a Presbyterian Church with seventies style stained glass within walking distance.  The neighborhood Facebook page is active, filled with the energy of mainly young parents. One time I got mad at the tree man Revel lined up for me and asked for other recommendations. Within an hour I had three referrals and two hours later an appointment was lined up with a guy who is an absolute gem. It’s that kind of neighborhood.

A few weeks ago my email account was suddenly bombarded with posts from the FB page that started with an announcement that there was a registered sex offender living in the neighborhood. I was neck deep in end of term projects and tests, PTO, parent conferences and report cards and simply watched what unfolded until I could unchain myself from work long enough to sit down and really find out what was going on. It didn’t take long for the man’s mug shot to be posted and a lynch mob to form.  I understood the inclination; none the less my heart fell because lynch mobs of any kind for any reason serve no one. I’ve seen enough westerns to know that much.

In a dysfunctional community lashed together with fear, rigidity in all things becomes the norm. Mean spirited sniping is heralded as gospel and people become stingy with their love. Tolerance, forgiveness, trust, and compassion fly right out the window. At the very least you find yourself walking on egg shells because one wrong move will have you on an ice floe wondering what the hell happened. At the worst self righteous vigilantism stakes its icy claim on our lives to the determent of everyone concerned.

In healthy community people are allowed to be who they are warts and all without having to worry about being judged and found wanting. You are not rigidly pushed and prodded into a role someone creates for you.  It’s ok to be different. It’s ok to be yourself. We are allowed to have a bad day, a bad week, or heaven forbid a bad year and still be supported.  In a healthy community we are allowed to be what we all are to one degree or another, flawed. A healthy community reminds us of our responsibility to each other and keeps us tethered to our love. And if we ever needed love we need it now. That means treating each other with kindness and respect instead condemnation and self righteous judgments.  But, a registered sex offender Deb, seriously? 

Ok, I’ll admit it. This was one of those times when I struggled to find a balance between the hippie in me and the sergeant in me. I didn’t know what to think or what the right thing to do was. Reality, illusive at the best of times, was lost somewhere between a division test, PTO, and my own fears, mainly my own fears.  That’s why we need strong, healthy communities. They keep us sane. A healthy community allows questioning of the prevailing consensus that fear denies. A healthy community listens to the lone voice that says, “Hey, wait a minute here. Maybe we don’t have all the facts.  What else do we need to know?  Is there a different way of handling this?”

Evil exists. It has always existed and will always exist. The question is how to live with it without becoming evil ourselves. It’s reasonable to protect ourselves and our children, but at what cost?  That lynch mob I mentioned? My not so secret fear is that if they come for him what’s to stop them from coming for me or you at some point for a reason they believe in their heart is true.

I am part of several communities that are healthy and one or two that need a booster shot of love, that or a kick in the ass. Some times a kick in the ass seems like a really good idea. We all play a role in each other’s lives.  We are either creating love or feeding fear by how we treat each other and that includes the person we don’t like or are afraid of.  I have always believed that Gandhi knew what he was talking about when he said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  I don’t always know what that looks like. I don’t think any of us do hundred percent of the time. That’s where community comes in to play.  There is always someone who can demonstrate love and a different way of being if we allow them to have a voice and we have the courage to listen for a half a second.  The problem is we don’t listen. Maybe it’s time we started. 


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