Our Violent Humanity
I have been a consumer of documentaries and programs focused on historical events for many years. I fancy myself as an amateur historian in some areas and here is my conclusion: the world is, and always has been, an intensely violent, barbaric, and dangerous place. The evidence abounds.
All one has to do, if one is not inclined to read, is to watch the documentaries on the various wars. Even if one limits their interests to wars in the last 117 years, since 1900, one must conclude that humanity is anything but desirous for peace. In the Great War, also known as The War to End All Wars, generals on all sides continued to force their soldiers to endure suicidal, maniacal attacks as they climbed out of their trenches and charged into certain death against an enemy occupying their own trenches.
In World War II, the Great War having been re-named World War I, nearly the entire globe is enveloped in flames as nations try to exterminate entire populations. Armies brutalize, murder, and torture civilians in unheard of, unimaginable numbers. Military personnel die by the millions and civilians by the tens of millions.
In the “smaller wars” of Korea, Vietnam, and the desert conflicts, all sides, at one time or another, commit atrocities against other people. And, while America has been involved in the aforementioned wars, there are continually wars all over the planet at any given time. People killing people, brutalizing, torturing, maiming, debasing other human beings.
And, as far as I can tell, it has always been that way. Ever since Cain murdered Abel, humans have been killing their brothers and sisters with appalling efficiency. Why do people do that? It’s a serious question: Why? We are not guiltless sin this nation, as much as we like to think that we are the lone exception in the world. This nation enslaved a race of people for nearly two hundred years, engaged in acts of genocide against the native populations, and launched wars to grab land from the Mexican people. And that’s all prior to the Civil War, where, according to some estimates, 700,000 Americans died in a war against fellow citizens.
What is it that so easily enrages us and seemingly compels us to do violence against another person? Hollywood doesn’t help, obviously. Some of the most popular movies and TV programs involve extreme violence. And it is certainly true that the world is a potentially dangerous place. I have always locked my door…even when at home. I never leave the car door unlocked. I have the means to protect myself and my family should the need arise. So, fear and self-perseveration enter into the situation.
In Georgia there are 400,000 citizens with weapons carry permits. That’s more than twice the total number of U. S. Marines worldwide. Estimates are that 600,000 households have legal firearms. And, it’s not as if the fear is unfounded. A person in Chicago is more like to be murdered than a U. S. soldier is likely to be killed in Afghanistan.
But, sadly, it seems that violence is baked into our DNA. When I was a child I used to watch warring tribes of ants fight it out. These little warriors would fight until every last one of the enemy was dead. Is that all we are? Warring tribes of ants?
In our own country, there is little civil discourse. It is not enough to go against an opponent in an election. One must destroy, incapacitate, and humiliate him or her. Social media has become for some a launching pad from which to fire hurtful and devastating missiles.
Outside of divine intervention or worldwide repentance and renunciation of evil, I don’t have a solution. I am aware that I have within me the possibility of violence and a skill set to do damage. I also understand that I am responsible for my own reactions and actions. But, when the whole world goes mad, it is the sane one that appears mad to the others. Not that I am the sane one. But I can be among the sane, the civil, the patient, the forgiving, and the kind. It may be an impossible task but solutions have to start somewhere. Solutions start, not with the many, but with the one.
David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at email@example.com