Civility in Hunkertown #6

“The Crying of Humanity”

The beacon of a shining light on the hill, a nation founded on such ideals is not new.  Within our own Western culture, principles of the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century – liberty, equality, and fraternity – stirred the vision of America’s founding brothers and sisters.  Yet their introduction to the American continent did not reflect these values.  Indeed, there were many who came to these shores in search of a better life, one free especially from the religious persecution they had endured in their European homelands.  But the desire of these immigrants was marked by their own beliefs that the tribal cultures they met already well established on this continent were inferior and heathen.  Blinded by the bias of their worldview that declared them superior in faith and culture, some and probably most hoped to peacefully move in, eventually show their neighbors the errors of their ways or just be left alone.  But there were also those immigrants who felt divinely justified to commit heinous and murderous actions to establish their own dominance over the land, the people, and all its resources.  There were the many discoverers, entrepreneurs, and people whose focus was more on their own wealth, power, and self-aggrandizement in a brand new land.  They chose to use their superior firepower and/or beliefs in their “god given” right to take what they could and obliterate those who stood in their way to do so if they were not willing to comply with this “divine” or “destined” plan.

This is NOT a unique story of expansion and dominance, of kingdom building.  The Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Turks, the Chinese, the Indians, the Mongolians, the Russians, the Spanish, the Germans, the Japanese – East and West have participated in their own forms of ethnic cleansing, manifest destiny, inquisitions, empire building – all justified politically or ecclesiastically, or both.

The Hurdy Gurdy Man…

In the late 1960’s the Scottish psychedelic singer and songwriter Donovan wrote…

Histories of ages past
Unenlightened shadows cast
Down through all eternity
The crying of humanity

‘Tis then when the Hurdy Gurdy Man
Comes singing songs of love
Then when the Hurdy Gurdy Man
Comes singing songs of love

Although my dire diatribe decries humanity’s inhumanity and incivility to the “others” of humanity, there has always been a nobler, kinder side that has even wielded its head during times of persecution, domination, and conflagration.

While the thirst for power and riches blinded (and continues to blind) rulers, generals, and the privileged who sought more for just being privileged, we see symbols and gestures of parlay, peace, truce, and surrender; white flags, olive branches, smoke signals, back-door diplomatic channels.  Even though these means may have not been employed in good faith, they bespeak a common understanding that in order for peace or equilibrium to be re-established, civility is a powerful tool when passions and stakes are high. 

From stories of the battlefields in history, I am reminded of the Christmas truce between Allied forces and the Germans in WWI, where soldiers came out of their foxholes and extended to each other gifts and Christmas greetings.  A little know fact from Freemasonry was that during America’s War for Independence, when British forces captured an American town previously held by Revolutionary forces, they would not destroy the town’s Masonic Lodge, but rather, took the charter out of the building and delivered it to the retreating Revolutionary force Masons, who reciprocated when the tables were reversed.  In a more ancient tradition from the East, warriors were trained that when they had mortally wounded a foe, that they should sit down, hold the foe’s head in their lap, comfort them and sing prayers for a better rebirth until they passed.

Despite the influence of our worst inclinations individually and collectively, love, compassion, and gestures and actions of civility continually remind us that we are capable of and can always do better.

At some point and hopefully before even darker times, we hear “the crying of humanity.”

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