If there is one outstanding lesson I have learned in the five years that I have called Spokane home, it is this: Intolerance in any form is brutality.
Before anybody draws the wrong conclusion from this, let me share two points with you.
First, Spokane is the greatest place, overall, in which I have ever lived.
Second, I experienced various forms of prejudice and discrimination long before I realized Spokane was not a suburb of Seattle.
So this is anything but a kick-Spokane story. I have experienced few, if any, instances of discrimination since moving here.
I have mulled the theme over in my mind for a long time. But trying to reflect meaningfully on the savagery of intolerance is still quite a challenge.
In a sense, it’s a one-sided issue. Nobody comes out and admits it. I scarcely expect readers to fire off letters to the editor extolling the virtues of being a bigot. No, intolerance is subtle. Sometimes, we don’t even realize its presence. But if only a grain of it creeps into our daily lives and is not removed immediately, it can fester and germinate.
To be specific, I have been spending quite a bit of time thinking about how God must view the anti-Subud sentiments that have been expressed in some letters to the editor. I think God must be crying over the pain and indignity some of his children have been suffering because a few of his other children believe their approach to him is the only one possible.
In our daily lives, we learn about child and spousal abuse, drive-by shootings, abductions, rapes, illegal drug use and myriad other forms of evil. Although these may shock us at first, don’t many of us become anesthetized by so many repetitious accounts and re-enactments of violence? I know I do.
Do we even feel the pain of the victims? Do we get angry at the perpetrators? Or do we merely think, “Tsk, tsk! Just another news item,” then go blithely about our business?
One of the first things I found attractive about Spokane was the goodness of its citizens. We may read a lot about Spokane’s shortcomings, but we seldom read or hear about the many random acts of kindness its citizens do for one another - and for strangers - every day.
I have experienced these over and over - especially since losing my voice to cancer 28 months ago. When it comes right down to it, true brotherhood and civic responsibility are not a matter of how good your streets are or how large your buildings are. Rather, it has to do with such things as the community’s people wondering, “Did I feel pain when my neighbor stumbled? Did I care enough to go out of my way to help him?”
Certainly, no Subud delegate would say otherwise.
Oh, I try to do my part, you say. But it is not nearly enough, and we all know it. It’s often hard to go about our daily lives knowing just how little our paltry, intermittent responses actually accomplish.
It is truly difficult to ignore our own concerns to serve others. But each person goes about it in his own manner.
Just because your way is not my way, who am I to say which is superior? Maybe - just maybe - none of them is better.
Are we not all trying to lift the burdens of the downtrodden?
Thinking about the way the world could be if we would learn to cooperate instead of tearing one another down is cause enough for tears. But reflecting on our responses to that need is downright depressing.
We may not all be pioneers and innovators, but we each can take a first step. And that is what the Subud delegates have done.
From around the world and across the United States, they came together, 3,000 strong. Each contributed his or her own first step. It may not have been a very big one and it may not have been the kind of step you or I might have contributed. But at least the steps were made. So, consider that 3,000 small steps toward mutual respect, trust and understanding can go a long way toward making a better world for all of God’s children.
Too often, I think all I can do is cry. Cry over the hurt, insensitivity and callousness of my fellow man. Cry over the loss of hope and bright futures that might’ve been but weren’t because so many good people did nothing to make them happen. And cry over missed opportunities, over my own hardness of heart. I pray someone or something will save us before it’s too late. Maybe someday I will even move from prayers to action. I wonder how long that may take.
God only knows.