The Sins of Our Fathers

Balbir Singh Sodhi. 

His name may not be familiar to you.  But his name is nonetheless significant for it represents the worst elements of humanity.  It is not Balbir Singh Sodhi himself that represents the worst of us....but what was done to him.  You see, Balbir Singh Sodhi was of the Sikh religion. Followers have beards and wear turbans.  Shortly after September 11th 2001, Sodhi, who had worked at a convenience store in Arizona was murdered by a man seeking revenge for the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  

Only there were several problems with this “revenge.”  First, Sodhi had absolutely nothing to do with the terror activities or anything related to them.  Other than having an outward appearance that resembled middle eastern descent, there was absolutely nothing else about him or his life that had anything to do with the events that unbeknownst to him would orchestrate the circumstances of his death.  Instead, his life only added to the innocence that died as the result of the 9/11 attacks.  

Revenge is a strange monster in that it is an illusion.  Somewhere in the deranged mind of a man who felt the sting of the pain caused by a terrorist attack, he somehow came to the conclusion that finding and killing someone he thought was Muslim would somehow help make amends to the situation.  Instead....only more senseless pain was cause and in doing so....he actually aided in the cause of the people he hated by contributing to the loss of innocent life they perpetrated.  

Sadly, we have become a society of labels....and labels strip individuals of their personal responsibility for their own actions, allowing us instead to give ourselves permission to stigmatize entire groups rather than see the actions of an individual as simply that...the actions of an individual.  The tendency seems to be that when we are cursed with terrible emotions generated by terrible events, our desire is to find an outlet for them.  When we learn of a horrible of the first things we crave from the media is a picture of the assailant, an image that will allow us to focus our collective rage and hatred.

The problem is we don’t seem to stop there....we continue....and we have a dangerous tendency to expand that rage and hatred to anyone else that seems remotely similar to those we feel we have a legitimate reason to hate.  We see it happening today.  There are groups of people who hate each other even though they’ve never met and have no specific knowledge of each other.  

Labels allow us to demonize entire groups as “all the same” and to be honest it's the highest form of emotional laziness.  It divides our society and it prevents us from seeing each other as complex individual people, instead simplifying us into groups that are easily demonized.  It also allows us to stay safely within the echo chambers of the “groups” with which we identify.   

On a personal example, I have a friend named Darren.  According to the all the paradigms society has established, Darren and I shouldn’t even associate with one another.  When it comes to a number of some of the most emotionally charged issues in current society, on face value anyway, it would be assumed that we fall on opposite sides.  But because we are actually friends, it's harder to label each other into “groups.”  He’s Darren with his views and I’m Will with mine.   And to each other...we are just Darren and Will.  Not liberal or conservative, gay or straight or anything else.  Our first hand knowledge of each other allows for dialogue and discussion but not demonization.  As a result, when I reference him...I can simply say Darren.  

Sadly, on September 15th, 2001, Balbir Singh Sodhi was never given the opportunity by one man to simply be Balbir.  Instead he was seen as “one of them.”  A general label that robbed a him of his entire complex, personal, individuality and allowed him to be placed into the shallow confines of one man’s mind to the point that he could be viewed as not even worthy of life.  

Thankfully most of us won’t go so far as to murder another person, but sometimes I wonder if that isn’t more out of fear of the ramifications.  How often do we allow ourselves to strip people of all of their endearing qualities to the point that we can despise them?  How often do we actively seek to not understand each other better simply to make it more convenient to maintain the negative feelings we already want to have about them?  How often do we look back into the past and observe the sins of our fathers....or the sins perpetrated against our fathers...and rather than view those acts as the depraved actions conducted by those specific individuals, instead project them onto others who remind us of those individuals or descended from those individuals? How often to we treat them as if they themselves were the very perpetrators of past atrocities?

It was once said that a house divided cannot stand....I pray that this statement is not true....for if it is......and I fear that it is.....we are all living on borrowed time as the very structure we depend on for safety and protection may be the source of our greatest danger as it threatens to collapse upon us all.  


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