Every time an American’s life is broken for no reason by another American, every time that vital fabric that another man has so painfully and painstakingly woven, for himself and for his children, every time this happens the whole nation is humbled.
Yet we seem to tolerate an increasing level of violence that ignores both our common humanity and our claims to civilization. We quietly accept news reports of massacred civilians in faraway lands. We glorify the killings on movie and TV screens, and call it “entertainment.”
Too often we justify those who want to build their lives on the broken dreams of other human beings.
Then there is another kind of violence, slower but equally nefarious and devastating …
… as a gunshot or a bomb in the night. It is the violence of institutions, indifference, immobility and degradation. This is the violence that affects the poor, and poisons relationships between men because they have a different skin color. It is the slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books, and houses without heating in winter.
It takes away man’s essence in denying him the opportunity to present himself as a father and as a man among other men. And this also affects all of us.
When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that the other is inferior because of his color or because of what he believes in, or because of his political views, when you teach that those different from you threaten your freedom, your job, your home or your family, then you also learn to deal with others not as fellow citizens but as enemies, you learn to be met not with cooperation but with overwhelm, you learn to be subjugated and enslaved.
Eventually we learn to look at our brothers and sisters as strangers. Strangers with whom we share a city but not a community, people bound to us by where they live but not by a common purpose. We learn to share only a common fear, a common desire to distance ourselves from each other, a common urge to respond to disagreement with violence.
We must recognize the vanity of false distinctions, the false distinctions among men, and we must find our own way to grow, in the effort to grow all. We must recognize before ourselves that our children’s future cannot be built on someone else’s misfortunes.
Our life on this planet is too short, the work to be done is too great, to allow this sentiment to spread any longer, in this country of ours. We certainly cannot erase the problem with a program, nor with a law. We could, however, remind ourselves, at least once, that those who live with us are our brothers, and share with us the same brief moment of life. That they desire, like us, only the chance to live their lives, with motivation and happiness, conquering every possible satisfaction and fulfillment.