We’d like to believe that the Holocaust could never happen again. Surely, we’ve learned from the slaughter of millions that we as people are all one, and there is no superior or inferior race, no racial cleansing necessary, no needless murder justified. According to this CNN article, a picture is emerging of the Norwegian terrorist who murdered at least 86 people between his ambush on Utoya Island and the government buildings he simultaneously bombed in Oslo. The suspect, who has been arrested and has plead not guilty, is 32-year-old Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik. Apparently, he is a right-wing Christian fundamentalist who may have had an issue with Norway's multi-cultural society. Jonas Kallmyr is quoted as saying that encountering Breivik was "like meeting Hitler before World War II."
The last Twitter post on Breivik’s account is chilling. "One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100,000 who have only interests, “ it says, adapting a quote from 19th-century British philosopher John Stuart Mill.
How his extremist beliefs fit in with what he is alleged to have done remains to be explored, but we can assume, since he targeted a political youth retreat full of Labour Party political party members and a government building of the same political leaning, that it had something to do with politics. A 1,500 page manifesto he published online may hold the key. The document, which apparently took him nine years to write, rants against Muslims and how they’re overtaking Europe, and calls for a European civil war to overthrow governments, end multiculturalism, and execute "cultural Marxists." In the manifesto, the author vilifies Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and his Labour Party, and accuses the party of perpetuating "cultural Marxist/multiculturalist ideals" and indoctrinating youth with those ideals. According to the manifesto, the Labour Party is responsible for allowing the "Islamification of Europe" and needs to be stopped.
So with the misguided fervor and racial intolerance that fueled the actions of people like Hitler, Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, the 9/11 terrorists, and those responsible for the ethnic cleansing in Rwanda, the world is mourning, once again.
Will we always have to grieve the loss of people who have died at the hands of those who are intolerant of differences? Will we never be free of such mass murder in the name of politics and religion? Will we ever learn that we as people are all one, and harm aimed at any one of us injures us all? When will we learn, and when will the madness end?
And where is the love, people? I’m all for standing up for what you believe. Go ahead. Wave picket signs. March on the Capitol. Write letters to your Congressperson. Publish manifestos. Speak your truth. Write what’s true for you. Stand for your beliefs, even if they’re unpopular.
But how can murder in the name of your belief ever be justified? How can anti-abortion crusaders rationalize killing doctors while calling themselves “Pro-Life?” How can terrorists kill in the name of religion? How did Hitler ever convince the Nazi army to slaughter perfectly innocent people?
Can’t we learn to love even those we don’t know? Can’t we open our hearts to strangers and understand that we’re all just doing the best we can in the world? Can’t we realize that even if someone is a different religion or a different race or a different sexual orientation, we’re all just people. Nobody is better than anybody else. Some have just been more indoctrinated to hate than others. Love is the answer. Compassion is critical. Hope is a must. May there be peace on earth.
I’m crying as I write this because I feel discouraged, as I know many do. I wonder if we will ever be free of hatred and intolerance. I fear that we won’t, and that saddens me to the core. It also makes me feel helpless, as I write about love, healing, authenticity, and tolerance. What can any one person do? Is my healing ministry making any difference? Can one person’s passion to promote love make a dent, when such hatred runs so rampant? It’s enough to leave a girl feeling hopeless.
But I refuse to be discouraged. Maybe something I speak or write or teach (about being compassionate to misguided souls like Casey Anthony or refusing to celebrate the death of Osama Bin Laden) will influence just one person who chooses to open their heart. Maybe that one person will touch just one more person, who will also open their heart. Maybe that person will decide not to kill himself because he felt loved by that one affected person. Maybe he will decide not to molest his daughter or kill the boss who fired him. Maybe he will open his heart to just one person, and maybe as a result, she will accept her gay son instead of rejecting him. Maybe her gay son will be so touched by his mother’s change of heart that he will give a loving lecture to gay-hating conservatives at his mother’s church, and maybe one of the men in the audience will come out of the closet because of it.
Maybe that man will be so affected that he will open his heart to the soldier under his command who doesn’t ask and doesn’t tell, but who he’s pretty sure is also gay. Maybe they’ll have a heart-to-heart behind closed doors, and maybe the soldier will break down and confess the truth, and maybe he will get a hug instead of a reprimand, and it will save his life. Maybe feeling understood and accepted will make him less likely to shoot that innocent Iraqi who pleads for his life at the end of his gun’s barrel. Maybe that Iraqi, when the gay man turns his gun away, will open his heart to American soldiers and go back to his home, where he convinces his terrorist brother to change his heart. Maybe his brother will refuse to be the suicide bomber he planned to be, and maybe 100 people who would have died will be spared.
Can one person with an open heart save lives? Yes. I believe we can. All it takes is one person. And that one person can be you.
Who can you open your heart to today? What family member can you forgive? What co-worker can you offer compassion to? What child can you hug when you’re tempted to yell? What ex can you release from the hatred you have clung to for all these years?
And how can you take that even further? What prejudice do you harbor that you’re ready to surrender? What judgment do you place on other people, when it’s not your place to judge? What stranger can you love today?
When I was about to go on my book tour, my friend Rachel Naomi Remen, author of Kitchen Table Wisdom, told me I was about to learn a remarkable lesson, that I could be speaking to an audience of 3,000 people, and I could genuinely love every single one of them, even if we never met. And if I opened my heart, every one of them - at least the ones willing to receive what poured out of my heart - would walk away feeling loved. And I knew she was right, because that’s how I feel about all of you. You might read my blog, and we might never meet, and yet, I love you.
And you can do that for others. Right now, we can all open our hearts to the people of Norway - and love those people we may never meet - because love heals. Just like we can love people we don’t know, we can grieve for strangers, as those of us who mourned after 9/11 know.
May the people of Norway know that our hearts are open to them. May the suspect who may have killed all these people find justice, repent, and be forgiven. May we all think twice any time we choose to hate anyone, even someone evil. May we feel compassion for those who hurt us and understand that most of them suffer from lack of love in the first place.
May we all be joined, heart to heart, hand in hand, in a healing circle that rings the world. May hate be banished. May love rule. May we have peace on earth.
Kneeling in prayer,
Lissa Rankin, MD: Founder of OwningPink.com, Pink Medicine Revolutionary, motivational speaker, and author of What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend and Encaustic Art: The Complete Guide To Creating Fine Art With Wax.
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