This morning when I woke up, I read about the recent shooting of three people at a Jewish center in Kansas. This was a hate crime, as the shooter was a former member of the Klu Klux Klan who was known to express hatred toward Jews. There are hate crimes of various magnitude happening all over the world. What can we, the observers of these events, do to help?
It’s typical to react with hostility and judgment toward the person who committed the crime. Even the article about the shooting in Kansas was titled, “An ‘Idiot With A Gun’ Leaves Families in Kansas Realing.” Hate is what causes these crimes, so the best response to lessen the impact of these events and prevent future ones is to respond with love and compassion toward everyone, including the perpetrators.
Children are naturally curious and are not born hating other people. They are taught to hate. They are taught to be scared and suspicious of people who are not like them. The man who did the shootings in Kansas, along with other people who commit hate crimes, are innocent until they are taught to hate others. This knowledge doesn’t excuse their actions, but their judgment and punishment is up to our judicial system, not us. Our job is to find understanding and compassion so the hate stops with that one person. Our job is to focus on what brings us together in peace. If we want peace for the Jewish center in Kansas and other areas where there are hate crimes, that peace must begin within us.
Another cause of hate crimes is the illusion of “us versus them.” These acts stem from the belief that a group of people is so disparate from us that we couldn’t possibly coexist peacefully. How can we change that mindset? We can make the most difference by examining our own beliefs and actions. We are not so different from the man who shot the three people in Kansas. We are not so different from anyone who commits a hate crime because we all have people or groups of people who we feel are less than us in some way. Hate crimes begin with this same small prejudice. When fueled, this prejudice grows until people are harassed, excluded, and in some extreme cases, eliminated.
Think of the people in your life who you have had hateful thoughts about. It could be a boss, your mother-in-law, Christians, Muslims, people who are pro- or anti-abortions, Republicans or Democrats, homosexuals or heterosexuals. The hate in the world begins within us. We cannot control what other people think, but we can make a difference by examining and changing our own hateful, discriminatory thoughts toward others.
Let’s use this act of violence as a reminder to let go of our own prejudices. Let’s use this event in Kansas and other hate crimes happening in the world to practice showing love and compassion toward everyone, and to seek understanding rather than judgment.
In love and peace,