After Paris: The Search for Goodness in Humanity

After Paris: The Search for Goodness in Humanity

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2782173960_a8b0ebdbd3_parisBy Jonathan Shuffield

I sit here in front of my laptop on this cold November day and I am at a loss for words. Words are the currency of my world. I am a writer, I share my opinions on any number of things daily, I am a talk show host for goodness sake. There it is, that is where my stumbling block lies, that simple colloquialism, “for goodness sake.” This week has been a crisis of humanity in my soul, I don’t know if I believe in the goodness of humanity anymore. If I do not believe there is any goodness left in our human selves can anything be done “for goodness sake”?

On a grand scale, of course, I speak of the tragedies in Paris and Beirut and all of the places in our world we do not talk about or acknowledge for there simply is not enough breath to list them all. I speak of the crazy reactions of people on Facebook over others choosing to change their profile pictures to reflect the colors of the French flag. I read the arguments and the articles about why it’s such an affront to the world to make this simple action as so much energy is wasted on judging me for my picture. It freezes me; I stand in shock. I am frozen by the over-all lack of humanity we offer each other at a time that is bigger than all of us.

What is wrong with us? We seem to have become a world, a people, bent on tearing each other down for any excuse we can find. We are given a million reasons why we are bad human beings by simply changing our profile picture; it’s not just about Paris, your picture is not enough to make you a good person, do you know the atrocities America has caused in other countries, and the list goes on. I am not here to say that all these reasons do not hold some validity, but I am here to ask why we choose to tear down any act of kindness or compassion that is offered? Are we so overflowing with kindness that we can afford to spare even a simple gesture? Compassion must grow from a simple seed, if we extinguish its presence at any point are we not becoming part of the destruction around us?

I do an LGBT talk show, every week we discuss news stories of bigotry and blind hate, we interview inspiring people and artists, we work very hard to do what little good that we can in this world. The team puts in full-time hours to make it happen and what most people do not know is that we do it without pay. We do It because we believe in the work and because we have dedicated our lives to making things better. I don’t present this for congratulations or applause and, honestly, I don’t like talking about that part of it because it isn’t about that. Yet, hatred prevails, assumptions are made, and stories are created.  I have been approached by people in the LGBT community who choose to show such vile hatred, to tear your humanity to pieces and question the very things you have dedicated your life for. They tell you to have a thick skin in media, but sometimes I forget to guard my soul.

I only share this because I am confused at our cannibalistic ways. It is not just in the community that I serve, although I see it a lot in the LGBT world, it is a human problem. The fact is no matter what you do it is not and will never be enough. It will not be enough for the social snipers who are more focused on taking others down than building a community up and honestly the reality is that nothing will ever be enough. Nothing short of rewinding time and protecting Paris or Beirut or Iraq or Syria or the earthquake victims in Mexico or the people hurting in Yemen or the myriad of other places will change the fact that these things happened.

There are plenty of options for us as human beings to respond to tragedy from the simple act of showing unity through a picture to donating to the relief effort to flying to the countries affected and sharing your blood, sweat and tears. Why the need to tear down any effort at all? Have you ever been a victim of a tragedy in your life before? Do you know what the simple act of people showing they care in any form does for your soul? There are causes surrounding us daily that we need and should care about and wearing a suit of ribbons does nothing to fixing them, but it is better than forgetting or ignoring and sometimes it is all a person knows to do. There are 7.2 billion causes to care about in our world and, honestly, any act of compassion should be celebrated.

Jonathan Shuffield/Facebook
Jonathan Shuffield/Facebook

The root of the problem, as a wise friend once told me, is not simply in the fact that we have lost sight of the goodness of our humanity, but that we have become lost in a need to be better than anyone else. My form of compassion is better than yours, my personal tragedy is far worse than yours can ever be, and in fact, my belief system is better than yours. As Madonna said recently when she stopped her show in Stockholm to address the tragedies of the past week, “We will not change this world if we do not change ourselves, the way we treat one another needs to change.”

So I will not be ashamed of changing my profile picture to the colors of France and I fully know that it does not come close to encompassing all those that have suffered loss, but to assume that I do nothing else and am not aware of the tragedies beyond Paris is to judge and yet not know me at all. I will continue to do my work and do what good I can with what I have in spite of those who wish to tear me down and vilify me. We need to stand together now even more than ever as a group attacks humanity. It isn’t locations they are after, but the human spirit. Break that and you win it all.

When will we learn that destruction only begets destruction, in creation lies life and a building up of something new? As to my dilemma over the goodness of humanity, I must simply do what we all must do: check within myself often and make sure I am vigilant in my own compassion and that I offer it to others, even those who attack me. In the end, our compassion and humanity are all we truly have and we must protect it at all costs…for goodness sake.

Photo by Moyan_Brenn

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