Tough parties to make

I try to watch the news the least amount possible. But when I do, I do my best to live my philosophy: When life hands you lemons, don’t just settle for lemonade. Add a splash of vodka and throw a party.

Sometimes it’s harder than others to figure out that whole party planning thing. Watching the news over this past weekend was one of those times. Last Thursday was the day that the massacre at the Charlie Hebdo headquarters happened. Each time I watched the news over the weekend, headlines from that tragic event filled the screen.

How does one make lemonade from such lemons? And if that’s even possible, how do you make a party out of it?

I think making lemonade is the easy part. Witnessing an international movement, where people from a multitude of ethnic, national, and religious backgrounds pull together in solidarity for one cause is certainly a good thing, a well-balanced lemonade.

Making a party, though, means that you don’t just find good in negatives, but you find a way to make life even better because of them.

At first glance, that doesn’t seem possible. After all, that lemonade/international movement happened as a force against something, which is evidence that there’s antagonistic undertones still afoot. Things can’t get better if people remain hell bent on proving another wrong, if they stay in a state of self-righteousness, or if they just keep on being pissed off.

In order to make a party, you have to move beyond the anger, you have to be willing to be happy or at least to acknowledge that things can become better because of this.

And, in order to do any of those in this situation, it seems to me you have to look at why the event happened. No, I don’t mean why the Kouachi brothers attacked the magazine staff. I think we have to go deeper than that.

Think about it: those two men were once innocent babies. At one point, they were just like all babies. Ever see that wide-eyed gaze of astonishment babies have because every-freaking-thing in the world is just the most amazing thing? They lift the top on a box and are agog because they can shut it and lift it again. They stare in awe at their fingers while they repeatedly pinch their thumb and forefinger together because who knew anything could be so fascinating? Everything is so cool and wonderful, and over-the-top that they have to take frequent naps to deal with all the excitement and stimulation.

Now then, what’s that saying? There but for the grace of God, go I . . .

I think we need to think about what happened to those men that would make them feel so powerless, so disenfranchised, so hurt, scared and alone that they could become victims of extremist ideology. We could ask a similar question about gang members in urban America.

People do not enter this world angry and filled with hate, regardless of where they were born or into what religion or culture they found themselves. Yes, some are born into families where they are taught to be perpetually vengeful, but those two men were raised in an orphanage. They, like many, wound up the way they did because they felt as their life progressed, that they had no other option. Feeling like you have fewer options makes you a great target for people in power who need someone else to do their dirty work. A promise of greatness, even martyrdom, probably sounds much better than decades of life living in the slums.

And when you look at it like that, doesn’t it make sense then, to recognize that people who commit hateful, vengeful, atrocious crimes are really people who are hurt at a severely deep level? And if so, doesn’t it makes sense also to realize in order to prevent those kinds of acts from happening again, we need to focus as a society on preventing people from being hurt that way?

What would happen if everyone, when they saw someone they didn’t like because of their race, religion, ethnicity, sexuality, favorite musical style, haircut or whatever looked beyond those surfaces and accepted them as human beings who deserved being valued and treated with dignity and respect simply because they existed?

Hmm . . . acceptance. Worldwide acceptance.

Then, I think, we’d have a world-wide party.

In the interim, what would happen if we, each person, did our best to accept people who are different from ourselves? What would happen if instead of shunning them or putting them in an “other” category, if we reached out and got to know those people? What if, instead of condemning them for making what we feel are bad choices, we try to understand what prompted those choices and we find a way help them see alternatives?

Then, I think, we’d each have one- or two-people parties.


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