Me, You, and Dehumanization

To say I have a strong desire for peace is woefully inadequate language for what I’ve been feeling.  It’s a painful longing amplified by the war in Ukraine, turned up to a burning roar when the news broke on October 7.  On top of current chasms of cultural and political divisiveness, it’s exhausting to the marrow of my bones.

I do my best to operate from a philosophy and system of beliefs and experiences that holds that we humans are one family – warts, conflicts, cruelties, and all.  At a deep, essential level, we’re of one body, all part of a much larger, integrated system that includes the earth and all the things living on it.

And yes, in my world, that system extends beyond, to whatever boundaries exist at the edge of this still-expanding universe.  All of it connected because it’s made of the same stuff…

All of us connected because we, too, are made of that stuff.

I don’t have a name for it, but stardust works and if nothing else, makes for a handy, somewhat wistful linguistic placeholder.

Fortunately, I’m not the only one who sees it this way.  In periods when I can tap deeply into a sense and experience of oneness, I feel the connection viscerally.

In other moments, caught in relentless swirl of painful images and news stories, there’s no shortage of heartbreak and a kind of loneliness that feels cold and endless.  Waves of deep, raw wounding, anger, violence, hatred, helplessness, grief, and anxious feelings I experience that don’t have precise names – they simply are.

The disturbed, distorted energy of these challenging times is in the air.

With all that, I’m still hopeful, which I’m grateful for… and the persistence of hope sometimes surprises me.

Apart from “it sure beats the alternative,” I don’t have a clear understanding of my own hope.  I do know that it lives in the realm of oneness, and it lives in the body.

In this polarized, violent moment, in the compressed powder keg of a divided culture, the pressures and seductions to “other” and dehumanization come with a frequency and cruel force I’ve not seen in my lifetime.

I don’t claim to have a solution.  I know that it’s impossible to dehumanize another without chipping away at one’s own humanity.

People who dehumanize others, knowingly or not, grease the wheels of ever harsher rhetoric and, all too often, heartless, life-diminishing and deadly actions.

And yes, I find myself going to dehumanizing thought and words from time to time.  When I do, I quickly feel the sting of parts of myself betrayed and stripped away.

I share this because I don’t think I’m alone here anymore than I’m alone in going down the helpless rabbit-hole, in wanting peace, in having hope.

Also, and perhaps this is the biggest of big things: if openly sharing my words and experience helps just a few others (even one) recognize the ways in which they get pulled, pushed, suckered, or seduced into swirls of dehumanization, then awareness begins, and so may healing.

I don’t expect the wounds of dehumanization to vanish overnight.  Any more than I expect to wake up tomorrow and find out World Peace has been declared.  (Maybe I need to adjust my expectations upward?)

From a perspective of oneness, I see and feel so clearly… my family is at war with itself, and it hurts.

Healing, for all of us – begins within each of us – and it starts with a commitment to consciously practice recognizing our individual and collective humanity.  And then applying that humanity, and the levels of kindness, patience, and empathy that go with it, to ourselves and one another.

This healing of the whole collective human body, this road to peace, is a very long game.

Let’s start.