The country seems divided, people feel angry and frustrated on both sides of all the complex issues Americans face. Making sense of the senseless helps relieve the feeling of helplessness. There is great controversy about such simple things as respect for the flag, racial injustice, constant war, and income inequality. People continue to strive for the “American Dream” and venerate the rich as something special. Some of the wealthy have a social conscious and care about others, while the great majority of corporations exploit the rank and file as the upper echelon get richer. CEOs make thousands of dollars an hour and have exorbitant exit packages. For example, the Experian CEO who endangered the credit histories of millions who then walked away with $90 million in a “retirement” package.
There Are Good People in a Senseless World
And yet, brave individuals and first responders shielded loved ones and strangers when a deranged shooter began his rampage in Las Vegas. How are we to make sense of all this senselessness? Widespread unrest, the beating of protesters, and recognizing racism defined the 60s and 70s. Americans thought we had climbed to the pinnacle when Nixon resigned and that the fight was over when Barack Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States.
Eight years of relative prosperity after a disastrous economic crash when Wall Street greed ran amuck ensued. Amazingly, Job growth was at an all time high, and it seemed like the top of the mountain. However, many ignored the underlying signs of growing discontent. Rural voters feel overlooked, racism is real, and more young black men die at an alarming rate. Once again the Attorney General wants to use for-profit prisons, and at risk is money for educational grants that lift the impoverished.
No Simple Answers For The Seemingly Senseless
There are no simple answers to these seemingly senseless dilemmas. I am reminded of the turmoil of the 1960s. Race riots broke out, as millions of African Americans said, no more. The Chicago Democratic Convention was wracked with riots in the summer of 1968 against the war in Vietnam. It was the first year that I became aware of the war because high school classmates came home in a casket from Vietnam. There was no making sense of the senseless war. The enemy was Communism and the domino theory that it would spread. Communism would eventually die of its own weight to be replaced by dictators, totalitarianism, and oligarchy. Then out came the Pentagon Papers and it would be several years before the war ended.
Making Sense of Senseless Violence
On May 4, 1970 the Ohio National Guard shot and killed four students and wounded nine others while they were protesting the war in Vietnam. It was a senseless act. These were college students with parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, boyfriends and girlfriends. This violent act perpetrated by the US Military on citizens expressing their Constitutional right to free speech and expression woke up a divided nation. It was only 22 days from my 20th birthday. This event was a watershed for the Nation in its view of the war and the divisions within our country.
The complexity of the war protests and the turmoil of the 60s and 70s grew out of the post Second World War golden era of the 1950s. Men came back after the war and were welcomed home as heroes, babies were born, and lives resumed in an idyllic state. Eisenhower was president and enjoyed unprecedented popularity, and people were happy to resume a more normal existence. Underlying all of this was the civil rights movement and the incarceration of Japanese Americans during the war. Watching the Ken Burns Vietnam series, I am reminded of my own youthful vigor and opposition to the war and my own protests.
Senseless Struggles Continue
And so, here we are again, maybe on the brink of a senseless war to assuage the egos of the newest leaders and to feed the Military-Industrial Complex. Do not be fooled war and violence enrich corporations. Additionally, the recent rise in the sale of the gun bump stocks that can make a semi-automatic weapon an automatic weapon capable of killing 59 and injuring 489 innocent people in less than 15 minutes demonstrates a senseless struggle. It was a music festival, a place for joyous dancing and fun. The shooter had collected guns and ammunition for decades. And we don’t know and may never know why he committed this crime.
Senseless violence is just that, senseless. As a result, the only way we can only respond with compassion and sensible public policy. Of particular interest is the fact that in the United States there are 146.3 million eligible voters. Over 90 million eligible voters didn’t vote in 2016. The rise of news on the Internet and other electronic media gives rise to unsubstantiated news reports. As a result, opinions masquerading as news polarize people, placing them into opinion bubbles. Many only believe news items that support their core beliefs and seem unwilling to entertain opposite viewpoints as valid. Thus, we no longer engage in civil dialogue.
Value Kindness and Compassion
Consequently, we must value kindness and compassion above winning. Key components to a civilized culture include valuing, caring for, and loving those who have less and struggle to survive. Each human being has value and deserves respect and positive regard. Those who claim Christianity must wake up authentic Christian values clearly expressed in Matthew 5:1-12, that many who claim to be Christian forget or ignore. The beatitudes clearly describe the blessed the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, the merciful, and the pure in heart. In addition, the blessed include peacemakers and those who thirst for righteousness or seek a greater understanding of God.
These Five Strategies Help To Make Sense of the Senseless
- Accept that life isn’t fair.
- People may claim to be one thing, but indeed are another. Recognize it and believe in their actions, which reveal their true selves.
- Be kind and help others. Fred Rogers said, “Look for the helpers, you will always find people who are helping.” There will always be good people, lean their way.
- Fight the inner desire to vilify others or think we are better than them.
- Understand that periodic turmoil creates the opportunity for change. Just as tilling the earth allows for more fertile growth.
Pat Magerkurth is a life and career coach, helping clients make sense of the senseless in their lives. If you’re struggling with understanding the senseless in your life, reach out to Pat at firstname.lastname@example.org today to see if working together can help.