Archive for the ‘kindness’ Category

What people Dotoeachother

August 26, 2018

Seems like folks these days are gettin all wound up about politics and stupid stuff like that. Democrats v. Republicans. Progressives v. Conservatives. Extremists v. Moderates, blah blah blah.

And to make it worse, with the intensifying effects of cellphones and pads and pods and whatnot and so-called social media blather, what we are barreling toward is a vast dumbing-down, barbarizing of all public discourse.

What was called debate in earlier times now has degenerated to knee-jerk bluster hubris yada yada blahblah hatred the-loudest-loudmouth-wins trouble.

People take sides on every little controversy that rears its ugly little head in the public domain. Seems to me more like, as William Faulkner or William Shakespeare might have called it, sound and fury signifying nothing.

My studies of human history indicate some recurring characteristics of the tactics employed by extremist diehard yahoos: Such people want to push public discourse farther and farther toward extremist tactics so they can impose their great radical-fringe remedies on the rest of us who want only to live in peace and security with a little justice, mercy and neighborly good will toward our fellow-man thrown in.

I was born in the middle of the 20th-century, 1951. Looking back on all that happened during that century, I’ve noticed a few alarming things, such as:

The two worst 20th-century  assholes who ever came along the pike and pretended to be great leaders—Hitler and Stalin—both of them manipulated evolving political institutions, and the idiot people within them— to make a grand bloody mess of their two nations and the whole damn world at large.

Both dictators, Hitler and Stalin, were idealogues. Historians call Hitler a Nazi, which is a type of Fascist. They call Stalin a Communist.

What’s more important, however, in the historical classification game is this:

Both Hitler and Stalin were mass-murderers. They did not do justice to the people they claimed to govern.

StalnDown2

This factual identification is more important than the ideological label by which each of these two demagogues manipulated their bloody way into absolute power.

And they weren’t the only ones. In the 20th-century, there were others: Pol Pot, Idi Amin. Some would say Mao. And onn a small scale. . . Jim Jones, Charles Manson?

This scenario to which I make reference— this human behavior attribute of folks being swept up into murderous behavior by a maniacal leader driven by ideological or religious frenzy that results in mass murder—it could be right around a historical corner now.

If people do not allow the practice of mercy, decency, compassion, reason— and most of all forgiveness— to overpower imminent institutionalized manipulations of bloody power-mongers, then we’ll have another terrible round of mass murder on this planet.

Religion (old-school) and Ideology (new school) are both, when carried to extremes, cut from the same extremist cloth, and can drive people to endorse mass murder.

Don’t go there.

Ideology is a big circle. On one half of the circle is the arc of conservatism, which in its extremism leads to fascism; on the other half is the arc progressivism, which in its extremism leads to communism. They both start their movements at the top of the circle going in opposite directions. But at the bottom where they collide, we find extremism so lethal that it requires mass-murder as a so-called final solution.

You know what I’m talking about: “Somebody needs to kill them bastards!”

Religion, same thing. “Somebody needs to kill them _____” (fill in the blank)

Which is why we must harken to the greatest clarion call of all, the one spoken by the man from Galilee who stood on a mountainside and taught us:

“Whatever you would want done to you—do that for everybody else.”

This is the most important principle of all. Far greater  than communism or fascism, far more effectual than Democratic or Republican power-mongering, far more spiritually effective that the Church or the Caliphate.

Peace on this planet ultimately comes down to what people are willing to do–or refuse to do– to each other in the name of  _______.

You fill in the blank.

King of Soul

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A simple act of kindness goes a long way

June 12, 2017

“Encountering human kindness such as that became the highlights of my otherwise dreary existence.”

These words were spoken by a man who had spent eleven years imprisoned in a Stalin-era Russian gulag. The act of kindness of which he speaks was something very small, but very important. In 1953, a young woman doctor who was working in the prison smuggled in a blank postcard, then passed it secretly to a prisoner, Roland Gottlieb, so that he could send a message beyond the prison walls to his wife and three daughters.

By that time in 1953, Roland’s wife, Ruth, had already spent more than eight years waiting for her husband to be released from the political prison. During those years she didn’t even know if he was alive or dead. It was a very long period of terrible anguish for her and for their  three daughters, as they lived from day to day wondering where the hell  Poppa was, or if they’d ever see him again.

Hell on earth it must have been for them, and for him.

For Poppa, who endured not only cruelties, near starvation, physical abuse and the frigid Siberian weather, the worst part was not knowing anything about his family, not knowing where they had ended up after he was taken prisoner by the Russian army in Bulgaria, not knowing if the girls even knew what had become of him, not knowing if he would live to ever see them again, not knowing anything except the day-to-day hell-on-earth of captivity in Stalin’s gulag.

Then one day a brave doctor’s willingness to risk her own career and safety made it possible for Roland to at least send a few words–a long-overdue update– about his location and condition (alive) to his loved ones.

Here’s a cover pic of Ruth, to whom the secret postcard was addressed, and to whom the card was delivered, four months after it was mailed.

LivesDiv

  https://www.amazon.com/Lives-Divided-family-apart-Russian/dp/1490404236

You can read more about this long ordeal of separation in Birgitta Gottlieb McGalliard’s autobiographical memoir, Lives Damaged. It’s a good book about the first eleven years of her life, which happened to be the same eleven years that her father was in prison, simply because he was (doing his duty as a German diplomat protecting war refugees)  in the wrong place (Sofia, Hungary) at the wrong time (when the Russian army took over the place) in 1944.

Birgitta was born a few months after her father was hauled to a Soviet prison in Siberia. She never even saw her father, never even touched him, until she was eleven years old. And when she did finally see him, and hug him, and at last get to talk to him and get to know him, she asked him some questions about the bad people he had encountered  in prison. And he spoke to her and to the family about the bad people there, some of them prisoners and some who were staffers. But then he said:

“Just as these blatnois were bad, I found equally many if not more ‘good’ Russians, like the young female doctor who took pity on me when I was in the punishment camp after the Vorkuta Revolt in 1953, where writing was strictly prohibited. She smuggled a postcard to me so that I could write home. She could have been severely punished if she hand been caught. If it hadn’t been for her kindness, you never would have received that first postcard from me.”

That “first postcard,” when it finally was delivered, was a major milestone, a turning point in the life of their family.

That major milestone was made possible by a very small, seemingly insignificant act of smuggling a postcard in and out of the prison, and yet . . .

Later, after his release in 1954, looking back on it and trying to capture an explanation of it all for his daughters, Roland Gottlieb said:

“Encountering human kindness such as that became the highlights of my otherwise dreary existence.”

Kindness stands out. Its effects go far beyond the pale.

The milk of human kindness–it goes a long way toward the healing of the nations, and the healing of people whose suffering is a consequence of the injustice and evil that men do to each other throughout history. A brave doctor’s small act of postcard benevolence, along with a few other small deeds like it, is what  enabled the prisoner to hang on to a thin thread of hope. It’s what he remembered more vividly than anything else about what happened in his eleven-year gulag nightmare: Kindness from a brave soul whose courage to act enabled him to cross a bridge from perpetual discouragement to newfound hope.

It’s no wonder that Paul, the 1st-century itinerant Christian messenger, included kindness in his lists of the “fruits” of our Creator’s Holy Spirit.

Kindness. You can beat it, but you can’t defeat it.

Smoke