“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
All of these words have a certain way of hitting home for at least one or more members here at Alder's Ledge. They are cheap shots that we deal with daily. While out in public, while online, and even at home from time to time; these words have a way of falling upon the eardrums like a grenade. They sting like fire upon the soul as they prick at the flesh and drive up the will to fight. For each of us here at Alder's Ledge they are of course just words... but when we hear them they are like bullets.
Over the years of running this blog and maintaining a team of dedicated screamers we have endured every slur we could imagine and then some. At times we have had to look up a slur just to figure out what exactly we had been called. Yet for all the abuse we get we still remain dedicated. Our fight, our passion, our fire continue to grow as we work toward exposing genocides both past and present.
As we have taken to one social media outlet after the other there is one thing we cannot ignore, no matter how hard we try. And that is the aspect of friendly fire as activists all around us take to the fight ever so viciously. While we applaud the effort, there is something to be said for turning our words... our bullets... upon our own.
Outlets like Twitter are often nothing more than battlefields. Machine guns replace fingertips as bursts are set forth in 140 character bursts. And once those gun bursts are shot off for all to see, where there is no chance of taking them back, the person who fired first has no way to retreat. Whatever they felt was so important to merit their attack, either intentional or incidental, is permanently flying out there in cyber space.
When it comes to activism on Twitter the machine gun is fed constantly with a chain of bullets offered up by the masses. This has the power to be used as a tool in fighting for justice. And yet it, like any weapon, has the capability to be turned on it's own. It is this aspect of firing off careless words in support of good causes that turns what could had been a good effort into friendly fire.
For the main author of this blog that is highlighted mainly with the persistent mingling of the phrase "Zionism" with Judaism. This flirtation with blaming a collective over highlighting the individual makes sniping a religion more prevalent than attacking those who abuse it for their own advancement. It denies the diversity within Judaism, and yes... even the diversity amongst Israelis, so as to lump the target into a faceless mass where it can be culled.
When you look at the use of one's words in this aspect the characteristics of war can be applied to every engagement. Whether we are truly trying to bunch up those we view as opponents or rather over simplifying the matter at hand doesn't make much of a difference once the first shots are fired. Once blood is drawn there isn't an opportunity to turn back.
For our Buddhists who work on this blog there is then the Rohingya issue that boils up hate speech targeting them. Most of our team members here who happen to be Buddhists are from Thailand and China. So the collective terms applied to them are not only applied through religion but geography as well. This helps every shot to sting just that much more as they delete our daily barrage of comments (note almost all comments are deleted anymore due to hate speech).
"Buddhists in Burma have killed over 30,000 & raped women in front of their brothers for being Muslim, Those are the real terrorists."
"Buddhists burn Muslims alive in Burma, yet we are the terrorists, right?"
"*All-h will punish Buddhists."
These are just portions of comments that often are seen in tweets as well. They are obviously hate filled rhetoric to us here at Alder's Ledge. Though some are founded out of a growing siege mentality amongst a small portion of Muslims we talk to, the hate behind them is unmistakable. And it is the hate within these excerpts that draws the battle lines and makes peace impossible.
Our Buddhists team members are dedicated to combating the genocidal acts currently being perpetrated against the Rohingya and Kamen Muslims of Arakan, Burma. Many of our Buddhists team mates have worked with refugee agencies in their homeland and even within Myanmar. They practice their faith through their service to others, and this includes all religions and any ethnicity.
With that said the endless bombardment of their faith due to the hateful actions of a small minority within their faith. They have often expressed the feeling that their faith is singled out daily due to these individuals who wish to exploit Buddhism for nationalism rather than faith. For me personally, the irony of this feeling is something that can't be ignored.
Buddhism and Islam both are supposed to be religions of peace and tolerance. When Muslims shoot off their opinion filled hate slogans against Buddhists it creates the same reaction these same Muslims have when being called terrorists. The sense of being attacked for their faith only rallies their will to resist and resist with unmistakable force.
Yet retaliation should never be seen as justification by any means.
Just because a certain individual decides to fire back doesn't mean that you were right all along. It means that much like you, the other person is simply human as well. When fired upon while trying to help the first reaction isn't to keep offering support but to rather withdraw and then counter attack. No human being is designed to run up a white flag when all they see around them are enemies. It just isn't natural.
This creates a situation where those who are supposedly seeking peace are being subjected to friendly fire. The people that once welcomed them are now the ones sniping them from every direction. And just as it created a siege mentality in one community it creates much the same in the other.
As the white flag comes down the flames go higher. And it is in this sort of fighting that we degenerate from peace on into cannibalism.
Our team is comprised of thick skinned individuals. We take every abuse that comes with doing this job. And for the most part, we don't complain. Yet over the past week we have experienced the irreversible harm this friendly fire can create.
Words are exactly like bullets in the sense that at times they do have the power to kill.
A few weeks ago we posted an article called "Opting Out". The subject was important to a dear brother and friend who recently lost his battle with his demons. This struggle was one that many of us here at Alder's Ledge deal with or have dealt with over our years. It is a painful fight, a relentless siege of the mind, that those who fight it try desperately to hide. For that reason we decided to scream for those who are overcome by it.
None of us were ready for him to leave us. But we don't get to go back and say goodbye. All we have now is the job to carry-on. Forever fighting, struggling, and screaming... just as he would be if he were here today.
After writing that post with me our dear friend watched as hate mail began to pour in almost immediately. Most of what we see after post like that one aren't mere bullets but more like mortar shells. They have a way of eating away at our image of what humanity aught to be. They throw up dirt and smoke all around us as the hate clouds any sense of hope in our fellow man.
Due to this the comment section is closed.
We may never know why our friend left us. We may never know what those last moments were like, what was going through his head, or why we couldn't help. But I do know that the words he read, those he heard daily, and those we see constantly as a team all had their affect on how this ended.
Before Pulling The Trigger
We all have a responsibility when it comes to speech in any form. The words we let loose are forever present in the minds and hearts of those who hear them. They have the power to heal or the power to kill. While a gentle word is like honey upon the lips of those who preach love and peace, those same words can be made harsh and become poison dripping from those same lips.
In activism we have a responsibility not only to our own self but our cause. By firing off words tainted with hate we not only hurt those around us but damage the very cause we are trying to help prosper. With every word we speak out of anger, frustration, or hopelessness we create hostility in those we are supposed to be trying to reach.
Before we speak, tweet, or update a status there should be a moment of questioning. We should think about how this will help or hurt our cause. We should think about how those who read or hear our voice will interpret what we are saying. After all, it isn't how we want to say something that really matters but rather how our audience will hear it and just how it will set upon their minds and hearts.
We aught engage our audience with words that tug at their heart strings and not ones that burn like hot lead. This is how we win the battle for hearts and minds... with love, not hate.
*Note that the author of this blog post does not spell out the name of G-d due to religious observance.