I’m sick at heart today. I just read about the synagogue shooting near San Diego. The story woke dark memories of the Pittsburgh synagogue attacks exactly six months ago, last month’s horrific massacre at Christchurch’s mosques, the Easter church bombings in Sri Lanka... the list of hate crimes targeting people because of their religion gets longer all the time.
Honestly, I cannot fathom how someone could perpetrate such horrors. I simply can’t imagine the mental state required to coldly murder one’s fellow human beings just because their spiritual beliefs and traditions happen to be different from your own. Indeed, it seems bizarre to consider that the individuals responsible for these crimes could have any sort of belief in a higher power at all.
What can we do about the explosion in hate crimes? Of course, there are practical actions that can be undertaken, like working to ban assault weapons or increasing security at places of worship. But preventing this sort of violence requires a deeper transformation. Only a change in values can reduce the hate –recognizing our shared humanity and the fostering of a sense of inclusion and safety for everyone. Education and advocacy – standing witness and choosing peaceful conflict resolution over violent confrontation – providing role models for peace and fostering inter-group dialogue – these are the only long term strategies that can have an effect. To prevent hate crimes you must somehow heal the haters.
Hence, for today’s Charity Sunday I’m focusing on the American FriendsService Committee (AFSC), an organization that has been working for peace, justice, human rights and human dignity for more than 100 years. AFSC campaigns in a holistic way, at the level of individual communities as well as at the national level, to fight discrimination, uphold human rights, and foster peace.
Leave me a comment and let me know your thoughts about how to heal the hate. For each comment, I will donate one dollar to AFSC. Also, I will give a free ebook copy of my dystopian multicultural romance Divided We Fall to each commenter. Just include your email address if you want the book.
I’ve got an excerpt from the book below.
I don’t want to be here. I’ve got no confidence my truce flag will buy me any kind of safety. But what can I do? My little brother’s disappeared, last seen headed toward the black ghetto. We searched every corner of Viet Village. Unless he’s deliberately hiding―not likely given his age and his usual good behavior― he must have wandered outside the bounds.
The many kinds of harm he might meet scroll through my mind like credits for some old movie. I force myself to slow down as I approach the West Century intersection, the only un-mined street leading east into Niggertown. Gripping my flag in one hand, I raise the other high to show I’m unarmed. It’s true, aside from the switchblade hidden my boot. I don’t step out of the abandoned grocery my family calls home without that knife. When I sleep, it hangs from cord around my neck, nestled between my breasts. Older Brother calls me Blade-Heart. He thinks it’s a joke, but his nickname suits me. I might ask Uncle Pham to tattoo it on my bicep.
I’m expecting the challenge, but still, my stomach does a queasy flip. I remain motionless, as instructed, keeping both hands visible. A tall, lean figure steps out from behind some pollution-rusted shrubbery in front of a ruined apartment building. He carries his Kalashnikov like it’s another limb, one which he points directly at me. Funny how there’s never enough food, but no problem getting guns.
“What you doin’ here? This ain’t your territory. You get your gook ass back ‘cross the street before I kick it back!”
Though the guard talks tough, I can see he’s young, maybe younger than I am. He fixes me with a belligerent glare and brandishes his weapon like he’d just as soon shoot me as not, but there’s a softness to his mouth that lets me imagine him smiling. Using his left hand to draw an ugly blade from his belt, he strides in my direction.
He wears threadbare jeans and a faded camouflage shirt, open to the waist. The inky skin on his bare chest gleams with sweat, despite the brisk wind. The paler flesh of a scar slashes across his chest, just above his left nipple. That must have been a dire wound, close to fatal. He might be young, but he’s no stranger to battle. None of us is, these days.
“You hear me, bitch?” he growls and jabs at me with his knife.
Instinct taking over, I shrink backward, then recover. He mustn’t think I’m afraid. Straightening my spine, I raise my flag a bit higher.
“I claim the right of truce.” I make my voice low, even, and respectful. But not subservient. “I’m looking for my three-year old brother. He wandered out of our territory earlier today. Someone said he might be in Niggertown.”
“You better hope he’s not.” The guard gives me an evil grin. “Me and my boys just love a bit of barbecue.”
I ignore his jibe. He’s just trying to pull my chain. I hope. “Can I have a look around? Please?”
“Any gooks enterin’ Niggertown got to pay the toll.” His leer widens, his white teeth a shocking contrast to his soot-dark complexion.
“Of course.” I’d expected something like this. I jerk my thumb toward my backpack. “May I...? I’ve got veggies, from my mother’s garden. Cucumbers, green beans and kale. Chilies, too.” Money wasn’t much use in the barrios. Fresh vegetables, though—they were hard to come by, and I’d heard the soil in Niggertown was even more contaminated than ours.
He steps closer, until he’s looming over me. The point of his knife grazes my throat. Unflinching, I meet his eyes, brown as the muddy water of the Mekong in Mother’s old photos. His blade travels down my chest, pausing between my breasts. “I want something hot,” he murmurs. “But it ain’t chilies.”
“You think you’ll rape me?” Amazed at my own daring, I grasp his wrist and drag it to one side, until the blade’s a safe distance from my flesh. He doesn’t resist. Dropping his hand, I give the little kick I’ve practiced so many times and flip the switchblade into my hand, already open. “I’ll kill you first, boy.”
“Don’t you call me that, bitch!” I’m ready for him to hit me—I expect the toll to include some blood—but he holds back. “Anyway, I wouldn’t rape your skinny yellow ass. Nah, I’m gonna wait till you beg for it!”
I burst into laughter. I just can’t help it. “Right. That’ll happen the same day the pigs lay off the barrios and the Tower collapses.”
He tries to look fierce, but he can’t quite pull it off. “Just you wait,” he warns. “You gonna be on your knees. Beggin’ for me to put my big thing between your legs. An’ me, I’m just gonna leave you there!”
“Okay, okay. If you say so. Now can I come in and look for Little Brother?”
Remembering his responsibilities, he gestures with his rifle. “Gimme the blade, girl, and show me the veggies.”
Snapping the knife shut, I drop it back into my boot. “Nobody touches my blade. But you can get the vegetables yourself, if you want.”
I turn, offering him access to the pack, a gesture of trust that I hope isn’t misplaced. He could easily throttle me, or simply shoot me in the back. I’ve got to move this forward, though. Every minute I delay increases my brother’s danger.
“What if you got a bomb inside?” He’s no fool. That would be my first thought, too.
“That would be pretty stupid, wouldn’t it? What would I gain from blowing us both up?” I face him once again. “Want me to open it, then?
“Dunno. Could be you got a gun or something.” He scans the broad, vacant street. The wind rattles the trash piled in the gutters. “Maybe there’s more of you gooks out there, waitin’.”
His caution is rational, but my concern for Little Brother makes me impatient. “Look—what if l give you the pack. You can put it somewhere safe for now. Open it when I’m gone. Just let me inside so I can look for Duy.”
His eyes widen. It’s a fine bag, made of some tough, waterproof fabric you can’t get anymore—not since all the trade was shut down. Worth many times the value of its contents. I’ll miss it, but it’s nothing compared to Duy’s life.
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Please leave me a comment, with your email. I’d love to share this book with you. And every comment helps build a bit more peace.