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John R. Eggers: The Seven Teachings can help us all

Why so much tragedy and violence?

The first thing my 96-year-old father said to me when I walked in the door to his house last week was, “Why do so many terrible things happen?”

I don’t believe I answered it for him, but it is a good question. It does seem as if there are more terrible things happening today than yesterday, doesn’t it?

You open the newspaper or turn on the television news to learn about a Boston Marathon bombing, a Texas fertilizer factory blowing up, two terrorists in Canada planning to derail a train, flooding everywhere, a Wisconsin father killing his three daughters, and on and on and on. Why?

This is a good problem for an ethics class, but let me give it a try.

Some people like to believe God is punishing everyone for “living in sin.” I don’t think so. If that were the case, the world would have ended a long time ago. Besides, that’s not the way God works. What we do is a matter of choice, and people freely choose to do what they do. God does not make the choice for them.

People are just more evil today, some say. You would think so wouldn’t you? Lots of terrible, terrible things happen around the world and right here in the good ol’ USA. I recently overheard someone say the reason they moved from California to Minnesota was because it got too dangerous in sunny California.

Well, that may be true, but look at what’s happening right here in our own backyard. Remember when Minneapolis was called “Murderapolis”?

Or remember when President George W. Bush referred to Iran, North Korea and Iraq as the “Axis of Evil?” If evil people only existed in those three countries, it would be fine with me. But we know evil people exist everywhere and they always have and they always will.

The truth is, we can’t escape from violence. Our world has become too small. If you were to pick up any newspaper in the last 100 years, you would find terrible things happening.

If it were not for violent movies, violent video games, violence on TV, it would be a safer world, some say.

That’s a good argument, but it really hasn’t been proven there is a connection between, for example, violent video games and the violence that occurs in the world.

Others say that the love of money is the root of all evil. Have we become too greedy? Is this the reason for all of the violence in the world? If someone were to give me lots and lots of money, I would gladly try to prove them wrong.

Religion is often cited as the reason for most terrorist attacks. Are we living in a time similar to the Crusades when if you didn’t become a Christian, you died by the sword?

So, what is the answer? Well I don’t think there is “one” answer but if there were one, it would be all of the above. As Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Here is one thing to remember. Good news does not capture our attention like bad news. In other words, it doesn’t sell papers or buy commercials. With the explosion of social media, we have immediate access to any and all news and, as I said, good news is not good news, which means that we get bombarded with bad news.

There is one characteristic that separates people today from people 100 years ago. We are a very giving people because we have more to give and we can do it faster.

We pride ourselves in taking care of those who have experienced not just violent things but who have been victims of misfortune. Already, for example, people have given more than $20 million to the victims in the Boston Marathon bombing.

We try to live by the golden rule and do unto others as you would have them do unto you. That is a comforting thought.

So, what would make our world a better place? That’s another good question for an ethics class and I will take a stab at this one, too.

I recently listened to Native American spiritual leader Larry Stillday speak about the Seven Teachings of Native people: love, respect, courage, honesty, wisdom, humility and truth. We would be hard pressed to come up with seven better teachings, wouldn’t we?

Minnesota speaking, it would be nice if all institutions embraced these seven teachings. I wouldn’t even object to having those seven teachings carved in stone outside of every courthouse and school in the U.S. I wouldn’t even mind if they were taught in every church, classroom, boys and girls club, 4-H group or scout troop.

Many would say, we already teach them. I would say, we can do more and we can do it better.

Will we always live in violence? Yes. Do we have more violence today than yesterday? Maybe? Because we have a smaller world connected by lots of media plus a larger population, it seems like we have more terrible things happening. Per capita, however, it could be less.

So, we do live in a violent world but we also live in a world filled with billions of people who respect and love one another and who unknowingly live by those seven teachings as best they can. Maybe it’s time we make them more known.

— John R. Eggers of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.