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JOHN EGGERS COLUMN: Why are we becoming so cruel?

Becoming less cruel and more humane requires three things to happen. First, we have to try to understand one another. Second, we have to express our feelings in rational ways. Third, we must set aside our animosity and hatred and treat one another like humans who all want to lead a good life and live a good life.

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John Eggers
We are part of The Trust Project.

A man sees this small hut on the top of a mountain and begins climbing toward it. After hours of painstaking climbing, he arrives at the top. A guru is sitting on a small rug in front of the hut. The guru says, “Did you come to rob me?” The man replies, “No, my car broke down at the bottom of the mountain and I need some help.”

Obviously, there is a serious lack of trust and communication problems in the United States and the entire world. We don’t trust one another and we don’t talk to one another. Because we don’t trust one another, we fear that others are out to hurt us. This fear leads to saying and doing cruel things.

I am reading a book titled "Sarah’s Key." No doubt some of you read it years ago. As of 2021, the novel has sold 11 million copies in 44 countries. It first came out in France in 2006.

It is about a Jewish family living in Paris during World War II. On an order from the Nazis, the French police rounded up all of the Jews and sent them to concentration camps. The story revolves around the plight of a 10-year-old Jewish girl who can’t understand how people can be so cruel. She asks her father why Jewish people are treated like animals. He responds, “They are scared because they think we are different.”

Is that the reason why we find so many cruel things happening today? Are people scared because they just don’t understand or they don’t want to try to understand others?

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As part of a new Peace Corps project, I am working as a “Virtual Service Pilot” volunteer. It is open only to returned volunteers. We are linked up with another country to provide a service. In my case, I am helping students and teachers in the country of Georgia with their English language skills. All of this is done virtually. This is the second year of this pilot project.

In addition to providing a service, two other objectives of the program are to help promote a better understanding of Americans and to promote a better understanding of other people working with Americans.

The objectives aren’t very complex or sophisticated. They do hit, however, at the core of why people are so cruel. We just don’t understand or even try to understand one another. We shoot first and ask questions later.

Is cruelty unique to these times? No. We may even be less cruel today than in the past. Think about Jim Crow South. Think about the disrespect and disregard shown towards women. Consider all of the lies and broken treaties regarding our treatment of Native Americans.

The primary difference today is that our cruel behavior is known five minutes after it occurs due to social media. Things can’t be swept under the carpet. Abused or special needs children can’t be kept in a closet.

It seems like we are forgetting the difference between right and wrong. The difference is becoming blurred for many people. We are forgetting what empathy and compassion mean. We are forgetting the religious and spiritual teachings of our elders. We are forgetting to treat others as we want to be treated.

While working in Sunnyside School at the county fair this summer, a young girl came in to see the school and we talked about what she was doing at the fair and about school and other things. She reminded me of Anne in "Anne of Green Gables." Like Anne, she was very inquisitive and seemed to have an excellent outlook on life. She was energetic, smiling, and asked good questions. I gave her a copy of one of my books and inscribed it, “Hannah, lead a good life.”

What is a good life? Can you imagine a life where people are not cruel and trust one another? Schools try to create a climate conducive to learning. What if our elected officials at all levels tried to create a climate conducive to living? What if all our senators and all of our representatives took a week or two weeks off and went to the Mexican border to help and to get the immigration dilemma solved once and for all? Wouldn’t that be something? Why couldn’t we do that?

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Becoming less cruel and more humane requires three things to happen. First, we have to try to understand one another. Second, we have to express our feelings in rational ways. Third, we must set aside our animosity and hatred and treat one another like humans who all want to lead a good life and live a good life.

Recently appointed Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson says, “I now have a seat at the table.” We all have a seat at the table when it comes to changing our world to be less cruel and to be nicer. Let each of us do our part. Together we can do this.

Riddle: How did the sandwich confess her love? Answer: She said, “You mean a great dill to me.” When people realize we mean a great deal to one another, cruelty will subside.

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Did you know that people with a high school diploma are more likely to vote?

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

Related Topics: EDUCATION
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