Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Book Review: 12 Years A Slave.

For 2 dollars, I d/l'd "12 Years A Slave." After having read Frederick Douglass' autobio which is FREE online, the original and the rewritten one -- I had become obsessed with what makes people cruel. But also with the definition of "humane." The writer, Solomon Northrup, even though he endured cruelty few of us can even imagine, refused to hate white people. He hated cruel masters, but he was even compassionate about the 12-year old son who he felt was a fine person, but was being taught cruelty by his dad, who would cheer him as he rode down a row of cotton beating slaves randomly.

A refusal to hate takes huge amounts of courage. But it's the only route to a sane existence on this earth. What I observe on Social Media is that people too easily use ridicule against a political or religious opponent. If that opponent can laugh at himself, then it's cool. But if it's just a triumphalist way to play to the choir, thereby shaming the opponent, then it becomes what Dr. King taught was "violence of the tongue."

What does this have to do with beating a slave? I don't know. Except that violence writ large is a reflection of violence writ small. The irony of it all is that it the one who is being beaten who has to be the teacher. But more than that, I must become a student of non-violence and compassion or the sufferings of these men and woman will count for nothing. I will be a participant in the culture of violence that propagates cruelty.

Refusing to participate in cruelty and violence is a much more difficult route. The joy of ridicule and shame, so inherent in my need to be "right" must be fought at every turn. Words are actions.

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