WILLFUL IGNORANCE

One Saturday morning in Manhattan, I walked into a family-owned hardware store (precious few of them left anywhere) to buy a box of nails. I saw a man kneeling down in an aisle, looking for something on the bottom shelf. What he was really doing was passing item after item discreetly out the door to another man who was collecting the items in a backpack. Moments later, the store owner, wielding a baseball bat ~ seriously ~ was about to take a swing at the head or back of the kneeling thief. I had an instant flash that the kneeling thief would possibly not survive such a hit, especially to the head. Without thinking or knowing what would come out of my mouth, I heard myself shout, “Don’t do it! He’s a human being!” The owner instantly shouted back, “No he’s not!”

With that, the thief ran out of the door. “There goes about a half a dozen faucet handles”, the owner said to me in anger and disgust. “There goes about a half a dozen years in prison for manslaughter if you had hit him” I said in response to his response.

I understand hate. I understand ignorance. I do not understand a person choosing willful ignorance as a way to make it easier and more palatable to hate. In order to smash the man’s head in, the other man had to make his victim a non-human,  or at the very least a lesser human. Hate and violence are still possible without the presence of ignorance ~ but they are much more difficult to rationalize or enact.

I can deal with haters and angeroholics. But I have a hard time dealing with people who refuse to understand, who openly reject compassion and empathy, who deny brokenness in themselves and punish it in others.

Seeing myself in other persons and other persons in myself really messes with my vengeance and retribution.

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