The happenings of these past few days has left us asking a lot of questions about the state of affairs in our country and within ourselves. How do we heal the pervasive hate and guilt, so that violent actions are not an option in times of crisis, fear, and reactivity? My own sense is that we must begin with ourselves. I believe societal culture is rooted in the expression of what resides in each of us and to create a long-term sustainable shift as Gandhi taught: “We must become the change we wish to see in the world.”
As a personal victim of gun violence, these last few days have resurfaced the painful emotions of the tragedy that took the life of my only son as an act of random and senseless murder 25 years ago. George Floyd’s death has created a tsunami of protests, many of which have been violent. While I believe in civil engagement and peaceful protests to bring awareness, I abhor violence. Violence is never the appropriate response and it always makes things worse, not better. You cannot destroy violence with more violence – if anything it feeds on destruction of property and society. Civic engagement needs to be civil.
The proper way to protest is to be civically engaged in inspiring, fair, and nondiscriminatory legislation. I recognize most police are good people with a lot of responsibility and deserve our respect and compassion. However, when we see such blatant violations by our police force, we need an impartial, independent investigation, not an internal investigation. In the event of this recent case, the previous history of behavior of the clearly unjustified action of the responsible officers needs to be made public and appropriate action taken. The police should not arrive at the scene of the crime loaded with automatic weapons suitable for the front line of a warzone. Their priority should be to deescalate. They need to be guardians, not warriors.
If these positive civil and civic improvements are not legislated as a result of our divided political landscape, then we must vote the offending legislators out of office. I have never been fond of career politicians. One enters politics to serve one’s country and not for one’s personal gain. Lawmakers’ predominant duty is to be committed to promulgating laws that serve the citizenry. We are in an election year and I cannot emphasize enough the importance to vote and to vote for the right leaders that will put the country before self and not politicize such tragic and negative events.
is something I have been writing about for the past few years and I have recently released a book
talking about the kind of leaders we need to support the greater good of humanity. This past week has made this conversation paramount, so I encourage you to learn more about the kind of leaders you want to vote for and help make that change a reality.
Part of the serious problem is racism. Race does not determine character! Race is not a black or white issue. Colorism exists in all countries, cultures and races. Having grown up in Africa, I have known many friends and acquaintances who are black, brown, white, and yellow. Most are civil and caring, yet in every race, we also have others that are not.
I strongly believe in restorative justice which promotes the forgiveness of transgression and gives offenders a second chance, helping them reform and become responsible contributing members of society. When this is not possible, they should be removed from society and housed with proper mental health and other services with a mindset that, at some point, they can return to society as functioning members.
My work in Federal prisons where I teach these principles of restorative justice to inspire future paroling inmates to redeem themselves by helping youth in their communities to NOT follow in their former footsteps, is a program called Life Connection Program (LCP) – a spiritually-based course run by the Chaplin. The recidivism rate in the adult system in 66% but if they graduate from LCP it is under 17%. That means 83% do NOT return back to prison and are out in society doing good work and being a contributing resource to reduce crime. Unfortunately, the LCP is only offered in federal prisons – it should be offered in all detention centers. The more we mine all of our resources and allow them to contribute to the community, the richer our lives will be.
I think we need to look at our own prejudices first. When I meet people, I do not look at the color of their skin but rather their souls and character. I believe that this view is only possible when I am in touch with my true nature as a human being. As I learned from His Holiness the Dalai Lama that a tiger’s true nature is to be aggressive that is why a tiger has fangs and claws, our true human nature is to be compassionate that is why we have pretty teeth and nails.
When you are connected to your true compassionate nature you do not resort to violence. Instead, you see others as yourself irrespective of race, religion, nationality, or any other isms. More importantly, when you reside in your true nature you are healthier, happier, and joyful. Love and compassion are Universal laws that will always prevail. Fighting against these quintessential laws is like fighting gravity.
In my journey to understanding my true nature of empathy and compassion, I was able to forgive the killer of my son – seeing that he too was a victim of our society. While that was a difficult choice it was the right one for me. Here, I did not fight the Universal laws of love and compassion and it has manifested miracles in my life and the impact of my work on children, youth, and adults. We all have a life mission and when you do fully connect with your true nature – and know who you are – your life from there forward will manifest miracles for an inclusive, loving, and compassionate society. More importantly, this will be immensely fulfilling and meaningful for YOU and as such bless you with a happy, healthy, and harmonious life. It has for me!
We have an opportunity to come together as ONE human race and be respectful, kind, and loving of our sisters and brothers. This is a choice we can all make but first we need to connect with our true nature!
Peace and many blessings.