Tuesday, July 5, 2011

For Those Who Have Had Enough of Silly Love [Songs]

When I talk politics with people, particularly the politics of war, I invariably wind up saying or thinking that people just need to calm down and take a moment to consider each other as human beings.  I always feel a little strange about saying it, sometimes a little strange about thinking it, because when faced with the whole world's worth of weapons, what hope does love for one's fellow man have?  There's a reason there are sayings about every problem looking like a nail when all you have is a hammer.  When the bulk of your foreign policy is military based, the military starts looking an awful lot like the only option. 

We're so far down the military-as-foreign-policy rabbit hole that it can be hard to hang on to the idea of non-violence.  That's why it's so wonderful when you can see forgiveness, tolerance and love prevail, particularly in the face of hatred and violence. 

NPR recently did an interview with a man named Rais Bhuiyan.  Bhuiyan is Bangladeshi man living in Dallas, and shortly after September 11th, 2001, a man named Mark Stroman walked into a gas station, killed two men and shot Bhuiyan in the face.  Bhuiyan was the only survivor, and has required extensive medical treatment for years to deal with the attack and still has pellets embedded in his face.  When word got to Bhuiyan's parents in Bangladesh, his father had a stroke from the shock. Mark Stroman was sentenced to death for his hate crime.  He had been targeting "Muslims and middle-Eastern looking men."   

Bhuiyan is fighting to overturn the conviction.

This is what he had to say: "According to my faith in Islam, there is no hate, no killing. It doesn't allow anything like that," says Bhuiyan. "Yes, Mark Stroman did a horrible thing, and he brought a lot of pain and disaster, sufferings in my life. But in return I never hated him."  Later in the interview, he also said something important: "I strongly believe executing him is not a solution. We will just simply lose a human life without dealing with the root cause, which is hate crime."  The reporter points out that when Stroman was interviewed in prison and told about Bhuiyan's efforts, he broke down in tears and said that “this is the first act of kindness that I’ve ever known.”

You cannot convince me that simply taking the tiny bit of effort required to just be kind to one another will not alleviate or solve a dramatic majority of our social problems, particularly violent ones.  We are social animals, and we navigate our existence by reading other people.  If we are surrounded by kindness, the need for violence and anger falls away.  Sometimes it's not easy - I am genuinely unsure if I could muster the kind of response Mr. Bhuiyan has shown here - but I can't think of anything more worthwhile.  I'm going to resolve to be more demonstrably kind in my life, and I hope you will join me.


  1. How disheartning!July 5, 2011 at 10:16 PM

    I have looked at so much information, opinions, and press regarding Mark Stroman, but I really believe that the last paragraph in this says more and touched me more than all of it. I am the mother of Mark Stroman's youngest daughter. I am so sad for all the kids who lost their dad's from this tragedy, but my daughter's hardest question through all these years and questions and confustion is..."Mom, Why do we kill people to show that killing people is wrong"? When we as a society make the decision to murder someone who has murdered how can we possibly go on about our lives and live with ourselves not only for "playing God", but for not even thinking about all the other truly innocent people that have a lifetime of hurt too. My daughter who just turned 18 just saw her dad for the first time in 15 years and now she does not even get a chance to get to know him, to forgive, and to live her life without this being a cloud that always tries to keep the sunshine out of her life. How dare we as a society continue to hurt more people rather than heal and care about all the people involved in a crime and tragedy as this. Shawna Schroder

  2. Shawna, THANK YOU, so, so much for commenting. I'm so sorry for you and for your daughter.

    I was so struck by Mark's response to Mr. Bhuiyan's advocacy, and I think it speaks volumes about the possibility stretching out before us for non-violent resolution. I'm so sorry that we're at this particular social and political place that comes at the expense of your daughter's - and presumably your - relationship with Mark. I will certainly be holding you, your daughter, Mark and Mr. Bhuyian in the light. I wish there was more I could do.