My Psalm 39
People are not commodities.
Let’s break that down into simple definitions, just so we are all clear. People are persons; human; member of the homo sapiens species. Basically, “homo sapiens” is Latin for “wise man”. The species was named that due to its bipedal locomotion, a fancy way of saying we walk on two feet very well. Given the chaos and havoc mankind has brought upon the environment and the trials and bloodshed of its own species that man has perpetrated throughout the years, one might argue that we are not wise. In fact, an Australian scientist proposed in 2011 that the classification name be changed from “wise man” for just those reasons but so far, no change has occurred.
Continuing on with our simple definitions… Are means to be or to exist. Not refers to negative or no. Commodities are things bought or sold; an economic good; items. Therefore, my topic sentence seems pretty clear, right? Problem is I did not give you the first definition for commodity. According to the five or six dictionaries I consulted, a commodity is “something or someone of value”. Aye, there’s the rub!
Yesterday a young girl, herself once a victim and whose only crime was wanting to better herself, appealed for the return of two hundred-plus girls stolen away from their beds at school. The response to this by their captors was laughter. “People are not commodities.” They mocked her new campaign intended to give hope to not only those girls in captivity but also those who have escaped. It is called #SurviveThat.
Slaves, and they have come in all colors, sizes, and nationalities throughout the history of the world, were valued for their contribution to the homestead. Some worked in agricultural fields, some in mines, and some in houses. Today we call them by other names and sadly their value is still similar to that of a pet goldfish – a dead goldfish. Several years ago, nominees for political appointments were disqualified for having undocumented alien workers who were not paid according to wage and labor standards, in addition to being illegal residents. Everyone has probably been serviced by such a worker, whether at a fast food restaurant, in lawn care, maintenance workers at an office we frequent…the list is endless. No one can say their ethnicity has not been part of that loop in some way at some time in history.
Human rights, defined as rights you should have simply because you are human, are interpreted by governments and religions with multitudinous applications, none of which are close to being similar. Martin Luther King Jr. was not the biggest man nor the tallest nor the loudest. I know; I once informally met him on the steps of a federal building shortly before a rally when I was a child. He discouraged people from making their point in the biggest way, the loudest way, or with force. He appealed to the sapient in all of us, based upon a simple belief that “People are not commodities.” He was one man who led a revolution to recognize the human rights of others. Some laughed at him just like the cowards holding those school girls laughed at Malala yesterday.
If I could speak to them, I would ask: Why is wanting to be better a threat to these men who falsely claim their faith is their justification? People who are educated will solve problems and cure illnesses. People who are healthy will be more productive. People who are productive feel valued and respected. People who feel valued treat others with respect, even those who differ from them in race, color, creed, gender, age. People who feel their voice has a place have no need to create terror. People who live in peace….live in peace. More importantly, the world lives in peace. Why do these men fear their country and neighbors having a better life?
Peace is not found in the lives of many of today’s children. Refugees are living from hour to hour, chased away from their homes and culture by those whose view them as commodities of little or no value. Ukrainians are willing to die for their voice to be heard. Young African girls want a better life for themselves and their homeland. “This is our future,” said one young protestor. “Of course we fight; otherwise, our future is nothing. We are not recognized and no one will speak to us so we must fight.”
What if we had international stock markets that traded in peace? What if peace became the world’s greatest commodity? Sadly, in many political circles, the promise of peace is sold, much like goods on an open market. We need to stop using peace as an excuse for another’s greed. We need to put the meaning of religion back in its practice. Then we would have a future, the future of Dr Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream and the reason for our living. I pray that peace will become our own personal hashtag and that faith will once again mean something good instead of a reason for violence.
I too have a dream. My dream is that religion will stop being misused. My dream is that the world will come to know the purpose of faith – to be a roadmap for the future. Faith is believing, believing in hope, in success, in peace, in mankind. It is not and should not be a tool for destruction, for despair, for denial of basic human rights. People are not commodities and children ….children are not mere pawns to be sacrificed on the chessboard of life.
My Psalm 39
Hear our prayers, O Lord.
You created this world and we are destroying it.
Teach us to preserve and not destroy.
Grant us wisdom to protect and not pretend.
Close our egos to greed, O Father.
Shut our mouths to lies and deceit.
Bind our hands when doing harm.
Open our eyes to the possibilities of the future.
We are travelers through this life.
We are guests in your creation.
We are but mortal and not all-knowing.
We are in need of your mercy and guidance.
Enable us to learn and grow, Dear Lord.
Embrace us to love one another.
Engage our hearts to respect all life.
Endow us with your love eternally.