The Myth Killing Mankind

The Myth Killing Mankind

Pentecost 26

The Ancient myths divided the world into sections that early man could understand and relate to, into something less scary. Experience an earthquake or a tornado or even a blinding snowstorm and nature no longer seems like that which will sustain you. Nature can quite suddenly become the enemy.

Thirty years, three months and eight days ago, Desmond Tutu, an African Anglican bishop stated the following: “We don’t want apartheid liberalized.  We want it dismantled.  You can’t improve something that is intrinsically evil.” Apartheid is an Afrikaans word meaning “to live apart” or “to segregate”. It became a way of life when the Nationalist Party of South Africa adopted it by legislation. The governing party from 1948 to 1994, this legislation separated those living in South Africa based solely upon their race. Those who were native to the area suddenly became the enemy of those who has emigrated and those natives, the original settlers of the region were denied basic human rights.

This was not the first time the area had experienced racial segregation. The Dutch Empire initiated racial segregation when the area was a Dutch colony and it existed until the British gained control of the Cape of Good Hope. After apartheid legislation was passed in 1948, though, inhabitants of the region were divided into four groups. In 1960, a forced mass removal of non-white South Africans began and by 1983 more than three and a half million people were forced into segregated neighborhoods. Non-white political representation was abolished in 1970 and in that same year black people were denied citizenship and their education, medical care, and other benefits of living in the area were curtailed.

Apartheid has existed ever since mankind began to realize that not everyone looked the same. When it appeared that people of a certain disposition seemed to gain favor more than others, fear set in and that fear became the motivating factor behind apartheid. Religions are full of stories based upon favor given by deities to one group of people over another. In some instances these favors were based not upon appearance or nationality but upon the moral actions of a person or group. In some cases it is as simple as “Repent and you are forgiven”. Those that did not repent were separated or ostracized by the group. In times of harsh living where survival depends on working together, such separation could mean death and often did.

There is a website called Ten Biggest Myths. On it they list the ten biggest myths or untrue facts about mankind. The first is that “Among human beings, distinct races exist.” While I support their stated purpose in bringing about world peace, I must view this first myth with skepticism. After all, DNA testing is based upon the fact that one can determine one’s ethnicity and that is defined as one’s race. I do agree that the second and third “myths” are not true: “Myth #2:  Human beings were not created equal. Myth #3:  Racism is justifiable.”

None of us are the same and if you define humans being equal as humans being the same then…we are not. However, whoever said that we must all be the same to be equal? After all, two 2’s in base ten do not look the same as the number 4 and yet, two 2’s equal 4 when added together. If you take those same two 2’s and divide them, then they equal one. The “2” has stayed the same but the actions placed upon it, the stress if you will that it undergoes determines whether or not that “2” is equal to a “1” or a “4”.

Last night in the historic town of Charleston, South Carolina, a group of people were attending a prayer service. The weekly Wednesday night service is a regularly scheduled event in their faith and these people were simply going about their religious practice. Suddenly a twenty-one-year-old man stood up and began firing a weapon. Nine people were killed. Those killed were black while the gunman was white. It appears the victims were targets because of their race and the gunman is still at large as I write this. [This post was delayed because I was hoping to be able to tell you he had been caught but sadly, that is not at the present time the case.]

Former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Anan once said: “Ignorance and prejudice are the handmaidens of propaganda. Our mission, therefore, is to confront ignorance with knowledge, bigotry with tolerance, and isolation with the outstretched hand of generosity. Racism can, will, and must be defeated.” A ten year-old boy survived last night’s killings but it can be assumed that someone in his family died. No one has the right to destroy a young boy’s future, his family, his life. It is the greatest myth of all to think you have that power.

The mythologies we have and will continue to review during this series are stories of mankind. Some are very hard to take as fact but others are believed and worshipped every day. Some have a basis in truth while others are taken on faith. What is a fact is what former American President Abraham Lincoln stated: “Achievement has no color.”

In her book “To Kill a Mockingbird”, Harper Lee wrote: ““Some Negroes lie, some are immoral, some Negro men are not be trusted around women – black and white. But this is a truth that applies to the human race and to no particular race of men.”  Clearly, based upon his actions last night, this twenty-one-year-old Caucasian male was not to be trusted around living beings of another color. He proved his unworthiness by his actions. Color had and will continue to have very little to do with a person’s actions. What determines how a person grows up and what they become are their stresses. When we divide those two 2’s, we lessen their strength. The same is true with mankind. When we put them together, they become as strong as 4; they double their power. When mankind comes together, the best of the impossible can happen and we all benefit.

H. G. Wells said it best: “Our true nationality is mankind.” It is a sad myth that mankind believes peace is not possible, that racism is a path one should walk, and that one human being is better than another. To paraphrase Frederick Douglas: No one person’s happiness or achievements can be obtained by creating misery or death for another.

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