On Killing Evil

on killing evil

I cried on the day that Saddam Hussein was executed. And, yes, they were tears of sadness. Not because I thought that Hussein was a great, upstanding guy by any stretch of the imagination; he was undoubtedly responsible for the death and suffering of many, many people.

I was upset because his hanging was celebrated in the same manner as we behave when our favorite team wins the Superbowl.

When I see a culture that is not only indifferent about the loss of life, but actually feels pleasure and delight when another being is killed, my heart sinks.

I wonder how I am to teach my children to value peace and non-violence when they are surrounded by the mixed message of “killing is wrong… unless ‘we’ have decided ‘they’ are evil… and then we have a huge party to celebrate your killing.”

The same pit that I had in my stomach in December of 2006 was there again this morning as I read a text from my husband that said, “Turn on the news. Bin Laden is dead.”

As I made my way to the TV, I wondered what the attitude of the reports would be. Perhaps the journalists would be solemn and contemplative; maybe our media would be raising important questions like, “what does Bin Laden’s death mean for us and the rest of the world? His family? Those who lost loved ones on 9/11? Those who lost loved ones fighting the war in Afghanistan?”

Or would the reports be a cheerful? After all, Bin Laden had taken responsibility for killing thousands of American men, women and children on 9/11. I would understand if there was a cheerful undertone.

But the reaction I saw brought me to my knees.

A Party in front of the White House. Seriously?

Relief? Yes.

Contemplation? Yes.

Remembrance of those who have lost their lives because of and in pursuit of this man? Absolutely!

PARTY????? NO!

Why not a candle light vigil? Why not have a discussion on how further loss of life could be avoided without having to murder another human? Heck, why not even have a conversation about why so many of us seem to feel this release of emotion; so much so that we are chanting “USA! USA!” in front of the White House in the middle of the night?

Our media (mind you, the very SAME media that has reported with condemnation in their voices when attacks on America were celebrated in the streets of other “radical” countries) is highlighting these jubilant celebrations and even reporting them with elation. Because the person WE killed was EVIL. So OUR celebrations are clearly justified.

How is it that we live in a world where a death, ANY DEATH, is met with anything less than a heavy heart and a celebration of life? Bin Laden’s death should lead us into a period of meditation, prayer, and wondering. Bin Laden’s death could even lead us to celebrate the lives of those who choose every day NOT to kill in the name of a bastardized faith and those who have made many sacrifices for the greater good.

To me, justice is when the people who promote love and peace dominate the news; celebrating the good decries the destructive ambitions of those who choose to live in a world where “might makes right” and where retribution is a means to that end.

We should be ashamed of ourselves. All of us.

Today instead of celebrating a killing, I will instead light a candle for life and love.

For the lives of all are worthy, and a day when a life is taken in the name of protecting the greater good is truly a sad day.

Books that “Stand on the Side of Love” (Week Four)

"Uncle Bobby's Wedding" by Sarah Brannen
In honor of this month’s @Home, each week in February will feature a different children’s book that honors all families and celebrates love.
Just by reading and sharing these stories we are all doing our part to help create a culture that affirms the worth and dignity of all persons AND their families.

No matter what your family looks like, I hope you will take some time to check out some of these books!

**************************************************

"Uncle Bobby's Wedding"

Week Four – “Uncle Bobby’s Wedding” by Sarah S. Brannen
I was introduced to “Uncle Bobby’s Wedding” by Sarah S. Brannen just in the nick of time!

My daughter has reached the age when questions about EVERYTHING fill our days; including her wonderings about all of this “getting married” stuff she is surrounded with seemingly every minute of every day (thank you, Disney). Of course, the images that bombard her world tend to feature a very narrow view of what love and marriage looks like.

Uncle Bobby’s Wedding  was a great way for me to begin to address some of my daughter’s questions about marriage and weddings and has allowed me to incorporate more diverse representations of marriage into her world view.

Brannen’s tale introduces a rather familiar concept: the jealousy a child may feel when he or she learns that a beloved family member may be sharing time with someone new. In this story, Chloe, an adorable hamster, is saddened, even in the midst of her family’s celebrations, that her favorite Uncle Bobby will be getting married to Jamie. Chloe adores the time that she gets to spend with her Uncle Bobby and wonders if he will still have time to share with her after he gets married. Of course, by the end of the book (spoiler alert!) Chloe learns that she doesn’t have to be jealous of her Uncle’s new husband, but that there is enough love to go around.

Uncle Bobby’s Wedding is a sweet story that features themes and characters that speak to the heart of children of all ages. If your little one is beginning to wonder about marriage, why not include this book in your conversations?

**************************************************

So, UU@Home-rs, this is where you come in; in addition to providing four of my own favs, I am turning the tables this month and asking each of you to contribute some of your own great resources for all ages! Add your book recommendations below, or check out the UU@Home facebook page and join the discussion board, post pictures, and don’t forget to include a link!

Books that “Stand on the Side of Love” (Week Three)

A Tale of Two Daddies by Vanita Oelschlager

In honor of this month’s @Home, each Wednesday in February will feature a children’s book that honors all families and celebrates love.

Just by reading and sharing these stories we are all doing our part to help create a culture that affirms the worth and dignity of all persons AND their families.

No matter what your family looks like, I hope you will take some time to check out some of these books!

**************************************************

"A Tale of Two Daddies"

Week Three – A Tale of Two Daddies by Vanita Oelschlager
I stumbled upon this week’s book in our local library a few months ago and I instantly loved it.

The author of “A Tale of Two Daddies”, Vanita Oelschlager, does a wonderful job capturing the genuine curiosity expressed by children when they meet someone who has a family that looks a little different from their own. This charming story features a little boy who wonders about the family of his playground playmate; a little girl who has two dads.

As the two children play together, the little boy begins to ask a series of questions including, “Which dad helps you when your day begins?/ Who is there to tuck you in?”

The little girl proudly responds, “Poppa’s awake when my day begins. / Both of my daddies tuck me in.”

I love that kids and caretakers can read this story and think about who helps them in their own home and discover that while each family is not exactly the same, love is always there!

“Who is your dad when you’re sad and need some love?”

“Both, of course!”

Through it’s simple story and beautiful illustrations, this book reminds us that a child’s concept of “family” is ultimately formed by what they know and see around them; so surround the children you love with books about the love shared between all families!

**************************************************

So, UU@Home-rs, this is where you come in; in addition to providing four of my own favs, I am turning the tables this month and asking each of you to contribute some of your own great resources for all ages! Add your book recommendations below, or check out the UU@Home facebook page and join the discussion board, post pictures, and don’t forget to include a link!

Books that "Stand on the Side of Love" (Week Two)

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

In honor of this month’s @Home, each Wednesday in February will feature a children’s book that honors all families and celebrates love.

Just by reading and sharing these stories we are all doing our part to help create a culture that affirms the worth and dignity of all persons AND their families.

No matter what your family looks like, I hope you will take some time to check out some of these books!

**************************************************

"And Tango Makes Three"

Week Two – “And Tango Makes Three” by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
This week’s pick was a total no-brainer: “And Tango Makes Three” is a heart-warming, true story that celebrates the love shared between two male penguins, Roy and Silo, and the beauty of the family they create together after they are given the gift of a fertile egg from another penguin couple. Roy and Silo take turns caring for the egg and, eventually, it hatches, and Tango is born.

This book is a great way to remind children (and adults) that even though Tango’s family might look a little different than theirs, that the love shared between Tango and her dads is just as beautiful and valuable as any other family. Plus penguins. Who doesn’t love penguins?

While “And Tango Makes Three” has become a staple in UU Religious Education libraries from coast to coast, this book has still faced a fair amount of controversy. It topped the American Library Association‘s list of “most challenged books” in 2006, not falling to number two until 2009.

The calls to ban this book are yet another sad reminder of just how much our society needs the lessons from books such as these and how important it is to fight to keep these stories alive. Hopefully, the generation of children that grows up loving Tango will create a world that truly honors the value and rights of all families. In the meantime, this book continues to play a vital role in putting an end to bullying by teaching us that the love shared between Tango and her dads is not unlike the love in every other family.

**************************************************

So, UU@Home-rs, this is where you come in; in addition to providing four of my own favs, I am turning the tables this month and asking each of you to contribute some of your own great resources for all ages! Add your book recommendations below, or check out the UU@Home facebook page and join the discussion board, post pictures, and don’t forget to include a link!

Learning Love

Learning love

I remember so clearly the first time my now three-year-old daughter told me that she loved me. The very image of my toddler expressing her love was enough to melt the heart of even the grumpiest scrooge. You know the scene: glowing eyes, the smile that filled her face, her arms reaching to give the biggest hug her little body could possibly manage. Not that I am biased or anything, but there is not a baby mammal or a hamster in a helmet that could possibly compare to this level of cuteness.

It has always amazed me how capable young children are of freely expressing emotions that adults are so apt to keep to themselves. Even babies will offer their comfort items such as pacifiers and bottles to other children who are upset, as if to say, “I know how you feel; I’ve been there.”

Still, even as I anxiously await my 15 month old son’s first proclamation of love, I can’t help but wonder: do kids really “get” love? Do they know what they are saying or are they simply mimicking behavior?

Yes, yes and…Yes!

Kids are expert cultural anthropologists; soaking in every bit of experience every minute of every day. They can sense tension and are astutely aware of happiness. I know this because both of my children are grumpy on my most stress-filled days and will laugh with me at my jokes when no one else will humor me… most of the time.

Kids are cultural anthropologistsSo when a caretaker affectionately whispers “I love you” and then shows it with hugs, understanding, presence, and sacrifice, it forms the child’s very understanding of “love”.

Go ahead; ask a child to define “love”. I am willing to bet that what awaits you is a list a verbs that reflects how love has been shown to them:

“Love is hugging, love is listening, love is helping, love is friendship.”
OR, in the words of a three-year-old:
“Love is when we use our nice hands and we don’t hit our little brothers. No. No.”

How have you loved today?