You can’t make anyone do anything. In the end we all do what we want. We only have control over our own actions, and sometimes even that is questionable.
Have you ever watched someone about to fall? You see them shift, you watch the tilt, all in slow motion. You know they are in for pain, and you know you can’t stop it. I watched a relationship do that last night. Yes, i was uncomfortable. Yes, i felt awkward. But, mostly, i felt powerless. Even understanding both sides of the argument, able to empathize with how each of them felt, there was no way to make peace. Both friends would suffer, and there wasn’t a damned thing i could do about it.
This morning, it was the global version of that same sensation. As i learned of the shooting in Orlando, which is sad enough in itself, i could see what would happen next: Knee jerk reaction and retaliation of Americans against muslims, savage protests by the masses, the promotion and election of politicians who eat such groups for breakfast, and the escalation of violence and hatred between religions. Again, i am devastated, weeping for the results. And again, i am impotent. Nothing i say or do is going to bring those victims back to life, nor will it stop the vicious aftermath.
I realize that many times in life and history, one lone voice has impacted the vector of time and stopped the descent into whatever circle of hell was gaining ground at that moment; but those voices came from people who already commanded attention. The Dalai Lama, Mother Theresa, Jimmy Carter, Robin Williams… Some people have the gift of influence. You, me, Daniel the bartender, most of the people we know… We could plead til we were blue in the face, but the politicians, the terrorists, the hatemongers… None of them are listening. Even on the small-scale, watching a fight between friends, it is nearly impossible to build a bridge that can bear the weight of the hurt feelings. To our credit, most of us still try, desperately hanging onto the thread of a utopian pipe dream.
Most of the time we are disappointed.
But that last shred of faith, the faint shadow of that castle in the air… They give us the strength for another attempt. Some of us are too stubborn to resolve ourselves to watching havoc play out like a movie. And tho i may never be able to keep terrorists from annihilating a group of bystanders, perhaps i can at least give my friends a white flag to clutch in peace.
I would still consider that a success.