On the evening of Thursday, July 7, my parents and I spent several hours attentively watching out of our apartment window. Tragedy had struck just 16 floors below and about a block away from our city loft. We didn’t know it then, but 12 police officers had been shot during a peaceful BLM (Black Lives Matter) protest that was marching through the streets of Dallas. Five of those police officers were dead by the next morning.
My parents and I were in shock. For the first 20 minutes or so, we thought it might have just been a robbery or a traffic accident or something. We had no idea how it would unfold throughout the night. Then, we watched dozens of police officers and paramedics and firemen race in and out of the scene. Police cars were blocking off several surrounding streets where the attacks had happened, and people were running and driving frantically to avoid the danger. I watched a man with a severely wounded leg be loaded onto a gurney, and I saw the terror and shock on his face as they carried him into the paramedic vehicle. My blood ran cold. It was beyond surreal.
We quickly realized that this was no small accident. This was major national news happening right outside our window. This was one of several recent tragedies that will forever be remembered by our nation. It’s still a bit hard to believe that something so close to where I was living and sleeping and eating will be remembered in history books — that I was sitting so close to such wickedness.
Obviously, the shooting in Dallas was not the only tragedy to occur in the last few months. We’ve witnessed horrible, awful things recently, and they never appear to stop. No matter your beliefs about who is at fault for these tragedies, it doesn’t change the fact that many people, for one reason or another, have tragically lost their lives recently. Black people, white people, police officers, teenagers, civilians, men, women, homosexual people, straight people — all sharing one binding quality; they were human. And we should, therefore, mourn their deaths.
Last week, just 24 hours after the Dallas shooting, I wrote an article telling you 10 things that might cheer you up a bit. I felt it was important, rather than screaming our opinions and solutions at one another, that we take a moment to regain our hopes and satiate our spirits. It was better to meditate on a few wonderful little parts of life to ready ourselves to face these problems with dignity and hope. I didn’t just write that article for the public to read; I wrote it for myself too. I needed to regain a bit of hope before I could say anything addressing these tragic events. I couldn’t talk about it yet. It just hurt too much.
But now it’s time. I’ve had a bit of time to rest and almost fully regain my spirits, and now I need to talk about it. It still hurts, and I’m still emotionally exhausted, but there are things that need to be said.
A week ago, our job was to mourn with those who had lost their loved ones and to pray for healing for our nation. We were to be gracious and compassionate to everyone and to recognize the pain of those around us.
But now? Now our job has shifted a little bit. This is what I propose — that we, as a people, attempt to squash this evil through the power of the vocational good of the individual. I propose, instead of screaming at one another in an attempt to change the evil that lurks in our world, that we destroy said evil by filling the world with good instead. It may sound obvious to say that to avoid evil we must do good, but that’s not exactly what I mean. What I mean is that, not only should we choose to do good instead of doing evil ourselves, but that we should choose to do good in spite of evil being done around us. Even when we sit in the wake of tragedy, we should still pursue goodness.
What do I mean when I say “the vocational good of the individual”?
I mean that every person should nobly pursue the good duty they have been entrusted with. I mean that each person owes a service of goodness to this world and that they should aim to achieve it, no matter what wicked things stir around them. This lies in the God-given power of the individual and his/her devotion to benefiting the commonwealth of mankind. The good of the individual lies also within the good of the community.
The role and significance of the individual is a topic I usually struggle with. I greatly dislike our culture’s idolization of the individual. I think it’s destructive and lies at the root of a great number of our problems. I still believe that worshipping the individual rather than caring about the community is wrong, but the role of the individual certainly has its place.
Thus, when I say that the power to pursue goodness in the midst of tragedy lies in the hands of the individual, I mean that a community can only be strong if it is made up of good, working individual parts. In his or her own way, each person must go out and seek what is good and beneficial. A society filled with individuals who are actively trying to do good things for the world is a healthy society.
However, this is a struggle for our culture because we only like to look at ourselves with adoring eyes. We idolize the self but never look inwardly on the self to change and grow. We seek quick, external solutions to the issues that face us but seldom seek to change our own erroneous ways. This leads millions of people to all cry for help at once, each with their own set of beliefs and solutions for the world’s troubles. This is especially true in the face of tragedy. When we, as a nation, feel wronged or vulnerable, we consistently like to problem solve and make sure to blame the right person. We all want to be heard. We all want to find the answer.
The concept our society struggles to understand is that there isn’t always a solution. Not all of our problems are solvable. What we have yet to accept is that there are evil people in this world who mean incredible harm and that we might not always be able to do anything to completely eliminate it. The most powerful and orderly government in the world cannot eliminate evil itself. What we can do, however, is turn inwardly towards ourselves. We can achieve growth and reconciliation just by reflecting inwardly on the character of our souls and seeking repentance. How have you affected this world, both positively and negatively? What can you do to better the world as you stand in it?
This means that we must understand our own individual duties for the good of our world. When you hear that wrong has been done in the world, that doesn’t always mean it’s time to establish more rules or change other’s beliefs. It means that it’s time for you to be especially compassionate and kind and that it’s time to love others even more than before. Sometimes, solving the problem of evil doesn’t always mean directly eliminating its presence. "Solving evil" can be done by simply counteracting it with the power of good. So, do what you were created to do, and do it well.
If you can cure diseases, you should cure diseases. If you were created to be a mother, be a good mother. If you have the skills to paint a masterpiece, you should paint a beautiful masterpiece. Do the good things you were intended to do for the world — especially when it suffers.
This doesn’t mean that we should ignore the hardships that our nation faces. The tragedies we’ve seen certainly deserve our mourning and our tender care. It is crucial that we understand what is happening in our society and do whatever we can to bless others in spite of it. You have a voice, and it matters. But there’s only so much we, as a people, can argue about before it’s time to simply go out and do good in spite of the wrong that’s been done. Don’t ignore the world’s troubles, and don’t give up on humanity because of them. There is no time for apathy, hopelessness or ignorance.
Instead, make the world a better place, and fill it with whatever goodness you can.
I leave you with the hope-filled words of Lin-Manuel Miranda, author and composer of the musical, "Hamilton," written on Facebook the morning after the Dallas shooting:
“Good morning. Eyes up. Hearts up. Minds sharp. Compassion on full blast. (Sips coffee) OK, let’s go.”