My Independence Day Wish · 4 July 2020

I know that wishes are usually saved for Christmas, but this Independence Day, I have one wish. I wish that we can be independent of hatred.

Independence Day means lots of things to lots of people. This year, it would be nice to be out of quarantine and independent of confinement. But that is not our greatest need. Our greatest need is to be independent of hatred and injustice.

People think that racism stems from ignorance or fear or stereotypes or biases run amok. But in reality, racism really stems from hate. I am not sure how that hatred starts, but it often manifests itself in bias and violence. And it can be seen in anybody. Of any race, creed, or color. Of any socioeconomic status. Of any person in time or space. But we must realize that hatred is never okay. If you love somebody who loves you back, what good is that? It is when you love somebody who you do not know or who might even hate you, that is when you are doing your part to change the world.

By the way, if I have not said it before, you can change the world. One person at a time. Sure, it will take a long time, but that is all you can do. Change yourself and then help other people around you to change for the better too.

I know that we can never be free of hatred and fear in the world. We cannot get rid of violence. We cannot change everybody’s hearts. In reality, you cannot change anybody’s heart except your own. And you need to do so by changing your mind. You need to decide to change. And then change.

There is an old prayer, originally written by Reinhold Niebuhr, which says: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know that difference. According to Wikipedia, Nieburhr’s original prayer was a little different and more powerful:

Father, give us courage to change what must be altered, serenity to accept what cannot be helped, and the insight to know the one from the other.

There are things in our world that must be altered. We cannot legislate against racism. It just does not work. After all, hatred comes from the heart just as love does. But we can legislate against the results of hatred. And we can help people change their minds and their hearts. And we need to start the process by loving the haters.

I know. It sounds unreasonable. It sounds undoable. It sounds ludicrous. But these are not my ideas. They are not my thoughts. They are not really my words. They are the words of an itinerant teacher the likes the world has never seen before nor since. “Love those who hate you.” He knew what He was talking about. And if you do not know who He is, find out who is the most influential and remembered and revered and reviled and hated person in all of known history. Certainly the most talked about and written about. The most quoted and misquoted. Find Him, then find out what He said.

I know that we cannot be rid of hatred and bias and fear in our world. But we can be rid of those things in our own lives. Or at least we can work to rid those things from our own beings. And we can follow Reinhold Niebuhr’s prayer and take courage to change what must be changed. Both in our own lives and in our world.

Even though I know these things about our world and about our hearts, I still hope and pray that we can be independent of hatred this Independence Day and forevermore.

© 2020 Michael T. Miyoshi

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