At the bottom of this post is a video of a large dog and a small cat who apparently never got the memo that they are supposed to fear and hate each other. As the video makes clear, they are bosom buddies who love to romp, play, wrestle and even snuggle. How unlikely, and yet, there it is before our eyes.
While the interactions between animals are mysterious and not to be compared with human relationships, and I can’t help thinking of humanity as I look at these animals. What would things be like if some of the “memos” we pass back and forth were never received or got lost?
I remember some years ago when the former Yugoslavia broke apart as the long reign of communism ended there. Good news, as Soviet style rule ended. But then, a horrible blood bath ensued as and the Bosnian, Serbians and Croatians turned on one another, rekindling old hatreds going back hundreds of years. I remember wondering how people who had lived largely without violence for so long could still hate each other so. It seemed that the injustices of the past predated most of the people who were alive now.
Bosnian babies were not born hating Croatian babies. Some one must have taught them to hate each other. Some one gave them “the memo.” So when the “strong man,” Tito left the scene, ancient hatreds which had continued to be handed on from parent to child, exploded. Looking with my American eyes, I wondered how the Bosnian, Croat and Serbian people could even distinguish each other. To me they all “looked alike.” But they surely knew the differences, drew the lines, and spiraled right down into the hell of hatred.
I realize that I may be over-simplifying things, but there is also the tendency to over complicate matters. The fact is, no child enters this world with an intrinsic hated of a whole group of other children. Some one teaches them that. That part isn’t complicated.
Another awful example of this was what happened in Rwanda in the early 1990s. There, the Hutu and Tutsi tribes had separated back in 1959. But suddenly in 1990 Civil war exploded and in 1994 a Tutsi Tribe undertook an attempted Genocide of the Hutu tribe killing as many as a million in a very short period of time. Some argued that the tensions went all the way to colonial times. But here too, most of grievances seemed to predate the soldiers and vigilantes who undertook to massacres. Who taught them this hatred? Who “gave them the memo?”
When I was a child I lived in Chicago, Ill. I never remember my parents ever telling me to hate or even be wary of Black people. I give them a lot of credit for that. Neither do I remember any awareness of Racial tension or hatred in my neighborhood. However, to be clear, I was still very young and the racial riots that Followed Dr. King’s assassination did not really register on my 7 year old mind.
But in 1969 we moved to Northern Florida (think “Southern Georgia”). And there the racial tension was in the air. I remember being confused and bewildered by the unexplained resentments and fears. I guess I was too young, and was a newcomer and had not read “the memo” which indicated that I was to be suspicious, hateful and in no way mix with “them.” I remember seeing the Black children on the other side of the playground and they were playing with some “really cool” toys. Not having read the memo I went to join them. I was rebuffed not only by fellow Whites, but also by some of the Black children who were unaware that I had not read the memo and considered my “incursion” unwanted and even threatening.
Crazy stuff. We are not born hating anyone, any race, or ethnicity. Some one teaches us that. And this very fact increases the total disgrace that such hatred is. There is an old phrase that talks about “burying the hatchet.” You may call me naive, and simplistic, even myopic, but I wonder, what might happen if we could just “tear up the memo.”
I hope most of you know me by now well enough to understand that I am no moral relativist. I am not suggesting there is no such thing as truth, right or wrong, injustice etc. Neither am I one to dispatch slogans like: “Can’t we all get along?” or “Coexist.” For these sorts of slogans often rest on faulty premises that there is no real truth to announce or protect. But honestly, some of the hatreds we struggle with go back to things long gone, that predate any of us here today, and which, quite frankly, are not even grievances we know much about. There are just some “memos” that need to go to the shredder.
The Catechism makes some very helpful observations:
Deliberate hatred is contrary to charity. Hatred of the neighbor is a sin when one deliberately wishes him evil. Hatred of the neighbor is a grave sin when one deliberately desires him grave harm. “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”….
Peace is not merely the absence of war, and it is not limited to maintaining a balance of powers between adversaries. Peace cannot be attained on earth without safeguarding the goods of persons, free communication among men, respect for the dignity of persons and peoples, and the assiduous practice of fraternity. Peace is the tranquility of order. Peace is the work of justice and the effect of charity…..
Injustice, excessive economic or social inequalities, envy, distrust, and pride raging among men and nations constantly threaten peace and cause wars. Everything done to overcome these disorders contributes to building up peace and avoiding war: Insofar as men are sinners, the threat of war hangs over them and will so continue until Christ comes again; but insofar as they can vanquish sin by coming together in charity, violence itself will be vanquished and these words will be fulfilled: “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (CCC # 2303,2304, 2317)
Well, if nothing else, enjoy this video of two animals who never got “the memo” that they are supposed to be mortal enemies, and consider joining me in the dream that some of us humans too will never get “the memo.”
Photo Credit above: From the Zazzle Catalog