Ask for the Grace to”Tear Up the Memo”

Feature-071014At the bottom of this post is a video of dogs and cats 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, 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 concluded. It was good news, as Soviet-style rule there ended. But then a horrible bloodbath ensued 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 one another 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. Someone must have taught them to hate one another. Someone “gave them the memo.” So when the “strongman,” Tito, left the scene, ancient hatreds that had continued to be handed down from parent to child exploded. Looking with my American eyes, I wondered how the Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian people could even distinguish one another. 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 oversimplifying things, but there is also the tendency to overcomplicate matters. The fact is, children do not enter this world with an intrinsic hated of an entire group of other children. Someone 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 people in a very short period of time. Some argued that the tensions went all the way back to colonial times. But here, too, most of grievances seemed to predate the soldiers and vigilantes who undertook the massacres. Who taught them this hatred? Who “gave them the memo”?

When I was a child, I lived in Chicago, Illinois. 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 in my 7-year-old mind.

But in 1969 we moved to Northern Florida (think “Southern Georgia”). And there racial tension was in the air. I remember being confused and bewildered by the unexplained resentments and fears. I guess I was too young. I was a newcomer and had not “read the memo” telling me that I should be suspicious, hateful, and that I should in no way mix with “them.” I remember seeing 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 any person, any race, or any ethnicity. Someone 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 by now to understand that I am no moral relativist. I am not suggesting there is no such thing as truth, right and wrong, injustice, etc. Neither am I one to dispense platitudes such as “Can’t we all just get along?” or “Coexist.” For these sorts of bromides often rest on the faulty premise 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, things 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 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.”

9 Replies to “Ask for the Grace to”Tear Up the Memo””

  1. You are also probably too young to remember the song from James Michener’s South Pacific, which at its heart is about 2 people struggling with racial prejudice, “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught”, which surprisingly debuted in 1949:

    “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught,” (Lyrics from South Pacific.)

    You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear,
    You’ve got to be taught from year to year,
    It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear,
    You’ve got to be carefully taught.

    You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
    Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
    And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
    You’ve got to be carefully taught.

    You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
    Before you are six or seven or eight,
    To hate all the people your relatives hate,
    You’ve got to be carefully taught!

  2. Good topic to ponder , on this 7/11 , which also happens to be the Octave of The Feast of St.Thomas, on July 3rd – well related to also the Octave of Easter – Feast of Divine Mercy , with its Twin rays of Blood and Water that we need , to counter the 9/11 , the unholy separations where it should not be – out of fear of what might be ‘evil ‘ on the ‘other side ‘ – for we are told ‘ to hate what is evil ‘ ..and pretty soon , one way or other , persons try to figure that out , in efforts for ‘ peace ‘ to prevail …and The Lord tell us what real peace is – with repentance for the errant ways of oneself or the other, which need to wash off the hatred ..

    pleading for The Holy Spirit , to touch the hearts ..

    recognising that there could be hatred , at the other end and being vigilant that one does not enter in and invite the demon ..

    True, tremendous errors get made , from the work of the father of lies ; but, in persevering to see the Light and the truth , our lives take on deeper meaning and role as well as the inncocent joy , depicted above !

    Thank you for the reminder !

  3. Good post as always Monsignor, but a major error in regard to the Hutu and Tutsi tribes. It was the Hutu who attacked the Tutsi. If you want to read an outstanding book on the subject, read ” Left To Tell ” by Immaculee Ilibagiza a well-known Catholic speaker who survived the genocide.

  4. In Spain we have this problem with some regions. A few politics instill the hate through TV and the education system against the rest of Spaniards, and we are in serious danger of a civil war… The even want to invoque president Obama and Pope Francis with his illusions and fantasies.

  5. Our sinful nature appears evident early in life. Children fight and hit each other over toys and other stuff. When they get bigger, the fights are more orgaized and can turn deadly but, more often than not, we are still fighting over who gets which stuff. The nature element exists as well as the nurture.

  6. I love the video, Father!

    Like in Isaiah 11:8…
    Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat; the lion shall eat hay like the ox. The baby shall play by the viper’s den,…for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD.

    I can’t wait!!!

  7. I would carry your statement a bit farther by saying it is not just someone teaching us to hate but rather any number of race, cultures, and societies of people. You can’t place a border around hatred and say that’s where it is coming from. We can’t go back to a garden of Eden when we are In a goda davita. It takes a world to learn hatred but it only takes One person to stop hating. Don’t shoot the messenger.

  8. “I remember some years ago when the former Yugoslavia broke apart as the long reign of communism concluded. It was good news, as Soviet-style rule there ended. But then a horrible bloodbath ensued 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 one another so. It seemed that the injustices of the past predated most of the people who were alive now.”

    There’s no mystery there. First, Yugoslavia was NOT a place of little violence post-WWII. Rather, it was committed overwhelmingly by the government. A communist country is always a kind of prison, with armed guards ready to kill any disagreers. The end of the government there simply took the lid off the pressure cooker, and the boiling below became apparent to those outside the country.

    Second, (and this applies to Rwanda, Syria, Lebanon, etc., as well), the ancient law prevails: Diversity + Proximity = War if the strongest group is <80%. Otherwise, it just = hate. The only way (short of Christ coming back to reestablish His Kingdom) to end hate is for each to live with his own. Rudyard Kipling's poem "The Stranger" sums it up well:

    The Stranger within my gate,
    He may be true or kind,
    But he does not talk my talk–
    I cannot feel his mind.
    I see the face and the eyes and the mouth,
    But not the soul behind.

    The men of my own stock,
    They may do ill or well,
    But they tell the lies I am wanted to,
    They are used to the lies I tell;
    And we do not need interpreters
    When we go to buy or sell.

    The Stranger within my gates,
    He may be evil or good,
    But I cannot tell what powers control–
    What reasons sway his mood;
    Nor when the Gods of his far-off land
    Shall repossess his blood.

    The men of my own stock,
    Bitter bad they may be,
    But, at least, they hear the things I hear,
    And see the things I see;
    And whatever I think of them and their likes
    They think of the likes of me.

    This was my father’s belief
    And this is also mine:
    Let the corn be all one sheaf–
    And the grapes be all one vine,
    Ere our children’s teeth are set on edge
    By bitter bread and wine.

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