It’s embarrassing, of course, when the wrong winner is announced at a beauty pageant. And the fact that in the year 2015 beauty pageants still exist is also discouraging. But what was really shameful was the outburst of racism triggered by Steve Harvey’s blunder.
The N word was on full display on Twitter after Harvey apologized for announcing Miss Colombia as the winner instead of Miss Philippines. So were comparisons to monkeys and other shocking examples of naked racial animosity.
I’m sure the derogatory tweets did not all come from America, so we have to face the horrible truth: Racism is very much alive throughout the world.
You might say that tribalism is an inherent human instinct. The temptation to pit “us” against “them” is evident even on kindergarten playgrounds. But this is supposed to be a civilized world, where our base instincts are suppressed and “our better angels” encouraged.
I blame the evil of tribalism for toxic manifestations such as ISIS. And I blame the same primitive instinct for the hatred being displayed in America in response to “Islamic extremism.” As President Obama keeps pointing out, the terrorists do not represent Islam; they represent a rogue cult that is threatening to destroy Islam.
Anyone can call himself a Muslim – just as anyone can call himself a Methodist. But when some Methodist commits a heinous crime, his religion doesn’t get blamed. I know, the terrorists scream “Allah is great!” But I’m sure you’ve read about serial killers who insist that God – presumably their Christian God – told them to do it.
The war on ISIS cannot be won with bombs and bullets. The extremist cult may be defeated and every one of its members killed, but as long as tribalism flourishes, racism and religious extremism will persist. And recurring violence will be inevitable.
Revenge is also an inherent human instinct, and it is just as inflammatory as tribalism. It is the fuel that feeds an endless cycle of savagery. But that instinct, too, must be suppressed.
The war on threats such as ISIS must be fought in the hearts and minds of the world, through education and persuasion – and through an example of kindness and forgiveness.
King Solomon, in his wisdom, advised that a soft answer turns away wrath. And St. Paul, the great teacher, proclaimed:
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
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