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A few weeks ago, I had the honor and privilege of volunteering as a part of a Disaster Response Team aiding those impacted by the Orville Dam evacuations and the San Jose flooding. This experience opened my eyes and made me realize a few things—here are a few of my reflections and thoughts.
1. Humanity Transcends All Religions
I have always believed in this notion, but it is something that I have rarely seen in action. Here I am defining religion as a way of life. A way of life which may or may not conform to a set of certain set of principles, rules, regulations, guidelines, regions, and/or identities. While volunteering, I had the privilege of meeting people from different religious backgrounds and walks of life. People who, on a regular basis, I would not have the opportunity to associate with. This included former members of the military, congregants of the Southern Baptist Church, Hindus, Jews, Sikhs, Atheists, Muslims, and everything in between. The only thing that these folks appear to have in common is their desire to help others. A duty which was not taken lightly.
2. Not All Heroes Wear Tights and It Really Does Take a Village
The response to these disasters was truly a village coming together. Our team brought up donations from the South Bay and the surrounding regions. People flew in from all over the country, leaving the comfort of their family and homes to sacrifice their time and energy. Supplies brought in from all over the USA provided food and shelter. Each person who donated an item, resources, or their time is a hero. What I realized is this: people have good intentions and even if they cannot physically be there, their spirit and well wishes can. I just want to give a shout out to all the volunteers who worked 12 hours shifts. It is mentally and physically exhausting, and they all have my utmost respect and admiration for doing it day after day.
3. How Can We Prevent This?
While it is great seeing the community coming together like this, the real question is how can we prevent things like this from happening? Climate change will only worsen the impact of events like this and if we do not take precautionary measures, more people will be impacted in the future. From conversations I had with those who were impacted, I learned that there were very few alternatives. If we can come together to aid these people in disasters, what is preventing us from aiding them before these disasters occur? How can we work to provide alternatives?
These are not million dollar questions, these are the questions for over a million lives.
Disclaimer: This article is primarily written for myself any of the advice or solutions given are first and foremost things that I am working on implementing within my life. You can think of it as me talking in a mirror to myself reflecting on society.
Within our society we have a system established that literally abuses the vast majority of us. These systems lie all across the board ranging from racism, police abuse, education and access to education, insurance policies, resource distribution, pollution, climate change, water quality, water distribution, our tax system, our current government practices, and even our internal reactions to those around us. What I mentioned does not even begin to scratch the surface. When was the last time you walked through a "ghetto" neighborhood and felt at ease, when was the last time you saw a homeless person and acknowledged their existence as a fellow human being, when was the last time you empathized with those less fortunate rather than blaming them for their circumstances, when was the last time you thought about where your tax dollars go, and when was the last time you had time to think about these things rather than worry about your simply surviving and providing for your family, and...the list goes on and on.
In my opinion, the main issue here is that we do not care about one another. It is basically like we are all fighting over pennies, while others sit on their stacks of money passing a cigar around enjoying the spectacle. Finding amusement in our misery. One thing that they do better than us is look out for one another. There is constant lobbying and reform promoted by them to protect them and their vested interests. And part of what they do is work to turn the rest of us against ourselves.
While reading the Qur’an, verse 73 of Surah Al- Anfal (Chapter 8) stood out to me and highlights the problems that we are seeing.
And those who disbelieved are allies and protectors of one another. If you do not become allies and protectors of another—there will be oppression, persecution, confusion, and mischief on Earth.
Everything I mentioned above falls into the category of oppression, persecution, confusion, and mischief. This is what we are seeing and the solution is right there.
We need to start being allies of one another.
We need to start being protectors of one another.
We need to start caring about one another.
And in order to do that, we must start by asking ourselves difficult questions. Why we hold the opinions we do? Why we act in certain ways? Why is that we do not care about one another? After asking why, we move on to addressing what. What is wrong with us? What does it mean to be an ally? What does it mean to be a protector? What would we want in an ally or protector? And finally how.
How can we be one?
Religion is at its best when it makes us ask hard questions of ourselves. It is at its worst when it deludes us into thinking we have all the answers for everybody else.–Archibald Macleish
Recently, there have been protests in response to cases such as Ferguson, Mike Brown, Eric Garner and etc. regarding excessive police brutality and violence against minorities communities. There was one such protest last night in Berkeley.
My roommate and I arrived at the protest after 9pm. When we reached Telegraph and Durant, there was definitely tension between the police and the protesters. A group of police, who were fully masked and in riot gear, occupied the intersection splitting the group protestors and a crowd had gathered mainly to watch and observe what was happening.
It seemed as though each side was waiting for the other to do something, almost as though both sides were waiting to hear a pin drop. From the crowds people called "Hands up don't shoot" and "This was a peaceful protest". Shortly after, there was a loud bang from around the block which sounds as though a bomb had been dropped or shot. At that point my roommate and I left to go see what was happening around the block. Tear gas had been fired at the crowds and the officers were advancing towards the protestors pushing them back. We tried to catch up and join the main group to see what was going on, but when we would round the block we would see the police advancing towards the protestors.
From my understanding, the police came after rioters who destroyed windows and tagged buildings. There were quite a few police officers there (my guess is over 100) and they themselves were quite tense. Someone in the crowd mentioned that you could look into their eyes and see the ill intention in their eyes. It was almost like their eyes were cold and you could sense that they were not there to protect you. It seemed very militaristic. That being said the actions of the officers and their demeanor were off putting and quite unsettling; I can understand why the people in that moment were against the police. Plus, the riot gear and tear gas did not help much (tear gas sucks... it is a combination of cutting onions and inhaling red peppers just a thousand times worse than that though). The officers kept pushing the protest around and blocking off streets, which was quite inconvenient for individuals trying to get home. Many people lived in the areas that were blocked off and the police would not let them get to their homes.
From what I saw, it seemed like a fairly peaceful protest and few if any people were actually causing destruction. Out of the hundreds of individuals there, I only saw three individuals in ski masks causing destruction and in this case tagging the Bank of America with the phrase FTP. Another individual and myself questions them, asking them what the hell they were doing.
Their justification was ridiculous. They said it was their right and "form of protest." Which to me seems completely stupid since if you are fighting a system of injustice, what gives you the right to do injustice. Sure, Bank of America may not be a good or even moral corporation, but that does not justify damaging their property. Seeing these individuals and their absolute disregard made me more sympathetic to the police.
Given, what I saw and experience tonight. I would say our job is to stand up for justice both the little things and bigger things. It made me realize that people do not really care about the little injustices and that is worrisome, because when you ignore the little injustices it sets the precedence for more injustice. It is just as important to condemn the rioters and looters and bring them to justice as well as to stand with the protestors. After seeing the police in action it sheds light on what is going on and why these protests started it the first place. The police are being militarized and have forgotten what it means "to serve and protect."
This is obviously an issue that needs to be addressed and is in no way just. But we should also looks for any other ways to stand up for justice like protecting business from rioters during the protest. Many businesses closed early and had their windows boarded to avoid damage. What message does that send. After seeing those individuals tag that building and then asking them why, you realize that people do not really care about the little injustices and that is something that should not be neglected. Their justification was that Bank of America is horrible and ergo it is fine to do this. I beg to differ. They may very well be horrible, but it does not justify what you are doing. Injustice does not justify injustice. As a side note there were many instances when traffic was stopped and stalled by protestors, it would have be nice to have a system set that would allow people to continue about their business would have been helpful. It feel like letting people know what routes to avoid and helping people go on their way is the right thing to do and builds good will (it just seems like the neighborly thing to do).
I would say we should go show our support for the cause, but work to keep the peace and help out where ever possible.
Like I said before, support the cause and help prevent the little injustices. Also, there was quite a bit of damage and destruction so helping fix that. The streets are more dirty than usual so maybe helping to clean the streets. And trying to see if there is a way to help businesses that have been damaged, it would be cool if we could help cover the cost of repairs for them.
A bit long, thanks for reading. Those are just my two cents. Feel free to comment and share your thoughts below
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