Changing the World
by Jesse Loren
“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” – Margaret Mead, Cultural Anthropologist
Politicians, small towns, and Girl Scouts rally around this quote to inspire people to work together, no matter how small a group, in order to accomplish something they believe in. It’s a great rallying cry for cooperation, hard work, and restraint. It provides motivation for the best of our cultural instincts.
I believe Margaret Mead, but I also see the dark opposite of this cultural instinct.
Wayne Sapp and Terry Jones of Gainesville Florida are examples of the dark side. These sorry saps soaked the Koran in kerosene, found it guilty, and lit it on fire. First they personified it by giving it a trial; then they lynch-mobbed it, being jury and justice.
What a bunch of attention starved idiots.
Hatred and bigotry motivated them. Self righteousness propelled them to follow their idea. Ignorance further compelled them to treat the Koran as a person being lynched Southern style. Yee-haw! They demonstrate our worst cultural instincts and should be condemned. The same, of course, can be said for the Afghani mobs.
Jones abused his 15 minutes of fame last September when he threatened to do this action on the new American holy day, September 11. He said he wouldn’t do it, but he did it anyway, grandstanding to a slim audience of about 30 people.
The reaction has been uncontrolled mobs crying, “Death to America,” with at least 10 dead so far.
Jones’ tiny church in Gainesville would be ignored without the internet and inflammatory journalism. Yet the small group gained attention and infected the other side of the world with their toxic behaviors.
I believe the radical groups need to be countered, not broadcasted. I am not promoting censorship of ideas or speech. However, they need to be opposed. The United States is a country based on lawful agreements. Freedom of speech is protected under our Constitution. However, the right of free speech doesn’t mean everyone has the ability to uplift the conversation. The Sap and Jones types, along with Westborough Baptist and other nutty freak groups, need to be refuted, not broadcast. It might seem as useful as hypnotizing chickens, but it adds an element to the discourse that has to be said. Those types do not represent America as a whole any more than the egg laying, venomous, beaver tailed, platypus represents the height of mammalian evolution.
I believe Margaret Mead would have a well thought out response to current society. As an anthropologist, she might observe that cultures clash at more alarming rates due to new technologies. She might point out that dominant cultures, like the United States, are both revered and hated everywhere, and that with that mantle of being a dominant culture comes a mantle of cultural responsibility, the need for restraint, cooperation, and hard work.
Unfortunately and fortunately, we aren’t very culturally homogenous. Meaning that, culturally, it is a strength to have a diversity of cultures within the U.S., but, unfortunately, we have fringe ignorant groups calling for death to parts of our own people, servicemen and women, ethnicities, genders, gender identities. Culturally, America is hot-mess of contradictions.
Today, I believe Margaret Mead might say “Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have, unless, of course, one controls mass media, or the information age grows so fast that cultures, remote, backwards, stationary, or progressive can cross infect others with hatred, bigotry, despair and ideas. When that happens, believe in restraint, because that is the only thing that has ever kept societies together.”