Oh, Me of Little Faith

I believe in religious freedom, though I am, myself, an atheist. I can honestly say that I would protect, with my life if necessary, my neighbor's right to believe according to the dictates of their conscience. I do this partly because I think it is my duty as a citizen. If I don't love your freedom as I do my own, then none of us is free, and freedom itself becomes a lie. My other reason is enlightened self-interest. I know that the same laws that protect a person's right to believe, also protect my right not to. Such was the wisdom of those in the beginning.

But I am not completely devoid of belief. I believe that there is some good in everyone. Intellectually, of course, I know this not to be true. Evil exists, and it's sources are as varied as humanity itself. And at the end of the day, there is no Karma -- nothing to magically set things right with the universe.

This delusional belief in the goodness of humanity is something I cling to, because it protects me against what I've all too often witnessed as the dreariness, the hopelessness, and the futility of the human condition. The lack of compassion. The inability to imagine oneself in another's shoes. The willingness to, without hesitation or regret, give up the lives of your countrymen to protect your own. These are character traits that are, at best, dishonorable.

As of late, I've had some trouble with reality. Not its absence, but its intrusion. What little faith I hold is shaken, and I have no idea how to fix it. I've resolved to try and be more kind and patient with those around me. I'm not sure it will help, but I'm pretty certain that will do no harm.

So, you may find me somewhat less than "chipper" in the coming days. I've no doubt that will come as a relief to some of you. Enjoy it while it lasts. To the others, it is my hope that you also find me worthy of your patience.

I wrote the above on a piece of paper at work this morning. It was not a good day, and it got no better as it wore on.

When I moved here three years ago, something odd happened. For the first time in almost a half century of existence, I felt a sense of community. I can see now why people find the concept so appealing. I have friends, a job, and a great fondness for my employers, my co-workers, and my customers.

There is, of course, a down side. When one becomes emotionally invested in a place and it's people, and harm comes to them, their pain becomes your own. You feel grief...and rage. I've felt it to a certain extent all day.

One the way home from work, I passed by the office of Gabrielle Giffords. I saw the people, the signs, the candles, and the rage and grief came anew.

Jared Loughner is someone who malfunctioned beyond any hope of rehabilitation or redemption. The greatest kindness we could give him would be a quick death. But at the moment, kindness is the last thing I feel. I know that in this world, there are worse things than death. Some of these things, I've been unfortunate enough to witness. It is my hope that before he dies, Jared Loughner experiences every one of them.

The rage will pass, and the words I write now will shame me. Rightly so. But perhaps by the act of writing them, I can rid myself of this wretched feeling.

But...not yet.

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