Pastor Terry Jones – One Person Can Affect The Entire World . . . Even If We Never Know How

Since the beginning of my training as a psychotherapist, and maybe before, I’ve known that one person can change the world. One person’s actions, but also one person’s thoughts and feelings. That person’s own immediate world built in and around him or her. That person’s extended world of relatives, coworkers, and everyone he or she comes into contact with through a day or a week. And on and on and on into society and our world.

A clear, destructive, and dangerous example of this occurred on March 21, 2011, when Pastor Terry Jones of Gainesville, Florida – the same Terry Jones who threatened to hold an International Burn A Koran Day on September 11, 2010, and then after the world response said he would not go through with it – carried out his threat to burn a copy of The Koran, the holy book of Islam. Jones held a mock trial, execution and burning of the Koran, with 30 people witnessing. He claimed the holy text of Islam was guilty of crimes.

Terry Jones’ took the action he took . . . “the consequences be damned.” His action has caused more damage than perhaps we will ever know. Certainly we do know that after he burned the Koran, 12 United Nations workers in Afghanistan were killed by demonstrators protesting Jones’ action. Nine other people were killed and 90 injured in a separate demonstration in Kabul.

Terry Jones’ behavior and all the rhetoric around it were filled with prejudice. Prejudice he learned and developed where in his early life? But it was also filled with more. What wounding in his own life was Pastor Jones acting out? Who hated Terry as a little one? Who declared him as just a tiny boy “guilty of crimes”? Who held a mock trial for little Terry Jones? Who threatened to burn him as a child? Literally or figuratively? Who gave him a chance to defend himself, but when he was unable did something violent to him . . . as violent as burning his sacred self? Who acted out the hate and fear and woundedness of their own childhood(s) on Terry Jones many long years ago? And what were the consequences on Terry and others in that person’s world? And now this is the consequence on the Koran, the world’s Muslims, our country, and our world!

We are all sacred. Wound one of us and that wounding gets passed on again and again, from generation to generation . . . until someone says ‘enough’ and does his or her own healing to the root. Until we all say ‘enough’ and do our own healing to the root!

© Judith Barr, 2011

WHY DO WE HAVE TO DO THIS OVER AND OVER?: Exploring The Roots of Prejudice

Whether we know it or not . . . whether we want to know it or not . . . we all have currents of prejudice within our psyches. Although many think of their prejudices as simply “the truth,” others realize that there are some major roots to our prejudice . . . roots that need to be named, known, and worked with.

One of the roots of our prejudices is . . . we are taught to be prejudiced by the active teachings of those with whom we grow up, and also by their modeling. This is poignantly expressed in the song “Carefully Taught” from the Broadway show and the movie, “South Pacific.”

“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”*

A less well known and understood root of prejudice is . . . most people are afraid of the dark. The literal dark in the outer world of night and winter – so easily seen by the number of lights we keep on 24 hours a day 365 days a year. But not just the literal dark or the dark in the outer world.  We are afraid of the dark in our inner worlds – the dark unknown within where we are afraid we’ll discover terrible dark things about ourselves. And the dark in our inner worlds that we have come to symbolize as “evil.” This fear of the dark has caused all sorts of problems in our world, including transferring our fear and our symbolic meaning onto people with dark skin.

If we would only heal our fear of the darkness, particularly the darkness within, we could work through and heal our feelings about our own darkness and the destructive aspects of our own personalities, and clearly see people with dark skin as unique people rather than symbolic expressions of our own inner “darkness.”

And the root of prejudice of which people seem to be the least aware is based on the most primal experiences from our childhoods. Those experiences in our earliest years when we are hurt or frightened by ‘the other,’ meaning, in essence, anyone who is not us. Those first fears of ‘the other’ later get transferred onto many other people and things. So, for example, fear of  mother or father can later be transferred onto someone of a different race, religion, sex, nationality . . .  without our having any awareness whatsoever of that occurring.

There’s a wonderful line in the 2009 book, The Help, a book about “black maids” working for white women in Mississippi. It’s actually a line dear to the author, Kathryn Stockett, and one that speaks to the heart of the issue:  “Wasn’t that the point of the book? For women to realize, we are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I’d thought.”**

These are three of the deep roots of prejudice in our psyches and our world.
We will be prejudiced, whether consciously or unconsciously, and somehow, whether ever-so-subtly or absolutely blatantly, we will act on our prejudices . . . until we each commit to explore and heal the prejudices that live within us.
We will do this over and over until each of us does our own individual inner work with prejudice.
Where does your fear of those who are different from you come from?
It is a deep choice:  Are you willing to explore and heal your fear of “the other” and in doing so, help to heal prejudice in yourself and our world?

(c) Judith Barr, 2011

* © Oscar Hammerstein II, 1949
http://www.stlyrics.com/lyrics/southpacific/youvegottobecarefullytaught.htm
** Kathryn Stockett, The Help, 2009, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, pp 418 and 451.