On Being Human

I’ve only just begun reading Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize-winning classic, The Killer Angels. In my short time reading this novel I’ve been confronted with a gut-wrenching reality.

Take The Time

At the end of chapter 1, Robert E. Lee, general of the Confederate (Southern) army is in conversation with James Longstreet, a lieutenant general and now close friend. Lee did not “own slaves nor believe in slavery” yet he still led the South in battle.  He was by all accounts a quiet and humble man whom desired to honor God with his life.

Michael Shaara clearly spent considerable time reading and researching for this novel, and in the process has written a story filled with human beings, not caricatures or hagiographical saints. I am again inspired to take the time getting to know people, even someone I might consider to be among the worst human beings alive.

Shaara’s Lee is not a man that I can easily despise as a privileged, 2014 white American, in my “righteous” disgust of my country’s deplorable past.

And that’s exactly the point, I think: if you take the time to know, truly get to know, another human being you cannot easily despise them.

  • Take the time to get to know the woman who loudly advocates for Planned Parenthood and I trust you’ll find a person filled with pain, contradiction, love, joy, and regrets.
  • Take the time to get to know the young black kid who hides behind a false masculinity and rage, and also desires to live, love, and be at peace with his family, friends, and neighbors.
  • Take the time to get to know the token conservative-old-white-guy who cannot seem to resist the urge to FWD every Obama-bashing email that assaults his inbox.
  • Take the time to get to know the gay man who lives across the street with his partner and I’m certain you’ll find a delightful creation.

Take the time, and I know you’ll find human beings that are more complex than their rhetoric, more intricate than their stereotype, and more beautiful than you can imagine.