"No wonder there are so many pedophiles in the world."
This was my friend's response to the little girl in the booth behind us, who was giggling and bouncing on her seat while I played peek-a-boo with her.
"What?" I asked. I felt as if she'd thrown her ice tea in my face.
"People should teach their kids not to be so trusting. Look at her."
The little girl had squiggled out of her booth and was running up the aisle toward the rest rooms. Her mother held a baby in her lap, so her grandma got up to chase her.
"Anybody could grab that kid and be out the door in a heart beat."
According to my friend, Applebee's was crawling with child-abducting fiends, licking their lips, rubbing their hands, and on high-alert for the chance to pounce on any child who strayed from her mother's lap.
Now, of the two of us, I'm the only one who has actually lived at the mercy of a pedophile. (My childhood was a lot like the movie "Precious," but with better grammar and a front lawn). By her own admission, my friend has never been sexually abused, or assaulted in any way, in her entire life.
But she does watch a lot of television.
Her senses are bombarded on a daily basis by a rushing rapids of glamourized sociopaths, soulless sex, and casual acts of sadism.
My childhood was characterized (in part) by chronic sexual abuse and attempted murder. (It was also punctuated with magical Christmases, happy birthdays, adorable little brothers, best friends, precious pets, and a ton of really really good books).
I was abandoned, betrayed, and violated by those who had an obligation to cherish and protect me. And I am ridiculously optimistic.
Unlike my friend, I don't believe there are "so many" pedophiles in the world. There are obviously too many (one would be too many) but the vast majority of human beings are not pedophiles. Not even close.
I'll tell you what I really think of us humans: I think as a whole we are kind, loving, generous, and compassionate. And I think that we, as a species, are becoming more loving every day.
I've been told I sound like an idiot when I express that belief. But I'll tell you what: I'd rather be an idiot than a coward.
My friend is a coward. All cynics are cowards. And they have very little tolerance for hope.
But why? What's so scary about something as sweet as hope?
Two words: responsibility and risk.
With hope comes the responsibility to help makes things better - for yourself and for the people around you. And by extension, for the world.
And there is tremendous risk involved in taking action based on hope. Such actions may lead to getting hurt, criticized, or disappointed.Why bother, when it's so much safer to sit at home, behind double-locked doors, throwing snark-darts at the world? (I do not mean to confuse snarkiness with cynicism - there are plenty of snarky idealists out there and I adore them).
It isn't hate that threatens us, because there really isn't that much hatred in the world. Look around you right now (don't look at the television, actually look around the room that you're in). Do you see hatred around you, or do you see love?
Yep. That's what I thought. Love. Photos of loved ones, gifts from loved ones, your dog, your cat, your children, your plants - we are surrounded by love. Not hate.
Love is normal. But, tragically, so is fear.
People cringe beneath the grubby blanket of cynicism when they're feeling small and afraid. I've seen it. I've been the victim of it. And I've made a vow to never let that blanket smother my own heart.
The cynics' creed is, "Life sucks, people suck, the world is getting worse, and there's nothing we can do about it."How convenient is that? Cynicism is a one-way ticket out of any responsibility for one's own life or the lives of those with which we share the planet. And, oddly enough, it seems to be adopted most often by people who have never suffered any great loss or trauma.
Immaculee Ilibagiza had her whole family hacked to death by machetes in the Rwandan genocide. She huddled silently in a cramped bathroom with seven other women for 3 months, often a mere breath away from discovery and certain slaughter. She emerged from that bathroom at 5ft 9inches weighing 65 pounds, her family and a million of her fellow Tutsi's chopped into pieces.
She wrote a book called "Left To Tell," which promotes the belief in essential human goodness and the possiblity of creating a peaceful world. She has devoted her life to spreading that message.
Somaly Mam was born into extreme poverty in the country of Cambodia. As a child she was sold into sexual slavery and forced to work in a brothel along with other children and young women. She was tortured and raped on a daily basis, and was forced to watch the vicious murder of her best friend as a means of keeping her compliant.
Miraculously, Somaly escaped the hell of sexual slavery. And she emerged from this hell determined to free other enslaved women and children. She started the Somaly Mam foundation, which has rescued thousands of women and children from sexual slavery and helped them to rebuild their lives. Somaly is determined to end the crime of sexual slavery worldwide.
There are countless other examples of people who've lost everything but their hope and idealism. They are the brave ones, the strong ones, the ones responsible for protecting and promoting the good in our world.
And despite what you see on the 24 hour news channels, the good in the world is overcoming the bad:
* Didja know that, in our country, the odds of a girl or woman being raped has been falling dramatically for decades. In the last 12 years, the sexual victimization rates among girls ages 12 to 19 fell by 78% and among women ages 20 to 24 by 70%, nearly double the drop among women older than 25. articles.latimes.com/2007/feb/18/opinion/op-males18
* The murder rate in the United States has dropped by over 50% since 1991. [http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/atlarge/2009/11/09/091109crat_atlarge_lepore#ixzz0ePRpHvGz
* "...between 1989 and 2005 the number of campaigns of mass killing of civilians decreased by 90 percent." www.edge.org/3rd_culture/pinker07/pinker07_index.html
* The number of battle deaths in interstate wars has dropped from more than 65,000 per year in the 1950s to less than 5,000 per year in this decade. www.edge.org/3rd_culture/pinker07/pinker07_index.html
And you know what's really sad? Cynics tend to be outraged by statistics like these. They don't want anybody pulling off their blanket.
What we allegedly corrupt post-technological people are discovering is that the "noble savage" was more savage than noble (and by "savage" I mean the genteel White Americans in the 1800's who openly and legally bought and sold their fellow human beings. Back then, we didn't have computers, we didn't have cell phones, we didn't have internet porn, we didn't have bottled water, we didn't have global warming - and we were BRUTAL.)
Hope creates energy, and cynicism sucks it away. We need energy to continue moving forward as a species. You think human beings are basically corrupt? Speak for yourself. And please, stop pissing on the world's birthday cake. Crawl out from under your blanket and help us idiots create a world worth celebrating.