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The International Writers Magazine:Modern Lives: The way we live now
Reverend Father Antonio Hernández, O.M.D., A.B.F.
Founder of the Independent Order of American Buddhist Fathers

Rev. Dr. Antonio Hernández
'It certainly isn't the first time someone's tried to kill me...'

Many people I know have a real problem with answering machines and voicemail. They cannot tolerate being shunted to a machine, where they must choose between the horror of leaving a recording of their voices, or else cut the line. Answering machines can be a rude way of screening everyone out - many businesses do just that. The crappy automated "menu" does not help matters.

How's your anger management?

My pet peeve is that I have two numbers, both with voicemail, and this seems to be a huge problem. I get important calls everyday, and cannot be there to tend to every one of them. But the hostility aimed at me for having the temerity to own an answering machine is incredible! People have tried to administer good brow-beatings over this.

Looking back on things, I realize that these people are just too rude and thoughtless to use an answering machine as God intended. In addition, that attitude is stupid. The other day a staff at my physician's office tried the same stunt, being tired of getting my machine the two whole times she tried calling me.
The other day a woman nearly killed me in the supermarket. It certainly isn't the first time someone's tried to kill me, but she was a very, very old lady - she didn't seem particularly psychotic or dangerous. She simply didn't give a damn whether or not anyone was in her way. She gave me a bump with the cart and a shove worthy of a running back. Her prune-face gave no hint of an expression the entire time.

At convenience stores, the employees are sour-faced and they throw my change back at me, as if insulted by my purchase and my presence. People routinely let heavy doors slip, right in the faces of those trailing behind them. Leaving the store, it's easy to get struck by any given automobile in the vicinity. One morning a van followed me a half mile, just so the driver could catch me up and show me a rude hand gesture. I still don't know what I did to merit that.
I've realized something: WE ARE GODDAMNED MEAN.

How did we become this way? It's easy to say it amounts to stress, overwork, kids, lousy economy, President Bush, the war. It's a little too easy. I lost friends in wars, I've lost all my loved ones except for one, yet I have no excuse for mean, rotten and thoughtless behavior toward others. Is it really only thoughtlessness, rudeness, or is this an entirely new sort of barbarity, one unequalled even by apes?
We are, after all, apes. That's what I was taught studying anthropology, and that's what the chimps' genes tell us. In fact, chimps are nearly exactly like us genetically; only their genetic makeup works slightly differently from ours. This is all that separates us from them, and they are teaching us that we are more savage than they could ever be. The famous gorilla, Koko, tells us that we are weird. She loves humans, but she sees the distinction between gorillas and humans. She has said she cannot understand why we are the barbarians we are.

What a world! People belong in zoos, and gorillas are telling us how to behave properly. The proportions of this are almost biblical. In the Book of Genesis, the story is told of a time when people became so horrible, misanthropic and inbred that they began to turn into apes. Will Genesis repeat itself? What next, a worldwide flood?

Perhaps, as a friend said to me, that flood wouldn't be so bad. Terrorists have proved to us that we can easily be rendered helpless. They discovered that we can be easily reduced to squabbling and self-destruction. They must be laughing their turbans off, hearing about the evil fighting and back-stabbing that has accompanied the World Trade Center victims' memorial building plans in New York City.
Heroism, compassion, bravery and kindness: all can be made manifest. The terrorists discovered that, too. They saw the best side of America along with the worst side of the Western world. How long will the best face be put forward? How long before our arrogance and meanness will encourage a new assault upon our land? To me, the two things - our wickedness and the attacks - are inextricably linked.
It is our task to unlink them. This is not a lecture or a sermon; this is the truth. No one in my circle speaks or even thinks of Divine Punishment. Too many people use that as an excuse to be heartless and nasty. No... what I say is only this: let us release this anger and grow well.
Otherwise, we may very well end this world, without nukes, wars, governments. We may very well end this world by pure meanness.

(Meanwhile after the beep - leave a message.... Ed)

December 16th 2004

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