Ten years ago, I completed and published my second novel, The HamsaThe Hamsa is about human dignity, the fact that every child is born with human dignity, that it has NOTHING to do with race, religion or status in life, that NO ONE can take our human dignity from us.  We can give it away, but NO ONE can take it from us unless we allow them to do it.  The story spans nearly three decades from 1918 to 1944.  It concludes in Auschwitz though throughout the manuscript, I chose to use the Polish name of the town, Oświęcim in lieu of Auschwitz.

Through two years of intense research, writing and contemplation, I learned many important truths while creating the manuscript.

The first truth:
There are no bad men.  All people are born good and remain good – loved unconditionally by God – until they die.

The second truth:
Too many good people make too many bad choices.

The third truth:
A second bad choice will not neutralize the first bad choice and make it good.

The fourth truth:
The fact that one man makes a bad choice is no reason for 10,000 to make bad choices.

These truths became noticeably clear to me as I researched the Third Reich.  Most recently, we have seen clear evidence of bad choices and the level of havoc that results from them across America.  I find it important to acknowledge that good men making bad choices are not specific to America 2020 as some would like to have us believe. As I review history, I identify good men who have made bad choices in every country, in every age, by every race, by every religion, and by every political and sexual persuasion.

Understanding that deep human flaw, Jesus taught us his most valuable lesson when he interceded on behalf of the adulterous woman.  “Let him without sin cast the first stone.”  If the Shema and loving your neighbors are the two greatest commandments, this is the third.

Because one man or ten men make bad choices is no reason to characterize all men and the groups they are associated with as bad.  One policeman or ten policemen who make bad choices are no reason to call policemen bad.  One man or 1,000 men who choose to steal and loot do not make all men bad.

God’s gift to homo sapiens is the freedom of choice.  It is time for each of us to examine her conscience.  How am I exercising my freedom of choice?

Despite what you might have been taught by well-intentioned mentors in the 50s and 60s, we were not born with original sin.  We were born with original goodness.  It is in our DNA.  We inherently know the difference between right and wrong.  It may only require a deep breath to slow down and to clear our minds as we exercise that special gift, freedom of choice.  It is easier than you might think to do the right thing.

Consistent with my assertion that every child is born with human dignity, I agree with Sacramento Kings NBA announcer Grant Napear:  All lives matter.  Mr. Napear lost his job this week for making that statement.  The inherent goodness and dignity we are born with support his choice – a good choice – to verbalize that universal truth.

Mitakuye Oyasin

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  1. Gene,
    Let me try to let you and others understand, that to lead with the statement that ‘all police are not bad’ undercuts what todays protests are about. A rather poor analogy I read today states, that if your relative had just been attacked and killed by a dog, and someones opening statement to you was ,”well all dogs aren’t bad”, is insensitive at best and suggesting a different agenda other than compassion with the bereaved.
    There is a long history of police brutality in many countries, ours included. Fellow officers and the justice system close ranks during exposure of this brutality and criminal behavior and thus are complicit. Blacks in our country have long given voice to this activity on the part of the justice system. Few whites, including myself, could understand their mistrust as we had not witnessed this type of .
    behavior. Now thanks to videos on our phones, we can see first hand which had been not understood previously.
    Change without violence seldom happens. Even the movents of MLK, Gandi, Mandella, dedicated to non violence, were often surrounded or engulfed with violence.
    It’s my belief that the four Minneapolis officers currently being charged with different degrees of murder would not have been so charged if the protests had not erupted and continued. These world wide protests speak to the powers to be and their lack of justice, and commitment to the people they serve at every level. George Floyd, is now a symbol of what is wrong with government. As I witness some police officers, and troops, kneel together with protesters, I have hope, more than before.
    I wish I could express myself as well as you but I hope you understand my point.
    Love (Malani Dad)

    1. Chris, Your point is well taken and made with a commitment that few share or understand. That said, I stand by my belief that to characterize a group or an organization based on the actions of members of that group, race, religion – whether the actions are good or bad – is inappropriate and does not ‘undercut’ the purpose of a protest. Protest does not have to be violent to be effective. I have been working on another post related to these issues and focused on ‘the locust effect:’ just like a plague of locusts can destroy the hard work of a farmer, criminals practicing everyday violence can devastate the work of the global poor, as well as anti-poverty efforts from around the world. So, everyday violence like human trafficking, land theft, sexual violence, illegal detention, domestic abuse, and police abuse must be stopped before global poverty can come to an end. Many years ago, I read Gary Haugen’s book The Locust Effect, and I have watched several of his talks on TED and YouTube. If you are not familiar with him, I recommend you learn about Mr. Haugen and his work. My purpose in writing about the locust effect is to bring readers’ attention to the fact – as I suggest in this post – that police brutality and social violence – as brutal as what happens in America – occurs every day all around the world. We don’t seem to get upset about it until it explodes on our video screens in America. I make that statement in no way to be insensitive to George Floyd and his family. They were severely wronged by a bad choice just like thousands are around this planet are. The issue is global and it requires people like you and me to continue to put it in front of those who don’t have a clue. It pains me to think how few dollars I was able to raise for the marginalized and brutalized children of Haiti years ago when I worked directly with the Guepard Boxing Club, and that failure is not as far removed from the issues we discuss in this post as one might imagine. I GREATLY APPRECIATE your voice on this subject, Chris. I prefer to raise my voice in outrage than my hand in violence. Your Friend, Gene

  2. I loved Hamsa. I couldn’t put it down. Every Wednesday, at least before the shelter in place started, I attended a Bible Study. We take turns bringing tacos to the meeting. We get the tacos from Las Palapas. I went into the restaurant one day, and I saw the name tag of the young lady who took my order said Hamsa. I told her about your book. That was a surprise.

  3. Thank you, Gene,
    RIGHT ON!! Everybody matters and we are all born with “original goodness”, to become even better.