Why We Should Avoid Revenge

There have been times in my life when I felt wronged by someone. In many, if not all, of these instances, I was tempted to seek revenge on the person who wronged me. Most of the time, I didn’t give in to this temptation. But on a couple of occasions, I did.

I know that I am far from the only person who considers revenge against the wrongdoer. In fact, a recent blog post had to do with the Trump administration seeking revenge against the United Nations, which voted against Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

However, I make a call for all of us, regardless of political affiliation, religious beliefs, or personal views on other matters, to avoid revenge.

One problem with revenge is that revenge is so focused on “getting even” with someone that we fail to consider how our “getting even” might hurt the supposed wrongdoer, or hurt others who have nothing to do with the situation in which we were wronged. The Trump administration’s decision to cut American funding to the UN is an example of this—the administration’s desire to get even with the UN after the vote on the Jerusalem issue will end up lessening the UN’s ability to deliver humanitarian services, and as a result will hurt people who have absolutely nothing to do with Trump’s decision or the UN vote. While I hope that our struggles with revenge will not have consequences as potentially catastrophic as the example from the Trump administration, revenge nevertheless has the potential to hurt others.

If we seek revenge, we could also hurt ourselves. For example, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie sought revenge on the Mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey because he didn’t support Christie’s campaign for a second term as governor, and the result of that revenge (closing lanes on the George Washington Bridge) was a scandal that ended any hopes of Governor Christie becoming President Christie in 2016. Examples like Christie’s demonstrate that it really is in our own best interests to avoid revenge.

Critics of my anti-revenge message might say the following: “What about seeking revenge for unjust actions? Wouldn’t that be okay?” Actually, that is not okay. The most effective movements for human rights in recent decades, and the most effective human rights activists, urged people to avoid revenge. Mahatma Gandhi once said that, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” Malala Yousafzai didn’t “want revenge on the Taliban, I want education for sons and daughters of the Taliban.” Martin Luther King Jr. said that, “Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, rejection, and retaliation.”

I will, however, go one step further than simply urging us to avoid revenge. We should “bless those who persecute us” and “love our enemies,” as Jesus Christ (another proponent of peace) said. We should do what Gandhi, Malala, and Dr. King did, and respond to hatred and hurt with love and compassion instead of revenge.

On the Aziz Ansari Sexual Misconduct Story

I have to admit that I knew very little about actor, comedian, and filmmaker Aziz Ansari before I heard about the sexual misconduct allegation against him.

In the wake of the babe.com story detailing Ansari’s sexual abuse, I learned about his career, his apparently being a feminist, and his committing actions that go against his supposed values.

Now that I know some about him, and now that I’ve read the article detailing the sexual misconduct allegation against him, I think that it’s time to say a few things that are relevant to this case and the theme of exposing blind injustices on this blog:

  1. We must listen to accusers. I feel the need to emphasize this because many people haven’t listened to Ansari’s accuser, who goes by the name of “Grace.” Doing anything less than listening completely and wholeheartedly to Grace would go against the very notion of listening to and empowering victims—something that #MeToo is supposed to be all about. In the spirit of #MeToo, and of human decency in general, we must listen to her.
  2. We need to learn about consent if we haven’t already. Unless both people say “yes” to kissing, advances, and sex, the answer is “no”! If one person says “no,” like what the woman said in the piece, the answer is “no”! If someone doesn’t specifically say “no” but makes body motions or verbal cues indicating that the answer is “no,” the answer is “no”! And silence means “no” unless you’re told “yes”! I just feel that this review of consent needs to be made painfully clear in the aftermath of how some of the talking heads handled Aziz Ansari and the issue of consent.
  3. We must also stop trying to justify actions that cross others’ boundaries. In the case between Grace and Ansari, people on social and even some news media tried to find ways to justify what she said Ansari did to her. Honestly, there is no defense for kissing, going at her breasts, or anything semi-sexual or sexual he did when there is no consent! We should stop defending such non-consensual actions as a society, because if we do, we’re frankly starting to become part of the problem that led to #MeToo.
  4. We should remember that the Ansari story is a cautionary tale of how advocating against injustice doesn’t make us immune to being unjust. Ansari shows that you can be a feminist (which was how he described himself) yet still do something to a woman that you regret. If I’m honest with myself, there have been multiple times when I too have advocated against an injustice only to commit the injustice I’m trying to advocate against. If one man could be a feminist who assaulted a woman, and if I could be a racial justice advocate who has advocated for things that hurt people of color,[1] then you could certainly be, say, an LGBTQ+ supporter who has said or done homophobic things.
  5. Finally, the Ansari case should be a call for all of us to examine our own actions. Some of us may shock ourselves by committing the very injustices that we advocate against. However, unless we carefully look at our own actions, both good and bad, we will repeatedly commit wrongful actions and never do anything to correct our wrongs. May we not make this mistake.

For some of us, maybe even most of us, following all five of these suggestions will be difficult at best. However, it is in our own best interests, and the interests of those around us, to start acting on these suggestions.

[1] I once advocated that my college would not ban an anonymous social media application called Yik Yak, even though it was clear that some of the things on Yik Yak were repeatedly hurting students of color. It wasn’t one of my better moments, to say the least.

Aziz Ansari, #MeToo and the Problem of Empathy

Honestly, I’m still struggling to find words on the Aziz Ansari sexual misconduct story.

However, fellow blogger Emily Sullivan Sanford talks about how the lack of coverage on sexual violence against developmentally disabled people (especially compared to coverage on Ansari) demonstrates how hidden this injustice is.

She is right. There is a lack of coverage on sexual violence against developmentally disabled people, and as a result there’s a lack of awareness on this issue. I know this because I wasn’t aware about this problem until I read her post.

This issue shouldn’t be ignored, since people with developmental disabilities experience sexual assaults at a rate seven times their counterparts without developmental disabilities.

I hope that all of us can learn a thing or two about sexual violence and developmental disabilities through reading this post.

via Aziz Ansari, #MeToo and the Problem of Empathy

The Catastrophic Consequences of the United States Cutting Funding from the United Nations

When I took my two-week hiatus from blogging, I thought that I’d come back to problems solved everywhere, leaving me nothing to write about.

Only in my dreams.

Earlier in December, the Trump administration made the decision to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In the process, America recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The United Nations overwhelmingly rejected this move by the Trump administration. It was so overwhelming that many of America’s allies, both in the Middle East (Jordan and Saudi Arabia) and around the world (the United Kingdom and Germany), rejected this move. Egypt, another of America’s allies in the Middle East, sponsored the resolution that rejected these moves.

In the wake of that decision, the Trump administration did what many of us as humans would do after being deeply offended: seek revenge on those who offended us. In the case of the Trump team, they sought revenge by threatening to cut some of the U.S.’s funding from the UN, and then following through on that threat.

Detractors of the UN, as well as the American role in the UN and in global affairs in general, are probably happy about this. However, once people, both supporters and detractors of the move alike, find out about the catastrophic consequences of cutting funding from the UN, they might not be in a celebratory mood about the decision.

What makes American funding cuts to the UN so problematic, potentially, is that these cuts would likely result in funding cuts to UN-sponsored programs that save lives. In order to fully understand the humanitarian consequences of deep American funding cuts to the UN, consider the Brookings Institute’s breakdown of how the U.S. allocation to the UN was used. Indeed, an overwhelming majority of America’s funding to the UN was used for life-saving humanitarian efforts. 23% of the money America gives to the UN goes to the World Food Programme, which is arguably the most influential food-assistance program in the world. 22% goes to peacekeeping operations, which, given this program’s role to help “countries navigate the difficult path from conflict to peace,” is an organization that can also save lives. 13% goes to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, a program meant to protect refugees around the world. Last, but not least, 9% goes to UNICEF, which protects the needs and rights of women and children around the world. These four wings of the UN, which all look to save and improve the lives of people in their own ways, make up 67% of the money that the U.S. gives to the UN.

The bottom line is that American cuts to the UN would result in cuts to the aforementioned programs, all of which save and enrich lives. It means less support for children, women, refugees, people in war-torn areas, and people in danger of starving to death. Some of us might not be fans of the UN’s resolution on Jerusalem, or of the UN in general, but neither issue takes away from the fact that deep cuts in American funding to the UN would be catastrophic from a humanitarian perspective for large groups of people (especially because of how much America contributes to the UN).

To make matters worse, I’ve heard little coverage from the mainstream media on just how much humanitarian efforts would hurt if/when the U.S. makes deep cuts in its funding to the UN. As a result, I fear that the Trump administration will undermine UN humanitarian efforts, and do so with little attention. I hope that my fears are wrong.

Slavery Exists Here

When you read the title, your emotions may’ve been something along the lines of, “Wait…slavery was abolished long ago!” And that goes not just for the United States, but for other nations as well.

And yet, I’m writing a blog post to make all of us aware that slavery exists here. It exists in the United States of America.

It does not exist because it’s legal. It exists in spite of the fact that it’s illegal.

One of many scary things about modern-day slavery, at least where I come from (New York City), is that so much of it exists in a shadow, with few people realizing that it even happens. For example, when I walked on large swaths of Roosevelt Avenue in Queens, New York with a friend a few months ago, I saw no signs that it is considered by many to be the epicenter of sex trafficking in New York City. Maybe there were signs I missed—especially embarrassing for me because the first social justice cause I worked to educate people about was human trafficking, back when I was a high school student volunteer for an anti-human trafficking campaign. But regardless of that fact, if even I couldn’t spot some of the signs of the sex trafficking along an infamous corridor for sex trafficking, then many others probably wouldn’t spot the signs, either.

Ultimately, modern-day slavery, in the United States and in many other parts of the world, is a textbook definition of a blind injustice. It is an injustice that we tend to be blind to.

How can we remove that blindness?

The first thing I’d recommend is to do a simple Google (or Bing, or Yahoo) search of human trafficking, sex trafficking, or other form of slavery in your area (whether it be a city, county, township, or state). You might find stories on slavery in your area, and you might even run into stories where you ask yourself why you passed by an area but never realized that slavery went on there.

I would also recommend looking at resources provided by entities like the Polaris Project and the United States Department of Homeland Security. While these resources might not be able to help people catch all of the signs of slavery, sites like these do give some very important signs (and signs that have been used by people before to recognize that someone is being victimized).

Finally, if you suspect that someone you know is being victimized by slavery in the United States, please call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888, or text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733). If you don’t live in the United States but notice a potential case of slavery, please consult CNN’s Freedom Project to find the appropriate hotline in your home country.

Nobody may be able to singlehandedly deal with, let alone end, modern-day slavery. But all of us can and should take the step of making ourselves aware that such a thing exists, that there are ways of recognizing when this is happening, and that there are ways of dealing with these types of situations.

Author’s Note: If any of the national numbers are either not included on CNN’s list or are different from CNN’s list, please let me know about the appropriate number in the comments section below. This is the most recent list I can find, but numbers do change.