This week the world has been shocked to witness what in chaos theory is called The Butterfly Effect, whereby “when a butterfly flaps its wings in one part of the world it can cause a hurricane in another part of the world.” Or in other words, when an amateur filmmaker in Los Angeles makes a hateful anti-Muslim film, it can cause riots, death, and destruction throughout The Middle East. We witnessed this too with the Qur’an-burning pastor in Florida.
Personally I’d like to see the film maker behind bars as well as the pastor, but the problem is bigger than that. Free speech, for one thing. Democracy demands it. Civility, however, has its own demands. To put it simply, we must respect others.
Civilization is eroding and evolving at once, and perhaps this has always been the case. We know how fast things can erode, as a mere snowball turned into an avalanche while we sat frozen in our seats. But let’s remind ourselves that The Butterfly Effect works both ways, toward healing, understanding, and enlightenment as well.
Robert F. Kennedy expressed it elegantly, “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
What we say and do matters. What we write matters. It all matters.