Religions all over the world instill in us the value of life, propagating the theory that it is a gift of God and, therefore, a human should not take the life of another. However, the violent incidents of rampant killings in modern times make it apparent that humans have come to a stage where they fail to recognize the value of life and are dishonoring it. Now a days, death as a result of homicide can occur anywhere, at any time. It can happen to any one. The tragic incident where my close friend, Patricia, was shot in the back thrice and killed, while walking calmly through the usually harmless streets in Old San Juan, may be only one among many such mishaps. The exchange of fire resulted from a drug deal that went sour and a man used her as a human shield when the firing erupted. The worst part of it was that the person who fired at her was only 15. Her death has devastated me; but to the island, she is just another casualty among many that have fallen victim to the ever increasing wave of crime. Every day, we come across media reports where someone was murdered due to drug deals or other criminal involvement. I used to think that those people were murdered for doing the wrong things. However, I find myself deeply perturbed about how this young sweet girl, who had always cared for others, was murdered in this manner.
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Why her? I don’t believe I will ever find any answer to that question. Rather, I will have to face more questions than I can seek answers for. How can life be of such low value to some individuals? May be it is an aberration, just the result of the rising drug crimes on the island, due to the economic recession among other issues. However, I doubt it. In my teenage years, I would go out at night to numerous places without fear here in Puerto Rico. Now every moment I find myself reflecting on the consequences of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Going to the gas station at night, or walking through a street, involves the chance of endangering your life.
The emerging situations in the present world make me wonder, “What value a human life has?” We usually think of this in terms of sentiments – of memories, grief, love and longing. In fact, life is too deep and valuable to put a price tag upon. Then again, is anything in our world truly priceless? For some people, a mere argument is all it takes to embark on violence, causing a death. I have witnessed a perfect example of this a couple of weeks ago, while eating out with friends in a Morovis restaurant, Casa Bavaria, where a fight occurred between two teenagers over a trivial issue that one of them owed 50 dollars to the other. In the midst of it all, one boy pulled up his shirt to reveal that he had a gun. My heart started beating really fast as I wondered how anyone could think of threatening another for a meager sum of 50 dollars. No words can really describe that feeling.
Events such as these make me stop and reflect not only on similar situations that occur in Puerto Rico but also all around the world. Such episodes point to the ugly reality that the significance of values, especially those attached to human life, are diminishing. In this context, our failure as humans become most apparent in the fact that we have miserably defaulted in passing on the values we inherited, to the next generation. On a still broader spectrum, when we look at the issue from the perspective of death in the name of faith and belief, it transpires that even in these modern times, where technology and development are expected to elevate humans to a higher plateau of wisdom we are using these tools for destruction. The large scale violence in the incident of 9/11 will still chill us, proclaiming the fact that despite our pretension of being the most civilized and sophisticated living beings on earth, some humans cannot ever come out of the basic barbarianism within them. Alarmingly, even in the relationships between nations, this disregard for human life is evident as we can verify from the facts of the war against Iraq. Warring countries need to acknowledge the fact that human lives in the country they fight against are as valuable as the human lives in the country to which they owe their allegiance.
I believe that life on earth, in all its forms, has value. Each and every one of us is a unique creation of God, therefore, of great importance to God. We should express our outrage and concern for not only the American lives lost, but also the lives of other humans that are slaughtered throughout the world. It is necessary for every human to recognize that lives in all places in the universe are equally significant. The images of carnage and inhumanity that are constantly being beamed on our televisions can make one insensitive to the plight of others. The fact that they belong to another country and are different from us does not make their lives any less valuable than ours. Are they deserving of any less compassion because they do not look like us or do not believe what we believe? I certainly feel no. We should be equally appalled by the injustice done to them and oppose wherever suffering occurs. Of course, it is inherent in human nature to care more for those whom people closely identify with; but it does not have to be an ‘either-or’ situation. There should be enough compassion in us to feel equally for all suffering people.