In the game of baseball, a player is often asked to do something that on its face is counterproductive: make an out to move a base-runner forward. It is known as the sacrifice bunt, because the player is being asked to give up the chance to get an actual hit and add to their own statistics, to increase the likelihood of the team being able to score a run. The sacrifice does not help the player, but may help the team; there is no guarantee. They are being asked to take it on faith that doing so will help the team win.
As in baseball, so it is in life. We are individuals, each striving to make our way in the world, to successfully navigate our daily routines in order to ensure another days' existence, and in many cases, move our family forward with us. We think nothing of this, performing the same actions day-in and day-out for decades. And yet... we often forget that there is a larger community to which we belong, that may also require us to make sacrifices: humanity. Our lives and those of our families are important, but ultimately are for nothing without the remainder of humanity. We are an interconnected whole, like the billions of connections in a computer chip or the billions of stars that form The Milky Way. We are separate, but united in one common thread of life.
The problem is simple: many of us do not see it this way. To those insular among us, others are seen as pickpockets, vandals, sinners, rabble rousers, sheep, or worse. They do not connect with humanity, only with their individual desires and goals. They cannot be persuaded to take their place in the human milieu; they seek only their own gratification and enrichment. They strive to ensure that their point of view is the only point of view that matters, and take whatever steps are necessary to nullify the voices of anyone they do not agree with, In a world seeking peace, they foment strife, keeping humanity off-balance, and reaping their profit from the chaos, whether it be in coin or in smug self-congratulation.
There is more nobility in sacrifice, and those who would ordinarily be looked upon derisively for their self-centered need for control and wealth and power, could gain a world of riches beyond measure were they to give up the simple vices that substitute for human compassion and empathy. Even now, in many places, those sacrifices would not be in vain:
- Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of Israel, could set aside his militant need to defend his nation from all comers, sacrifice land and control, and gain peace for a nation that has been under constant threat since its inception in 1948. A nation might finally live in fellowship with those around it, if autonomy could be granted to the Palestinians.
- Hamas, self-appointed guardian of the Palestinian people, could let go of its hatred for the existence of Israel, and gain peace and autonomy for the people they claim to care for. Would the sacrifice of an ideology mean so much, compared to food and shelter and commerce and health for the citizens of Palestine?
- The wealthiest 2% Americans could accept the responsibility that comes with their wealth, to provide for those who generate their wealth through their labor. Would the sacrifice of a few billion dollars be too much to ask, to ensure that they continue to be enriched in the future?
- The Republican Party could admit its hypocrisy by discontinuing its unremitting war on women and their ability to control their own destinies. Would America really be all that worse off if American women were given their just due as equal partners?
- White male politicians could loosen their grip on the halls of power. The sacrifice of control of Congress and state legislatures would do so much to improve the quality of life in America, by allowing other voices to be heard.
- Dictatorial leaders of nations around the world could heed the call of their nations and resign from office, allowing the people to reestablish freedom and democracy, or to taste it for the first time. To sacrifice oneself for the honor and good of a nation brings no shame.
Peace shall not reign, nor prosperity, nor humanity, where we cannot learn to put aside fundamental but ultimately ephemeral differences, and work together. We are not deserving of freedom and liberty where we do not cherish their essence, that each and every person has them in equal measure. We are not worthy of respect, when we condemn others again and again without realizing that doing so condemns us as well. The ultimate sacrifice we must make is our ego. We can no longer hold to the selfish illusion that we exist on some sort of plane beyond the reach of others. We must acknowledge and remember that we are but units of a greater humanity, and that humanity can only grow where we plant the seeds of compassion, charity, and empathy.