Hands Across the Water (with a nod to Paul and Linda McCartney) * By James Luce – August 2020

James Luce
Yale, ’66, Psychology; Office of Special Investigations (USAF), criminal investigator and counter-intelligence officer, 1967-71; trial attorney, 1974-2002; resident of Spain, 2003-present; versed in history, science, and comparative religion; author of Chasing Davis: An Atheist’s Guide to Morality Using Logic and Science

Friendship is such a sticky, tricky topic
Because people are basically misanthropic.
“What?”, you say. “That can’t be true…
We all have friends and so do you…
You must be stupid or just plain myopic.”

Well, I reply, if I am, can you please explain to me
All the global hatred, racism, and child abuse I see?
What about homophobia, Christian Crusades, and pogroms?
Lynchings, stonings, wars, murders, and jihadist bombs,
Torture, corruption, starvation, genocide, and misogyny?

Think of all the thousands of people you’ve met.
Most of them weren’t friendship material I’ll bet.
Aren’t most people you’ve known basically jerks?
Selfish, mean, intolerant, with other such quirks?
Even your friends have caused you pain and regret.

“Well”, you reply, “All you say may possibly be true.
But most of my friends have stuck with me like glue.
Through thick and thin, through storm and strife.
Some of them for most of my long and troubled life.
When the going got tough they always came through.”

That’s all very nice, but have any of them stabbed you in the back?
Kicked you when you were down and given you a sharp whack?
“Sure some have. Nobody’s perfect. We’re all of us fallible.
That doesn’t mean that my friendships aren’t valuable…
And there’s always the pleasure of giving the bastards some payback.”

That comment brings us back to the beginning of this discussion.
If we can’t “befriend our neighbor”, how then an Arab or a Russian?
How can conflicting religions, cultures, and nations get along
With all those anthems blaring a different, discordant song?
It’s like Debussy meets Bach played with only instruments of percussion.

Perhaps we can find an answer to these questions by looking at the law.
Perhaps we will find an ancient genetic and venerable cultural flaw.
Why, for instance, do holy writs and criminal codes all prohibit murder?
Why the story of Cain and Abel where a farmer kills a herder?
Perhaps because we’re natural predators who live by tooth and claw?

Why is it necessary to legislatively prohibit discrimination based
On creed, color, gender, gender preference, origin, disability, and race?
Is it perhaps because invidious discrimination is just, like murder, normal?
Is being empathetic, trusting, and caring both wimpy and abnormal?
Is the world in such a mess ‘cause we humans long ago fell from grace?
Fortunately, we don’t have to look for any explanation divine.
Our bad behaviors were formed eons ago in a murky primordial brine.
Only relatively recently have we evolved our big brain
Capable of dreaming, analyzing, caring, and feeling other’s pain.
We need time for our new butterfly wings to dry a bit in the sunshine.

It takes two to fight, two to hate, and two to live in peace
Fighting’s easy, hatred’s a cinch, but friendship takes elbow grease
If someone tramples on your rights, it’s okay to fight back, I suppose,
But please always remember that your rights end at the tip of my nose,
And that tolerance too is needed if the fighting’s ever going to cease.

For friendship to thrive at home or across the sea
We need an abundance of trust, affection, and empathy.
These three are new tools in our behavioral toolbox.
Without all three friendship crashes then sinks on stormy metaphoric rocks.
Be better than a mensch; better than human; try to be more than you can be.