So much cruelty – everywhere, all-the-time, in our country and around the world, in the politics of destruction, in social media, public and private speech, in the objectification of others, in policies enacted and judged against the stranger, women, homosexuals and transsexuals, minority groups, peoples of color, the poor, homeless and hungry, the disabled, the elderly and the young, anyone who’s vulnerable. Cruelty is a malady so common; it’s in every religion, tribe, ethnicity, culture, and nation.

It’s everywhere, all-the-time, and so many suffer as a consequence. When will decent people as a whole who learned as children how to play fair and share their toys in the sandbox, stand up to the bullies on the playground and do what they were taught, what every decent person who learned the golden rule was instructed by their parents, teachers, and elders to do – to treat every human being as infinitely worthy by virtue of being created in the Divine image?

I know I’m not alone in my outrage as I watch the news each day and witness the injuries, death, destruction, and subjugation of human rights in our country and around the world.

In democracies, elections matter; candidates matter; voting matters; political leaders who place the country above party politics matters; courage matters, and moral leadership matters.

I’ve been thinking a lot about cruelty and its etiology these past few years because of the rise of heartless leadership in our country; and I’ve collected quotations in my reading on this theme by many thinkers, writers, and human rights activists spanning the centuries. I offer a few of them here:

“People speak sometimes about the ‘bestial’ cruelty of human beings, but that is terribly unjust and offensive to beasts, no animal could ever be so cruel as humankind, so artfully, so artistically cruel.” Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881)

“It is from the Bible that the human being has learned cruelty, rapine, and murder; for the belief of a cruel God makes a cruel person.” Thomas Paine (1737-1809)

“I think it’s perfectly possible to explain how the universe came about without bringing God into it, but I don’t know everything, and there may well be a God somewhere, hiding away. Actually, if God is keeping out of sight, it’s because God is ashamed of its followers and all the cruelty and ignorance they’re responsible for promoting in God’s name. If I were God, I’d want nothing to do with them.” Philip Pullman (b. 1946)

All cruelty springs from weakness.” Seneca (5 BCE-65 CE)

Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty.Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)

Some things are not forgivable. Deliberate cruelty is not forgivable. It is the most unforgivable thing.” Tennessee Williams (1911-1983)

I must be cruel only to be kind; thus bad begins, and worse remains behind.” William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Emotion without reason lets people walk all over you; reason without emotion is a mask for cruelty.” Nalini Singh (b. 1977)

Cruel laughter is the way cowards cry when they’re not alone, and causing pain is how they grieve.” Gregory David Roberts (b. 1952)

“Cruelty knows that it has no need of histrionics. It can be as calm and quiet as it likes. It can sigh, or lightly shake its head in disbelief, or offer a sympathetic apology for whatever it must do. It can move slowly, methodically, inevitably.” Amor Towles (b. 1964)

It was told to you what is good and what the Eternal demands of you – only doing justice and loving kindness and walking humbly with your God.” –Micah 6:8

“That which is hateful to you, do not do unto your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.” Hillel (Late 1st century BCE to Early 1st century CE)