Take a look at this great new video, narrated by Carl Sagan:
In the wake of horrific tragedies like the shooting in Tuscon this past weekend, we are reminded that human beings are sometimes capable of terrible things. But the events of the weekend also show that for one act of brutality, there are several acts of heroism. Such is, I believe, the nature of humanity. For all our shortcomings, and the violence that perpetuates around the globe, we remain a hopeful and curious species. Our intentions are heroic, and we long for peace. We are not born with hatred in our hearts. Our brains retain the vestiges of more violent epochs, but we have the capacity to temper our reptilian impulses of aggression, and triumph over all adversity. We have evolved for cooperation.
One of my favorites lines from Contact sums it up well:
"You're an interesting species, an interesting mix. You're capable of such beautiful dreams, and such horrible nightmares. You feel so lost, so cut off, so alone. Only you're not. See, in all our searching, the only thing we've found that makes the emptiness bearable... is each other."
It is too early to know the true motive of the shooter. It may turn out that his mental instability is chiefly to blame, that a toxic political discourse is only peripheral, and that there was little that could have been done to prevent his rampage. Maybe he's just insane. But every mass murderer could be considered insane compared with "normal" human beings. Some atrocities, like this one, may be driven by incoherent beliefs, but many others are perpetrated in pursuit of very common political objectives. Whether we are talking about suicide bombs or genocide, these actions have been carried out with at least tacit approval from a larger group of people. The line between "normal" and "insane" is sometimes blurry.
But we humans have it within us to conquer hatred. It is possible to knock down the barriers that stand to divide us. We can do it, and we must do it. We have traveled a long way to get here, and we have a long way to go. We'll have to work together. The world is just too wonderful.