2015 – National High School 4th Place

Ross Greenberg, Maryland.

Violence is a potent liqueur, a sweetly guised evil that tempts the best of men to swig away their woes. Once drunk on violence, one is bound to stumble down a long flight of destruction. We cheer on the destruction; we are infatuated with the stupor. However, once we see the capricious nature of violence, we shed tears of compassion. A Lord Byron said, “The dew of compassion is a tear.” Compassion is the first sign of the morning; it is the first sign that the violence is over and prosperity will take its place.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s black Americans finally saw the morning light and awoke from their centuries-old slumber to fight for their rights. This movement, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., ran on the basis that only compassion would give them freedom; violence would only put them back to sleep: “Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.” Dr. King’s words condemn violence as a pathway for change. This campaign of compassion worked and jolted the rest of the United States awake. Without compassion, we would still be living in a country in which the laws condones racial divides and overrides fraternal ties.

The cohesion of the fraternal bond depends on compassion. When I was younger, physical and verbal violence were the only ways my younger brother and I could interact. One day, our fight escalated to an unprecedented level of bellicosity. We screamed insults, we punched, we choked, and we kicked until I finally had enough. In a fit of blind rage, I ran into my bedroom and nearly broke the door as I slammed it shut. “What a little jerk! I hate him,” I thought to the beat of my thumping heart. But as my heart slowed and I cooled down, sorrow began to sweep over me. I began to cry. “He is my younger brother! What if I seriously hurt him one day? Then what would I do?” I felt compassion for my younger brother. I knew the violence had to stop, for as the Dalai Lama said, “Through violence you man ‘solve’ one problem, but you sow the seeds for another.” This one miniscule moment of compassion has slowly undone years of animosity and violence.

Although the history books are marred with acts of glorified, horrific violence, violence is merely the harbinger for compassion. Violence is primitive, like the fight-or flight-response. It is hard-wired into us; it is what nature has programmed inside of us to survive. From the smallest bacterium to the largest lion, all are capable of violence. Nature gives violence to all, but we, as humans, are endowed with compassion. This is the true reason why compassion has a greater impact on society. Compassion is ours.


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