Every day, the news is full of amazing and unbelievable stories, be it good or bad. There are many that are beyond human control such as natural disasters (most recently, the Japan earthquake and tsunami). The devastation, shock, heartbreak, fear, and utter despair caused by such catastrophic events are felt by humanity all over the world.

But sometimes, I come across stories that baffle my mind because these are caused by human beings. Below are three I’ve recently read/watched:

The Saudi Women Taking Small Steps for Change – This article reminds me of how lucky we western women are; to have rights and control over our own lives. In many countries, such as Saudi Arabia, women are still kept behind closed doors. They are not even meant to be seen (by unrelated males) let alone heard. Forget about working, women are not even allowed to drive! Although I understand this is a cultural practice, I still am shocked that such restrictions are still tightly embedded in modern countries in the 21st century. The men claim that the women should be happy and have a pampered life because they are well taken care of. I think it’s a ridiculous excuse to continue to oppress women. What’s the point of getting a good education if you can’t work or make your own decisions?

America’s Most Hated Family – One thing I like about the UK is that it has amazing documentaries. The media is not afraid to televise investigative journalism that may be deemed too ‘sensitive’ or ‘risque’ in the US, not even in primetime. Louis Theroux, in particular, has done a number of documentaries in the US. The one that struck me the most is this one about the Phelps, an extreme right-winged family. Fred Phelps is the head of the WestBoro Baptist Church in Topeka, KS. He preaches intolerance and hatred towards homosexuality. His church members, mainly family, travels around the US picketing funerals of fallen soldiers and spreading their hatred. At a time when soldiers’ families and friends are in mourning, the Phelps show up with signs such as ‘God Hates Fags’, and saying that homosexuals will all burn in hell. The Phelps family, and Fred in particular, is a vile and ignorant family.

The Word’s Worst Place to be Gay – I watched this particular documentary the other night and was once again struck by the closed-mindedness of certain people and cultures. Uganda has an extremely antagonistic view against homosexuality. It is essentially a crime to be gay. Gays and lesbians are disowned by their families, ignored by friends, and harrassed and beaten by others. They are forced to live in slums, with no support. Interviews of politicians, pastors, academics, etc. show how unrelenting their views are. They seem to believe that being gay is a choice, just like stealing or killing, and therefore it’s a punishable crime. They refuse to even acknowledge the possibility that one can be born this way.

Why can’t we all live humanely, if not harmoniously? Don’t we have enough natural tragegies and sorrow in the world without humans being intolerant and violent towards each other?