We don’t have political problems, Friends, we have human problems. We are privileged with the responsibility of choosing our own leaders, so doesn’t it stand to reason that our leaders reflect the kind of people we are? That should scare the hell out of you right now.
The overt hate, selfishness, ignorance and general shamelessness that permeates American politics right has so many of us pointing fingers at our neighbors. The powers that be are well served by the distraction created when we turn on each other instead of turning toward them to see where the blame truly belongs.
What we must first do is turn inward, and evaluate the moral and ethical shortcomings within ourselves that not only allow this wretched state of the Union to exist, but nurture it like a favored parasite.
We have to get really honest with ourselves about the lies we’ve decided to get comfortable with because they support a prejudice or a grudge that we want to justify.
We have to jump off the bandwagon of discrediting the experiences of people who are of other colors, ethnicities, religions and social classes, and own that our denial of the well-documented, systematic injustice and that holds them back makes us complicit in their oppression.
We have to acknowledge that America does have a class system, and that what we think we know about those different from us, may be based on a convenient lie.
We must stop pretending that our hatred and prejudices are some kind of code of ethics, and realize that morality is something we are to measure our own character by, not something to impose on others and then excuse our bad behavior with their perceived failures.
We have to stop degrading our neighbors who depend on government assistance, as though they don’t pay taxes or have anything to offer society, as though everyone in this country actually has equal opportunity to improve their situations, and that sexism, racism and greed never contribute to poverty.
We must discard the notion that our country is inherently superior, and realize that it merely has the potential to be. It’s up to us to insist that potential is reached. This self-delusion will only make us blind to the problems that will ultimately destroy us, like doting parents ignoring the misdeeds of a beloved, spoiled child. It’s easier to be defensive or offended than it is to admit you just don’t want to acknowledge there is something wrong.
Those of you who are still insisting that this country was founded on Christian principles have to get serious about the glaring discrepancies between what you honestly know of Christ and the policies and politicians you support.
The only way things will ever get better is if decided to be better people, and take responsibility for making sure our policies, and the people who make and enforce them reflect that.
Sometimes the things I want to say to you are so important to me that it’s paralyzing. I’m so desperate to string together the perfect words to make you act, that I don’t even know where to start. It’s a heavy burden.
It’s ok though, because I SOLVED ALL THE WORLD’S PROBLEMS!
As I sat drawing at my kitchen table (and continuing to avoid writing), I realized that there’s really only one word you need to understand. One word could repair the fabric of our society the way no legislation, politician or protest can: DIGNITY.
If everyone started honoring the dignity in everyone else the way we deserve just because we exist as human beings, and if we conducted ourselves with the dignity we all posses by the same virtue, all of this ugliness would dry right up.
Here’s how it works: There’s no way you can mistreat someone if you aren’t willing to drag yourself down to that level, and you can’t be sexist, racist, homophobic or discriminate against anyone (or allow your elected officials to do so) if you consider their quality of life first, and how it erodes their dignity (and yours) every single time. The less you’re in touch with your inherent dignity, the easier it is to rob someone of theirs, perpetuating the cycle of mean people creating more mean people. Don’t be mean.
Sounds too simple you say? It really IS simple. It’s the other stuff that’s convoluted. All the ways and reasons we use to hold each other down are only constructed to perpetuate a false bottom. You see, we are all equal. That is a fact. No one starts out any better or more deserving of their dignity that anyone else, but some folks can’t stand not being at the top. You can’t have a top without having a bottom, so the bottom was created one stereotype and one ignorant assumption at a time.
It won’t happen overnight. Maybe it won’t even happen in my lifetime, but it starts with us being cognizant of the way we act, and teaching that to our children until there’s an entire generation that doesn’t remember anything different, and respect is the norm. They will read of our ignorance and prejudices in their history books and be appalled. Can you imagine!?
I come to you from my recliner, where I’m researching bohemian clothing (or curating my ideal wardrobe on Pinterest, whatever). Mike is watching a comedy in which two well-known actors discuss writing a screen play about super heroes who can control the world with their minds, and it occurs to me we all have that super power.
The world we live in is a culmination of every single thought we choose to act on, and the ones we don’t. The impact you have on the world around you, and often it’s impact on you, reflects what’s going on in your head. The contents of our minds manifest into our behavior.
Every moment of every day, you get to decide if you’re going to use your powers for good or evil. Are you going to be the villain or the hero?
I made you a list of excuses (some of you call them “reasons”) for racism that seem to come up a lot. It studying these ideas, I’ve been consistently shocked by the number of otherwise educated and intelligent people who subscribe to them. I’m left with the conclusion that haters are gonna hate because that’s what they want to do. There’s no reasonable, logical basis for it. They just want to hate, or be superior to someone bad enough to forego all their common sense to do so.
- You’re elderly, and back in your day it was just the way things were.
Trust me, I know it can take a lifetime to deprogram the lessons we absorb in our upbringing. However, how much common sense can it possibly take to know that treating human beings any differently, especially cruelly, based on NOTHING but the color of their skin is immoral. Just because it was common doesn’t mean it was right. It’s not and never has been. You need to adjust.
- That’s just the way it’s always been done.
See #1. History has gotten a lot of things wrong. Beating one’s wife, shunning divorcees and persecuting the mentally ill have all been common practices in this country. None of them are fair or humane, and now we prosecute people who do those things. The same should be done with racism.
- That’s just the way it is where you’re from.
(I’m beginning to see that #1 really sums things up) It’s way past time to look around and see who does what differently and why. Maybe everyone else is onto something and you need to get on board. There’s nothing wrong with loving your home, but make sure you really have something to be proud of. Recognizing that we have some problems to fix doesn’t make you unpatriotic. It means you love your country (or state) enough to want to make it truly worthy of your pride.
- You just don’t know anyone who’s a different ethnicity from you, so you inadvertently say racist things out of genuine ignorance but would never hurt anyone.
Being from a small, rural community, I know a lot of people like this. This excuse might have held water at one time, but now we have reliable vehicles, good roads, phone service, the internet…It’s never been easier to get connected with anyone from anywhere. Go make some new friends.
- You pulled yourself up by your bootstraps, and they can too.
This one could be its own book. I’ll sum it up by saying that if you are not a person of color, a woman, a disabled person or an immigrant, you already got a head start. There are people in this country who have achieved great things by overcoming obstacles so far from your experience that your brain doesn’t even have a place to process them. Just because it’s not happening to you doesn’t mean it’s not valid. No one is saying it’s your fault, but your willful blindness is a luxury the world can no longer afford. Being part of the solution starts with appreciating the advantage you were born with and being empathetic to those we weren’t.
If you’ve been taught, or managed to convince yourself that there’s any acceptable degree of, or reason for racism just remember this:
Ray Charles attended a SEGREGATED school for the BLIND!
Is it a tabloid / gossip page? Tabloids are those trashy magazines in the supermarket checkout that rely on sensationalism to draw you in. If you answered yes, just throw it out now…all the way out. If not, move on to step two.
Is it fact or opinion or fact? Some sources are really sneaky about trying to pass off opinion pieces as fact. If the writer uses first-person pronouns such as “I”, or otherwise injects him/herself into the story, it’s opinion. If it resorts to name calling, it’s an opinion. I personally believe it’s wise to consult the opinions of reliable sources, but even then they should be considered suggestion, not fact. Opinion is the spice of your research, not the meat. Approach it with caution and an open mind. Go to step three.
Step two should also be applied to personal blogs, even this one. I only list blogs separately because they sometimes requite a bit of additional discernment. Arise Ink has a bit of a homemade feel, but there are plenty out there that have a slick, news-like aesthetic, and are still just someone’s opinion. You could also happen onto the professional blog of someone who is a legitimate authority in the subject you’re researching. Just pay attention to what you’re really dealing with, and go to step four (Apply the remaining steps to non-opinion pieces).
Is it biased? For the sake of discussion, let’s use politics as an example. Does the article or website criticize or condemn one party or candidate exclusively? Is it written or owned by a specific party/candidate or anyone who is affiliated with, employed by or donates to them? If you answered yes to one or both of these questions, remain skeptical and go to step five.
Look for sources that use specific language. For example, “The CEO earned $500,000 in 2015”, instead of “The CEO makes a lot of money”. The more specific the information, the easier it is to fact check and the more likely it is to be true. The most reliable material will cite sources, which you should also evaluate carefully. Go to step six.
Factual sources will generally not use overtly emotional language, like name calling or finger pointing (unless accompanied by documented facts. See #5). This kind of writing is intended to manipulate you. It’s relying on using your emotions to cloud your judgment.
If our society was a work of literature, it would consist of about 98% long, rambling run-on sentences about division, oppression and all the worst things human beings do to each other. There would be page upon page about what one side wants and why the other side doesn’t think they should have it, followed by heated commentary from people who can’t seem to put themselves in another person’s shoes well enough to know what they’re talking about.
The other 2% would be beautifully bold statements about when we finally got it right, underlined with the blood, sweat and tears of those who labored sacrificially to make it happen and highlighted with the joy the of ones whose lives and will be forever changed because of it, radiating out to give support and inspiration to future generations.
We should be careful to never take our progress for granted or forget that we don’t stop being equal in the spaces between accomplishments. Inequality is a fallacy, an evil lie perpetuated by those who desperately want to preserve the status quo that severs them so well.
Humans are complicated and life is messy. One of the many things we do to keep that theme running is miscommunicate, but before you can really communicate with someone else, you have to get on the same page with yourself.
* I’m not sure of the exact date, but I remember the moment. The following post is a throwback, written within my first couple years of living in California. It was a bittersweet time filled with life-changing revelations.