I have been watching the reaction to the world events during my days in self-quarantine and after. To put it mildly, I am appalled at what unfolds in my social media feeds, my correspondence, and, last but not least, the evening news. From every angle, the bigotry, violence and ignorance solve nothing. It bothered me enough that I re-read a blog that I wrote 4 years ago and thought it needed updating. The message is just as relevant today as it was when I wrote the first version.
1. We cannot rewrite history. History has always been written by the ‘victor’. Denial has always been a part of historical record. We deny events because it is a visceral response. The one I hear a lot is ‘nobody in my family would do that’. Based on circumstance and upbringing, they could, would, and did. In many parts of the world, Canada included, events are sanitized to make the participants feel better about themselves. For anyone with functioning gray matter, it is a given. In Canada, we have treated people who are different with derision and disrespect. It wasn’t always for the colour of one’s skin. Sometimes, it was because they spoke a different language, had different cultural values, were a different gender, or were just different in too many ways to name. As a woman, there have been times when I was treated despicably because I am a woman. Being a woman was the starting point for the bias rather than the ending point. We cannot rewrite history but we can take steps to create a better future. No one is born to hate; people are taught to hate.
2. From the Christian viewpoint, we are all descendants of Adam and Eve. If you actually believe that, then every other person on earth is your relative, or a family member, regardless of their colour, religion, orientation, gender, or economic status. If you’re not treating them as such, read your Bible again and imagine what your Creator will have to say when the two of you are reviewing what you did with your life. Do you really think the Creator will be pleased to see that you diminished or outright abused those who didn’t look like you, didn’t believe what you believed, or were otherwise different from you? By your own Bible, the answer is “No.” And anyone who professes to be a Christian might want to remember that there are other options available to the Creator than saying “Well, that’s all right; I know you didn’t really mean to ignore what I told you”, some of them fairly interestingly imagined and described in Dante’s Circles of Hell. (Numbers 5-9 seem particularly apt, if anyone wants to look them up.) And there’ll be no saying ‘We weren’t warned’ because Matthew 7:21 is quite specific: “Not everyone that says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but those that do the will of my Father which is in heaven”. And Colossians 3:25 is as well: “For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he / she has done…”
Anyone who professes themselves a member of any religion is telling the people around them to judge them by the standards of the faith they claim to follow, and whether theists like it or not, their god will be judged by their behaviour. Some of the behaviour I’ve seen from self-identified theists during these last few days is enough to make any sensible person think that if this is the behaviour religions produce, the world would be better off without them. To be fair, some secularists dispensed with their manners with quite as much alacrity as the theists they so vehemently deplored. The only sensible conclusion is that they’re really the same sort of people: they merely use different excuses for being obnoxious.
3. Only small-minded and insecure people pick on others; only immature and arrogant people assume that they have a license to dispense with tolerance and civility. If you want to know what kind of person you are, don’t just look in the mirror – look at the people around you and see how they react to you. If you look in the mirror, you may see a strong, knowledgeable warrior unquestionably on the side of the angels or a victim entitled to special consideration because your life has been so much more difficult than anyone else’s. If you look at the people around you, you may have to realize that what they see is an ambulatory cocktail of self-pity and self-indulgence who is unwilling to step up and be a civilized, contributing member of the human race. Notice, I say “human race”, because despite the self-congratulatory classifications of early eugenicists, there is in fact only one race on this planet: humanity. And the first step to joining it is getting over yourself: realizing that you’re just an ordinary human being, no better, worse, or more important than any of the rest of us. Admittedly, it’s a bit hard on the ego to realize that while we may be the center of our own universe, we are not the center of anyone else’s, much less everyone else’s – but nevertheless, that’s the way of it, and having a temper tantrum about it merely demonstrates your unfitness for the company of civilized adults.
4. We inhabit a very small sphere in the middle of nowhere: if we make it uninhabitable, there is nowhere else to go. If humanity is going to survive, we have to understand that and start acting as if we understand it. Yes, the doomsday dramatics meant to get our attention are annoying – and counterproductive because they make us likely to dismiss or ignore people who’d present facts simply and sensibly — and yes, it’s irksome when people demand that we implement solutions but they have no ideas to put forward because looking backwards is so much more gratifying. No one can move forward when you spend your life looking in the rear view mirror.
My Challenge for you: This is will be harder than you think.
- treat each other with respect. To quote my mother, “Everyone is worthy of respect. No one earns respect, you give,it they lose it. It is the basis of trust.”
- stop focusing on liking someone and focus on what they contribute. I tell my team, “they don’t need to like the customer, supplier, or regulator but they have to figure out how to work with them. The universe gives us this experience to grow our patience and tolerance.”
- treat everyone’s opinion as just their opinion. Never treat anyone’s opinion as more important than your own thoughts and knowledge.
- pick one opinion that you have heard this week. You should never shift your personal compass blindly based on someone else’s uninformed opinion. Research, assess, evaluate, and decide. You can do it. Make your own decision.
- be the best you that you can be. Do one thing every day that will improve your lot in life. Your personal history can influence your thoughts and ideas but it doesn’t have to be in the driver’s seat.
- blame the person not the race, religion, gender, or other classification.
If we all do our bit, we may not clean up the mess that we are in overnight, but we will make it better, and any way you slice it, doing something is better than doing nothing.
Regardless of the colour of our skin, our religion, our gender, sexual orientation, or any other qualifier someone might want to use, we all look the same under the skin and we all bleed red.
“Remember, character isn’t about who you are it is about what you do.”
Grace Wallace Young (JAG)
“The warrior’s greatest gift is the strength of their heart, not their fist.”
Native American Saying
“Nothing is as strong as gentleness; nothing is so gentle as real strength.”