Monday, January 2, 2017

What we need to unlearn from 2016 in order to overcome inequality & division in America

I am basically frustrated to the point where I will soon have to pare-down my social-media news feed.  Maybe you can empathize.  The problem is, 2016 made it socially acceptable to post divisiveness and be combative while we hide behind our keyboards.  Did our verbal attacks solve much, or have we made matters worse?  You tell me.

Currently we have a culture of victims who demonize the people they disagree with, or feel oppressed by.  Everyone is the enemy and everything offends us.  From Corporate America, the Feds, Wall Street, religion, our history, to politics or the school system, it's like there's a cosmic conspiracy against humanity, that is, if you listen to the news or spend much time on social media.

And, the way we discuss our very real distinctions are dividing us culturally even further.
Rich vs poor
Educated vs uneducated
Blue collar vs White collar
Straight vs Gay
Men vs Women
White vs all ethnicites
Deplorables vs Losers...
Left vs Right
Green Energy vs Fossil Fuels
Vegetarians vs Omnivores
The list really seems endless....

Am I missing something, aren't we all humans?  Don't we all share the same DNA?  Don't we all want the world to be a better place?

From Black lives matters, to Blue lives matters, to Islamophobia, homophobia, White Privilege, and to boycotting the Oscars, we've become a nation of protesters.  The problem with protesting is that it puts everyone on the defense, and when we are defensive we build walls, emotionally and otherwise.
Your message, no matter how accurate or well thought out, will never penetrate a closed mind. 

Here's an example.  Does a movie like Hidden Figures, which is about minority women who helped the space program during the Civil Rights era, does it help or hurt our our Nation's divisions?  If that questions offends you, you might be part of the problem.  It's a fair question.  I see no harm in it.

My point? How the movie is promoted, portrayed, and discussed will be what makes all the difference.  It boils down to agendas.  You are either part of the solution, or you will continue the problem, and I'm not sure how much longer we as a nation can afford to perpetuate our divisions.

In our home, from an early age, we discouraged our boys (from preschool age) to leave out the skin color of other people they told us about.  For example, when we went over their day at the dinner-table, as they recounted an experience with a classmate, if our children said, "You know, the black kid?" we would, as parents, correct them and say, "You don't tell us when another kid is white when you are telling us a story about your day, do you?  See, there's no need to say someone is black either.  We are all the same."

I share that part of our household to say, a major preliminary step to overcoming our differences and to healing what divides us is to eliminate "us vs them" from our thinking, and our vocabulary.  Highlighting or spotlighting what makes us different from each other has the potential to exasperate the divide.

Does this mean we turn a blind eye to the inequality and differences in our nation?  No.  Well, what can we do then?  We move from protesting, to participating in creating something better.  

We need to recognize some people do not want to cooperate or change, and we need to marginalize their influence.  Don't waste your time & energy on ignorant people.  You will not change them with any tactic, the more attention we give them, the more credibility they gain...  It's hard enough to change yourself and to make self-improvements, it's impossible to change other people against their will.

We have ugly, mean-spirited, prejudiced people we will have to deal with.  But there's hope, because there's nothing stopping us from collaborating with people from all backgrounds who want to work towards peace and unity.

We have hate-mongers and toxic people out there.  But we can make progress when we contain the vitriol/venomous hate-speech ourselves..., and refuse to be vindictive or seek retribution.

We can make a difference, we can be better when we cease to see ourselves though a victimized past and begin to look towards a victorious future that overcomes hate & division.  How you see yourself and others does matter.  Let's make 2017 a year where we forget what we look like on the outside and where we all do a better job at looking at what counts.

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