Chuck fear mongering under the bus

We, as a people, have used fear and anger to drive our existence for thousands of years. What we have to show for it is a dotted history of violence, genocide, war and generations of conflict. Are we not better than that at this point in our short history on this planet? What makes a person wearing a hijab any different from someone wearing a shirt and tie? They both breathe the same air, both walk with legs, have similar composition of blood pumping through their bodies. Our world culture has created a system where people are classed based on wealth, religion and nationality and made judging others a normal part of life. What right do we have to judge another person, that we don’t know, merely based on their appearance? What visual references do we draw upon that tells us, without impunity, that someone is a terrorist vs. a U.S. citizen?

So muslims wear a hijab, that doesn’t make them terrorists. Catholic priests wear a white collar and a black suit, we don’t see them as terrorists yet the Catholic church has a horribly violent past with wars fought over religious beliefs. It wasn’t that long ago that Protestants were viewed as devil worshippers, and publically hanged, merely because they rejected the Vatican and Catholicism. Christians are persecuted in countries primarily dominated by Islam in much the same way that Protestants were persecuted by Catholics (1300’s)and Jews were persecuted by the Germans (1900’s). It’s sad that we’re a violent species that terrorizes others based on perceptions of inferiority, to the extent that Americans do this to other Americans. The Civil War for example over the issue of slavery. Even after African-Americans being freed in 1865, flash forward 150 years and there are compelling arguments that African-Americans *still* aren’t free in the United States.

Call me an idiot for not fearing others that are different from me, I’ve heard it all in the last few years as my ideology has slowly shifted to what I’ve heard referred to as being a humanist. I see people for what they are, fellow humans, and attempt still with some difficulty to not judge based on appearance. It’s hard to break a habit that has been slammed into my brain for over three decades from mainstream media, educational systems and other powerful figures. We have a 10,000 year old instinctive response of fight or flight when presented with a situation we perceive as a threat to our lives that has been reinforced over the last thousand or so years to include everything from a charging bear to someone walking down the street wearing a hijab or a someone wearing a long trench coat in the middle of summer. I get it, we’re hardwired to act on our instincts, but I am arguing that we’re ignoring vital information that we sacrifice with our laser focus on only the perceived “bad” thing in front of our eyes.

I don’t believe that *every* Muslim in the U.S. is a terrorist much like I don’t believe that *every* African-American is a drug dealer or *every* Hispanic is someone’s maid or butler (which really are stupid stereotypes if you think about it). My grandparents had a dislike for everyone that wasn’t a white Catholic; a fact I found disturbing and an indicator of their learned, backwards thinking from their parents. I really could keep going, the common theme of all this is a common hatred of anyone that isn’t in *your* arbitrarily labeled group. We’re all flipping human beings, we’re *all* in the same group.

I consider myself lucky being an introvert in the age of the Internet. I’ve had the amazing opportunity to engage in deep conversations with others that wasn’t predicated on their appearance. I was able to interact with them on a human level, brain to brain, not caring about their religion, station, wealth or physical appearance. I’ve been like this for years, much longer than my awareness of the fact that we subliminally treat others different based on physical traits. My drive to take this into physical life, instead of virtually, is a rather large and difficult hurdle that I’m still struggling with on a daily basis. I ask stupid questions out of naivety, that I find is usually dismissed as I’m genuine about my curiosity. The answer is something that I absorb like a sponge, stored for later when I have the time to process through the interaction.

My outward interactions with the world, how others perceive me, has changed significantly in a dramatic and profound way. My view of the world has grown so much, in such a fantastic way, it’s hard for me to put into words even after thinking about this for several days. My interactions with others are getting easier because I’m no longer drawing on outdated prejudices or life lessons that feel as outdated as my grandparents’ views did years ago. This is something that I’ve had to work at, constantly remind myself to not judge based on appearance, force myself to look beyond the surface. Looking (and interacting) with what’s inside all of us takes time, effort and practice…. lots of practice. To put it another way, I’ve learned to love the taste of my foot 🙂

Enlightenment starts with the self, then becomes contagious to those around. This is one pandemic that I think would benefit the human race. Call me crazy to believe that we can do better than we have in the past, we certainly have a lot of history showing us what not to do going forward into the future. Why not start small, a little change that could have a large impact: resist the rhetoric and draw your own conclusions.

#anger, #catholics, #fear, #hate, #hijab, #humanism, #humanist, #muslims, #prejudice, #racism

Human first, American second

I’m not feeling Three Things Thursday this week. Having been absorbed into election coverage, reactions, and getting over my own brief shock yesterday morning, I have a renewed sense of purpose and see an opportunity for us as American people to stand together. This country is divided, decidedly so, but what’s done is done and the 45th President has been selected through one of the last vestiges of democracy we have left in this country. We have spoken, loud and clear, that we’ve rejected mainstream media’s attempted manipulation of this year’s election. Almost all news leading up to the election proclaimed an almost certainty that Clinton would win, ignoring the level of anger and rage people have had building up across the country.

I have chosen to accept our next President despite the fact that I didn’t vote for him. He is deserving of the same level of respect and open-mindedness that I grant to everyone. While I do know quite a bit about Trump already, becoming the President is just about the biggest life change any one person can have. I’m skeptically hopeful that he realizes this and uses this opportunity to become the President that this country desperately needs and uses his position to guide the government so that the American people come first, not the socialist elites. I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt that he won’t treat this like another reality show and media circus that his primary and campaign ultimately turned into.

I have chosen to be optimistic of our future for the sake of my daughter, who turns 10 next month. She has been asking a lot of questions about the election and has heard some really crazy statements from her friends at school. Some of the parents that I see and talk to on a regular basis have not been so optimistic and their children are feeling the negativity and anger of their parents without the context to completely understand. I took the time to sit down with my daughter and teach her about democracy and freedom in a way that she can understand and opened the dialogue for her to ask questions without fear of repercussions. We have had a few of these conversations with her friends over as well, and I’ve been careful and aware of the words that I use and how I explain things so that it’s heard without bias (not always easy). We have four years until the next Presidential election, it’s going to go a lot faster if we’re working together.

I have chosen to not be as opinionated when talking with people who already have strong opinions. I now understand that strong opinions often cause a knee-jerk reaction to dig your heels in and not listen to what is being discussed. My approach has been more subtle and fact based with sources cited as often as possible. I’m trying to encourage people to do their own research and start to understand the system that’s in place right now. You really can’t begin to change anything if you don’t understand it completely first, which is something that I’m still struggling with daily. Although I know a lot more now than I did 6 months ago, the system we currently have has been four decades in the making and mostly hidden behind mainstream media spin and misdirection.

This piece, written by a Canadian, is more American in spirit than how most Americans are their entire lives. It’s a call to arms to reject the hateful and disrespectful practices of the past and finally fight collectively for human rights. Human rights regardless of who, what, why, how we are. I have had a difficult time understanding how someone can be angry at someone else for something that happened before both their lifetimes. George Santayana said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” and it’s as true today as when it was originally spoken. We moved past British oppressive rule and created our own country in 1776. We ended slavery in 1865 and the Civil War ended. We survived the 1960’s and appeared to have moved past racism and hate in this country; we elected an African-American President in 2008. I’ve always treated others as I’ve liked to be treated, but am offended when I’m judged by others that don’t know me except for my external appearances. I don’t trivialize or dismiss the pasts atrocities and do not pretend to know what its like to live anyone elses life. Without civilized communication and mutual respect, we’re doomed to continue repeating past injustices.

The air is thick with anger. It’s up to us to come together and work through our differences once and for all. It’s up to us to figure out how to accept our differences because it’s the differences that make us stronger as a species on this planet. Let’s do this!

#american, #anger, #call-to-action, #canada, #election-2016, #fear, #hate, #human-beings, #racism, #trump

Fearful of the future

Once again, I read about another situation where civilians targeted police officers and people ended up being killed. I’ve seen conflicting information about whether the gunman called police to the scene on purpose or if it was just something else entirely, such as “wrong place at the wrong time”. There isn’t enough detail in the news that I can completely trust enough to know which side is right. To be honest though, it really doesn’t matter, people died for something that didn’t need to happen. I’m referring to the gunman AND the police officers, not one or the other. The thoughts and feelings I’m experiencing are hard to put into words.

I’m the first one to admit that I’ve said and done the wrong thing at the wrong time. In some cases, I was provided the opportunity to apologize and in others I wasn’t and lost the respect of the other person. That is all my fault, partly because I wasn’t thinking, partly because I was naive, partly because it’s what I had believed at the time and hadn’t been given all the details or facts. In all cases, I learned from those experiences, rather, the experiences that I was provided the chance to learn from. The individuals that enlightened me rather than hate me understood that some things just aren’t known to everyone all the time. They took a chance on offering their knowledge to me in a time when I probably didn’t earn it or deserve it, but had hope that a fellow human being could be helped to understand the bigger picture.

I grew up in a white neighborhood and went to a primarily white school. It wasn’t until I entered high school that I had fellow students that were not white. I was dumb, naive, and stupid about the larger world that I hadn’t experienced yet. At no point though did I treat anyone differently. Everyone started with the same level of respect and acceptance when first meeting me. It was only after their actions dictated a change in respect, I never got to a point where I didn’t accept anyone. My life the past 40 years has been dotted with situations that fall into the “shouldn’t have said that” and “shouldn’t have done that” moments. What most don’t see when they only look at the surface though is the fact that I’ve learned from every situation where I had done or said something stupid. As I progressed through high school, college, corporate work; those situations where I said or did the wrong thing have grown farther and farther apart.

A particular experience, that I’ll never forget, involved a co-worker at one past job where I was in my early 20’s. For months I picked up on negativity directed at me and others on the team that were white. Meetings were especially brutal for me specifically as I didn’t have the operating knowledge required to back up my ideas or suggestions. This person continually had the upper hand with me and I can’t recall a single idea that didn’t have a “devil’s advocate” approach from them. Months of this took place and I just accepted it. At the time I had no idea why I was the usual target, but reflecting now I can see why. One particular day, a specific comment was directed at me that struck a nerve as it turned personal that was directed at my wife. I asked, politely, to meet with them privately and they reluctantly agreed. I asked them why I was being singled out? I asked why they never gave me a chance? The answers weren’t surprising, but my follow-up caught them off guard; “Why does the color of my skin determine if I’m worthy of your respect and acceptance? At no point in the last 6 months have I been anything but respectful and accepting of you as a fellow co-worker. Do I not deserve the same?” I asked they just think about my questions before answering and excused myself from the room, I didn’t feel it was necessary to stay after confronting someone so personally. It was a few days later that they called me into the same room. I got answers to my questions that confirmed my belief that I was superficially judged and they didn’t allow themselves to see past that. Our working relationship improved from that point forward but it never progressed farther than that, mostly because of my unwillingness to mix work and personal life. I did earn their respect and acceptance and I like to think that I learned a little from the situation in that until you let someone know where you stand, nothing will ever change.

I try so hard to not judge others. I’m a fallible human though and nothing is ever perfect. It’s the imperfections in life that makes everything so interesting. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that I tend to accept more rather than reject, a fact that isn’t lost on me as this usually happens in the opposite direction for most people. I can’t recall how many times I’ve talked to my Grandparents and realized over and over that they were truly racist and bigoted people; a product of their time unfortunately. My parents chose not to instill those ideals with my brother an I and I’m thankful for that. It helped me to see and recognize the behaviors that perpetuated the violence and hatred from centuries past. I’ve lost friends over the years because they got angry with me for my refusal to polarize “with my own kind” (their words, not mine) when violence erupted over race. I’ve also distanced myself from people that perpetuated that kind of hate and rhetoric because I just don’t think it does any good to get that angry over something. Sure, there are bad people out there, sure things will happen regardless of our best efforts, but I cling to the hope that we’ll start to learn from our mistakes and expend energy on positivity rather than negativity.

I’m fearful for the future for the first time in a long time. Seeing and hearing about escalating violence is a major contributor to that fear in that it being a cycle that really never ends. It can get worse, or we can recognize our negativity and decide collectively to make a difference. I consider myself part of the solution more so because I’m willing to accept and learn from my mistakes, but that only works if others recognize that I’m going to make mistakes. Mistakes due to lack of knowledge or life experience, not due to malice, racism or bigotry. Where are things going to go? It’s up to the human race to decide, because in the end, our brains are grey and we all bleed red.

#acceptance, #black, #fear, #learning, #racism, #respect, #violence, #white

Merry New Job Eve…… oh boy

Having the unfortunate luck of having a mild cold on the eve of a new job, I was reflecting last night on my life to this point.  There have been several major milestones in my life that are easily recalled and thought about in vivid detail.  Graduating High School, getting my first real job, getting my first promotion, meeting my future wife and then getting married, buying my first house, having a daughter, etc.  I started thinking about everything as chapters in a book that isn’t finished yet.  I have not had anything earth shattering or life changing compared to anyone else and my book of life would be rather boring honestly.  Anyway, it was interesting none the less.

Thinking about my new job, a deviation from anything in my career thus far, I suddenly started feeling nervous about this new chapter.  I’m prepared, more so than other times, to start this job from day one.  No break in period or kicking the figurative tires.  They need me to start being productive and effective almost immediately.  The thought of trying to figure out my place while at the same time showing I already know my place is a little frightening.  I’ve never had to do that in any previous position I’ve started as I brought experience and knowledge to the table.  That was the reason I got hired.  This job is the first job in my life that I was hired because of my personality and demeanor rather than my technical knowledge or background.  Scary realization time!

What....what the hell?

What….what the hell?

I’m assured by the people soon to be my co-workers that I’m going to be successful at whatever I do.  Do they have to say that?  This is what I’m thinking most of the time when I hear things like that.  I’m my own worst critic and often will beat myself up more than anyone else.  It’s my way of learning from my mistakes, but will unfortunately give a perception to others that is often negative.  I’ve worked on this aspect of my personality for years and have improved, but still tend to head down that rabbit hole.  My biggest fear though is that I won’t be able to keep up the extrovert exterior when I’m at my core an extreme introvert.  Only time will tell in that case I think.

Have my fingers crossed!

#extrovert, #fear, #introvert, #new-job