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

Listen to understand, then speak to be understood

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I’m not a typical American, at least that is how I think of myself. Politically, I generally lean left and support socialist views, however have an open enough mind to recognize that no one “group” is completely correct in their policies or agendas. My approach is to see the problem for what it is without the fodder that is thrust upon me from mainstream media, pundits, or other sources that would be served well by my sheepily following. I follow quite a few blogs and read news from dozens of sites so that I can absorb and hopefully understand what is being reported or said. Conclusions and viewpoints are formed once I believe I have enough information to do so and generally don’t make judgements without a lot of facts to support that judgement. This system doesn’t always work to my benefit, as I’ll demonstrate, but my reaction is that of someone who truly has an open mind: acceptance that my original view was flawed in some way.

An interesting post on In Saner Thought titled Burn Baby Burn yesterday got a lot of comments with good discussions back and forth. The post was about the fires in Tennessee that devastated Gatlinburg and surrounding communities. You can read the comments for yourself if you’re interested, for this post though, the details aren’t necessary. The rumor of radical Muslims starting the fire came up in one of my comments and was immediately countered, which started a back and forth between myself and John of The Ripening Wanderer. He is a self-described conservative and his blog clearly indicates that he is correct in the description 🙂 I however, was interested and didn’t want to let it (my point) go without defending, and he posted an article that supported his comments quite well.  So well in fact, it changed my view.

The point that stood out to me was this one, spoken by Brigitte Gabriel to Saba Ahmed:

“There are 1.2 billion Muslims in the world today,” Gabriel said. “Of course not all of them are radicals. The majority of them are peaceful people. The radicals are estimated to be between 15-25 percent according to all intelligence services around the world.”

“That leaves 75 percent of (Muslims being) peaceful people. But when you look at 15-25 percent of the world’s Muslim population, you’re looking at 180 million to 300 million people dedicated to the destruction of Western civilization. That is as big as the United States,” Gabriel continued.

“So why should we worry about the radical 15-25 percent? Because it is the radicals that kill. Because it is the radicals that behead and massacre,” she said.

The article concluded with this, and ultimately what altered my original view:

Ahmed continued to miss the point and whine despite claiming that she cared about the Benghazi victims. That’s when talk radio host Chris Plante jumped in and drove it home: “Can you tell me the head of the Muslim peace movement?” after he made it clear that he understood her point and agreed that the war won’t be won with the military alone.

“I guess it’s me right now,” she responded.

SOURCE: WATCH: Conservative’s PERFECT Response After Muslim Says Most Muslims Aren’t Terrorists

I had not considered that the radical Muslim population could actually be so large, a point that is rarely if ever given in mainstream media. The exchange between myself and John on the blog post was enlightening in that although I generally lean left, I need to not dismiss other sides of the equation as it ends up just being imbalanced.  At no point did I consider the fact that there wasn’t a defined leader of the Muslim peace movement.  The point made by Chris Plante implied that peaceful Muslims were complicit in allowing the radical Muslims to exist without any resistance was powerful.

We have a very interesting climate in our country right now, fiercely divided and dug in like ticks.  Protests in the streets by Clinton supporters creates imbalance. Negative rhetoric by Trump supporters to anyone not supporting Trump creates imbalance. Freedom of speech is all well and good, but when it’s exercised to someone elses detriment, it seems ineffective. I’m not saying we should all be politically correct, but we have to admit that we don’t always listen when listening is necessary. It’s a two-way street.  There has to be, needs to be, a better way of solving our problems that doesn’t throw groups of people under the bus.

John properly supported his statements with the source that led him to his belief. I read the same source and came to the same conclusion that he did. It ended up changing my opinion in a way that brought both of us to the same playing field, shaking hands, sitting down and having a coffee. I think it was a Starbucks Peppermint Mocha Latte, because it’s the holiday season. THIS is something that, in our social world, usually doesn’t happen because it’s so easy to “unfriend,” “block,” and “unfollow” the people who even hint at us questioning our opinion comfort zones. That place we would all live in a perfect world. That perfect world doesn’t exist, never has, and like in The Matrix, a perfect world would end up being rejected anyway. A belief that is stronger now that I’ve finished the Black Mirror series on Netflix (post on that coming soon).

I want to thank John, here, now, for taking the time to show that his point of view was not just conjecture. He chose to listen and understand me, before trying to be understood.

It takes time to learn to listen and understand others, especially when their views and opinions are based on questionable sources. It takes time and control to not get angry, hateful, or dismissive of others when what they’re saying doesn’t match what you think or potentially know to be true. It takes practice to actually listen rather than just hear as there is a difference between listening to coherent intelligent words and hearing “blah blah blah”. I wasn’t always open-minded, in fact I lost friends in the past because I refused to listen to what they were saying as it wasn’t what I believed. I attribute this growth to the fact that I’m older, wiser, and intolerant of behavior that is anything but respectful. My time is finite when in person, my energy measured, and disrespect doesn’t earn the privilege of my time or energy. You can learn to disagree with someone without being disrespectful. We all have views, opinions and passions; we need to embrace that in ourselves and others.

If we can’t learn to move past ourselves, how will anything ever get solved?

#conservatives, #liberals, #listening, #muslims, #politics, #understanding