In the last few weeks as judgement flies freely over social media and even in everyday conversation, it’s sometimes too easy to get lost in our own minds. While we know that nobody is perfect sometimes we might forget that our way of life, of doing things or of handling a situation is not the only way. I actually deactivated my facebook a week or so ago because logging in was starting to make me sick and just disgusted with the people I saw every single day bashing and judging complete strangers. It’s one thing to agree to disagree or to acknowledge someone else’s lifestyle but to openly and ignorantly bash someone you know nothing about? It was just upsetting to me.
I struggled with what to tell Ava about this election or how to understand the things happening around her in a way that wouldn’t damage her innocence. Finally I just decided it was best to tell her the minimum, she’s only 7 after all and her teachers did a great job of explaining the government, elections and democracy so I saw no reason to tell a 7 year old about the racial and gender issues that embedded themselves into the 2016 presidential election. What I did want her to know or understand is that we live in a big big world and every single one of us is different, and that’s okay. Diversity is what makes this world and this city so great.
I wanted Ava to understand the ability to be objective and to know how to step back and view a situation out of her own shoes. It’s a hard thing to do especially if you’ve got a vested interest in the topic, but it eliminates ignorant hatefulness. It’s easy to condemn a life we have never lived but it is easier to understand if we remove ourselves. For example, I’ve seen great debate over public assistance and the stigma that comes with it. People don’t seem to understand that not every person who gets food stamps is living off the government unemployed, in fact most are hard working people who just need a little help to make ends meet, and there’s nothing wrong with that. When you retain the ability to be objective you can separate the people who abuse the assistance from those who truly need it.
Not everyone gets the same affordances to start out with in life and the road to getting there for some takes longer. Sometimes people deal with things outside of their control and do the best they can to keep going. Remember, judging someone’s path to a destination only sets us back in our own.
Tolerance. The word has been thrown around a lot these past two weeks in America. Post-election America seems eerily similar to a city that just suffered a massive earthquake, cracked. It is hard to ignore the division right now and even harder to ignore the lack of tolerance and regard for one another. This election was a high voltage one from the start for many reasons but the main undertones seemed racial and gender bias. It was hard to watch and harder to fathom how a country which made such progress on equality issues over the last 8 years could fall into such divide.
Before my eyes I watched friendships dissolve, families draw battle lines and a nation pick sides with what seemed like no middle ground. I couldn’t help but ask myself, what happened to respecting another person’s opinion or agreeing to disagree? I’ve always believed in picking your battles but suddenly every view I’ve ever had seemed like one. People were accusing one another, throwing stones and downright destroying the character of people both stranger and friend. Tolerance I thought to myself, how can people be so intolerant to political views? If that was one lesson to take away from this mess it’s to be tolerant of your fellow human being.
Everyone around you lives a life, carries a burden or hides a scar you know nothing about but that doesn’t mean you can be insensitive to it. In a perfect world everyone would agree, everything would accommodate everyone but the world is not perfect, and neither are we. We can try though, to be more empathetic and more open minded to peoples sexual orientation, life choices, financial status or where they’ve come from because at the end of the day our graves are all the same size. If there is one thing I want to raise my daughter to be it’s tolerant, open minded and observant. If I can’t teach her to open her eyes to all that’s around her I’ve failed her and I’d also be setting someone who can’t empathize with others out into the world.
So this week I ask my readers to open their own eyes, open their hearts and most of all open their minds, because a closed mind is a dark one and dark minds lead to an even darker society. Look at the person next to you in class, on the subway or in line for Chipotle and realize they live a life that may be a complete 180 from your own, and that you’re not any better or any worse than them for it. We live in a vast and beautiful country, but we can’t all live beautifully so long as hate is still allowed to freely roam society. Let’s raise our children, lets teach our fellow human being lets BE the tolerance, the change and the hope we so desperately need to see in this nation today.