Oh, holy heck.
I was committed to blogging about autism again (specifically on the topic of stimming) when this past weekend’s events in Charlottesville occurred and immediately altered my focus. Then, as icing on the proverbial cake, our President came on television Tuesday to double-down on his views. I’m honestly not going to waste a single moment acting shocked or contemplating his statements in great detail, because as one amazing lady has been famously quoted as saying:
“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”
–Dr. Maya Angelou
But I’ve got to tell you that I’ve been watching, waiting, hoping, and praying that what he showed early on would somehow be improved by a new understanding of the importance of the office he holds and the gravity of his responsibilities to the American people. Those hopes, which had already deteriorated to a fringed thread, were laid to rest on Tuesday.
I remember that, shortly after the election, a relative called me out on social media for sharing an article that didn’t mesh with his beliefs about education reform. After he noted his view and personal circumstances that led to it, I could understand why it didn’t. And although him sharing his views didn’t do much to reshape my own, I still heard them.
What I chewed on after that point though wasn’t our incongruent views, but how quickly impersonal and sardonic his delivery became. Suddenly, I’d become part of a generalized group of people who he had segmented into being a certain way. He labeled me as being unpatriotic because the article I shared challenged a choice made by the incoming administration, and he insisted that I support the President without comment.
So, first, I’m going to say this: “No thanks, I still don’t support what he’s cooking.”
The second thing I’m going to share is that the conversation with my relative made me rethink my relationship with social media. I took a break for a few months while I thought about the people I connect with or follow, how I want to communicate and interact with them, what I want to share or not, how I want to engage or not, and ultimately what serves me or doesn’t. And I took some time to process my anger (I even blogged about it). I was angry at the issues surfacing in our country, and at those who would debate that we should be silent and accept this as normal, which it most certainly is not. I now know that I not only needed the break, but I’m also healthier for it. (In fact, I highly recommend that the POTUS take one from Twitter.)
But here’s the third point worth noting. I am perfectly okay with most reasonable differing opinions as long as there is kindness in delivery. And I’m ALL FOR uniting. I get really excited about that. It jazzes me up and makes me feel all giddy inside. If you want to hang out with me and plan together how we can better unify and bring peace to this world, you have absolutely got my ear. In fact, you’re my kind of people.
But uniting does not mean blindly following a leader without comment just because that person holds a position of power. In fact, I believe that people in positions of power should be held accountable for the responsible use of their words and actions because of their positional influence.
When we work together to solve issues and we discuss them in a respectful manner, unity naturally occurs and we tend to more easily find common ground. Unity doesn’t happen when you attempt to force it through rhetoric or try to antagonize someone into complying. It also doesn’t happen when you generalize others. Whether you’re generalizing those of a political party, ethnicity, religion, country of origin, skin color, gender, sexual orientation, ability, occupation, or any other cultural, physical, or innate differentiation, generalizations typically serve to classify and divide people.
Also, I am not a generalization. I am an individual, and so are each of you. And I LOVE it when people express their individuality. In fact, I honor that in others.
That’s also what I love about the closest people in my life. We are not cookie cutters. We are not people trying to be like each other, but instead are people who are trying to be our own personal best selves. So yes, that might mean that we see some things differently. Even though it can be challenging to see people who differ from us through the eyes of love, that’s what we must do if we are to be united despite our differences.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
–The Declaration of Independence
Not only if you’re white. Not only if you’re male. Not only if you’re heterosexual. Not only if you have ability. But every single one of us.
We are human beings first. All the other labels we wear are second. And all the generalizations you make about those labels that others wear only divide us further. If you lose sight of the fact that the person next to you is also your human brother or sister, then you’ve lost sight of the fact that we’re in this big human pot TOGETHER.
There are going to be times we say and do the right thing and times we don’t. There will be times that we get angry (seriously, it’s worth a read) and want to tell others where they can shove their own views. But to antagonize or goad just perpetuates the crazy. It requires dedicated introspection to look inside ourselves and see why we’re triggered before we react. It also requires that we hold each other to higher standards of discourse and delivery, and that we expect the same from our leaders.
I’m a firm believer that we are works in progress, we have the capacity within us to change for the good, and we are gifted with divine grace that supports us when times are difficult. And man do they feel difficult this week.
That said, I also believe that all roads rife with confrontation lead back to love, either a request for it or a call to give it.
So, today, I choose the thing that I’m cooking: LOVE
My hope, prayer, and intention is that you choose love too.