Believe.

What should determine your behavior? How you feel at the moment? What you think of those around you? What those around you think?

All of those things do have an effect, even if we don’t think they should. But my current favorite film focuses on a different answer, and it’s got me thinking.

The way you behave should be largely shaped by what you believe in. And if it isn’t, it’s time to take a hard look at either your behavior, or your beliefs.

I can give you a long list of things I do not believe in, and an even longer list of kind-ofs to which I can add many qualifiers. But today, I’m forcing myself to make a short list of simple virtues in which I firmly believe. Virtues that can shape my everyday actions, you know, Wonder Woman style.

This should be easy. I have plenty of beliefs. I’ll pick one.

I believe in tolerance. That means letting me be me and letting you be you. Yes, I can hear the qualifiers creeping already. No one should tolerate one human harming another. Okay, I agree. But what do we do on the fringes? The barely harming that some say isn’t harming at all?

Image result for confederate flagI live in North Carolina and the confederate flag is a great example. I cringe when I see it. I have neighbors who find that intolerant. I find the flag itself intolerant. We are at an impasse, my neighbors and I, each unwilling to tolerate each other’s intolerance. What a mess.

So let me try another word. I believe in inclusion. Young, old, all races, religions, sexual orientations and body types. We are all beautiful. Except, of course, for the people who think we are not. They’re ugly.

Try again. I believe that we all need to accept each other as equally valid expressions of what it means to be human. No one gets excluded from anything based on the bodies they were born into, the cultures that raised them, or the personal preferences they now have.

Hey, I think that works.

That does not mean we have to tolerate each other’s bad behavior. In fact, at some point we have to act to stop it. And no, I don’t know exactly where that point is but I am sure it exists.

I believe in tolerance. I do. Tolerance means you’re beautiful, because you are a miracle and  I’m beautiful because I am one too.

We both need to act like it, and that is my belief for the day.

 

Wearing the confederate flag as part of a costume

I don't think so

I don’t think so

As a resident of the deep south for over half of my life, I have strong feelings about the confederate flag. I believe that there is no place for it in the modern world other than as an historical item. It represents not only the enslavement of the ancestors of many southerns, but it also represents decades more of their mistreatment. My views on the subject are part of the plot in z2 and I am glad to see this more empathetic view becoming more accepted by southerners of all races.

A friend who knows my beliefs on the subject sent me this question posed in Teaching Tolerance, fall 2013, a publication of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
hillbillynerdOur school sponsored a “Redneck Day” during spirit week. An African-American parent complained about a student wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the Confederate battle flag. It was all in fun. Any advice?
SPLC responded: One of the most important principles for school leaders is a version of the doctor’s oath to do no harm. A corollary might be: Don’t poke fun at anyone. Yet for spirit week, in the hope of promoting unity, schools routinely sponsor events that rely on stereotypes – encouraging students to dress like nerds, rednecks or hillbillies. When school leaders approve such plans, they invite students to take lightly things that should be taken seriously – stereotypes, slurs and powerful symbols. Our advice is to consider initiating a dialogue among students about the power of symbols and find ways to bolster school spirit without drawing on divisive stereotypes.

bankerI found this interesting. Years ago my teen-age daughter chastised me for using the term “trailer trash” to describe how a place looked. It had never occurred to me that it was pejorative, but of course it is. Over the years I have come to believe that no group deserves to be lumped together and judged as one, whether I tend to like people from the group or, like the banker pictured here, they are less likely to have my sympathy.

In fact, the “don’t poke fun at anyone” suggestion above is wise, even though the idea of a “spirit day” at a school sounds so harmless. The truth is that whether it is dressing up as nerds, wall 30 Rock - Season 7street bankers, or dumb blondes — you are in fact making fun of somebody. And much as I dislike seeing people wearing the confederate flag, I can’t really fault a kid for wearing it on a t shirt when instructed by the school to dress up like a redneck.  I mean it’s a little like asking kids to dress up as famous despots and then sending one home for using a swastika on his Hitler costume….. what did you expect?
Surely there are ways we as humans can enjoy camaraderie and a few laughs without it involving making fun of someone else …. surely ….