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.

 

Time and Hate

This is a blog about time and hate. Maybe intolerance or bigotry would be a better word than hate, but I like the punch in my word choice. Group hate is really what I’m trying to say.

hippiepeace3Group hate rises out of incidents and situations, grows, sometimes to horrible proportions, and then it passes like a bad winter. With time, it looks ridiculous. Who didn’t react with disbelief upon hearing that 150 years ago signs saying “Irish need not apply” were common? Why wouldn’t you hire the Irish? Everybody loves the Irish. Or at least I though that they did.

While researching z2 I learned about how unwanted Italians circumvented the immigration laws of the day by crossing the Rio Grande and coming in as more welcome Mexicans. I was astounded to learn of the extent to which Asians were denied entry into the early U.S. under any circumstances. My own ancestry is largely German and, yes, there was a time when some states tried to keep out the undesirable Germans, too.

I don’t talk about this to make light of the group hate that plagues us today. I don’t think society will ever look back on our racism and xenophobia and laugh. I least I hope not. Rather I want to point out how ultimately petty and harmful our biases of today will someday seem. And I want us to consider that, sadly, new group hates will likely keep forming until we as a species learn to be far more vigilant about this.

weird2My point is, I wrote z2 in 2012. That is not very long ago. The examples of group hate that I turned to were ones that have plagued my home state of Texas for a long time; race relations between whites and blacks, and immigration issues with Mexico. Although the book was written eleven years after the terrorist attacks of 2001, it did not even occur to me to discuss animosity between Christians and Muslims. Why? Because it wasn’t something I heard all that much about.

Here we are, not even four years later, and this new group hate is taking hold fast. I have no reason to think that white people in Texas are doing all that much better empathizing with the challenges faced by African-Americans or recent immigrants from anywhere, documented or otherwise. Rather, for many the vilified Muslim has just been added to the mix of people of whom to be afraid.

On online news magazine The Week reported this story yesterday

A Muslim woman was removed from a Donald Trump rally in South Carolina on Friday. When the Republican presidential hopeful said Syrian refugees “probably are ISIS,” Rose Hamid and a few other people silently stood, sporting badges made to look like the stars worn by Jewish people during the Holocaust. The crowd chanted “Trump!” and Hamid was escorted out as some supporters shouted and booed at her. “This demonstrates how when you start dehumanizing the other it can turn people into very hateful, ugly people,” Hamid said. “It needs to be known.”

Rose Hamid is now a hero of mine. Not because of what she did, although it was heroic. No, she has my full admiration because she understands. When any of us, all of us, no longer think of one part of our brothers and sisters as human, we lose the capacity to empathize. Once we lose that, we are capable of atrocities beyond belief.

I learned the story of Mary Turner while researching x0. Mary Turner was a twenty-year-old black woman, lynched in 1918 in Georgia. She was eight months pregnant when she publicly denounced the killing of her husband by a mob. I quote what happened from the website Remembering Mary Turner :

To punish her, at Folsom’s Bridge the mob tied Mary Turner by her ankles, hung her upside down from a tree, poured gasoline on her and burned off her clothes. One member of the mob then cut her stomach open and her unborn child dropped to the ground where it was reportedly stomped on and crushed by a member of the mob.

I have a question for you? Do you think that the people who behaved with this unthinkable hate, considered themselves good people? I bet most of them did. I bet most went to church, were good to their own children, and cared kindly for their elderly parents. Some may have regretted their actions eventually, but I bet many of them hardened their hearts and somehow found words to justify the horrible atrocity to their dying day.

How do you begin to explain this? All I  can think of is that to this mob, Mary Turner, and her child, were not human. Every time we peel a group of people off and denounce them across the board as being “dangerous” we lessen our ability to feel compassion for them and set ourselves up for mob behavior.

Whole countries have waged war on us in the past, and we on them. We inevitably demonize their looks and their culture and they do the same to ours and then we manage to go at each other, killing away. It’s sad, and fifty or a hundred years later it finally looks that way.

wake up worldAre individual sometimes dangerous? Of course they are. We have laws to deal with this, and it is worth remembering that those laws are also in place to keep us from collectively losing our heads and setting ourselves up as executioners. Those laws are in place to keep cruelty separate from justice.

We know in our hearts that group hate is wrong. It’s embers are fanned by fear and its strength grows when we see it accepted by those around us. There are things we can do. Spend time leaning more about those who make us uncomfortable. Turn on both our hearts and our brains when we hear outrageous claims being offered as truth. Speak up when others are silent in the face of fear-mongering.

Today I saw this wonderful article from the Detroit Free Press called How to Truly Support the Muslim Community. It has several practical ideas, but it was most interesting to me for the following reason. It suggests talking to people like they are the living, breathing individuals that they are. You know, humans with heartbeats like your own. What a fine idea.