Over the last few months, hate and intolerance have risen to an inescapable prominence.
No matter how we might choose to disregard its uglier aspects, the authenticity of the world we live in will always persist and can only truly be altered by those of us who exist within it. We can pretend we don’t see what’s out there, what’s really going on, but at a certain point ignoring reality any further becomes nothing short of irresponsible. It’s time we took responsibility.
What are we doing right now? We’re killing each other for no reason. We’re paying witness to murder. We’re sensationalizing disaster. We’re inching closer and closer towards a race war that is being fought out of fear and ignorance. We have mass shootings on a weekly basis. We have innocent citizens being executed in handcuffs. We have officers of the law under attack. And with every incident, we’re becoming more and more numb to the otherwise jarring essence of what we’ve encountered.
We’re not patriots or freedom fighters, defenders of liberty. We’re not republicans or democrats, liberals or conservatives, right wing or left. We aren’t colors of the spectrum or places on a map. We aren’t us and them. We’re not allies or enemies. We’re none of those things.
At our core, we are all the same. We are human. And in moments of weakness, of pain and panic, we seem to forget that. We’re people. Any other labels we pin on ourselves are arbitrary, interchangeable, and in the end, meaningless.
It’s hard to make sense of everything we’ve seen lately. The constant aggravation of every facet of each subsequent failure of mankind seems to further divide us from the common goals we all seek. It’s bad enough that these failures occur in the first place. But the way we often react only heightens the ire.
We’re fighting battles against one another over elemental fragments of every tragedy we incur, and worse yet we’re doing so in a realm that is mitigating our ability to progress. No one has ever changed the mind of an idiot on the internet, but damn if we don’t keep futilely trying.
It seems to be our only recourse in the wake of sheer cataclysm. We take our feelings to social media and utter a near-conditioned response, almost Pavlovian in nature. We resort to platitudes – “Stop shooting each other,” “Be nicer to one another” – to assuage ourselves. We tweet our “thoughts and prayers” into the ether, wait an hour or two, then go back to whatever it was we were doing prior – until the next time we’re inspired to react. We’re trying to solve the world’s problems with hashtags and emojis, and we’ve convinced ourselves that we’re doing it.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s a start, to be sure. The conversation is being kept alive thanks to our online forums. But there’s more we can do to move our world forward towards a greater good.
For starters, we need to look people in the eye and talk about these issues face to face. Part of what is giving hate and intolerance the credence it needs to survive is the anonymity that exists behind the glow of a laptop screen. Those who spread bigotry are allowed to do so while silently walking amongst us every day, leading double lives inside the comfort of their computers.
And as fearful as many of these people are of others, just as many of us without prejudice live in fear of calling them out. We need to bring the uncomfortable topics to the forefront and force accountability. The more we talk, the more we communicate, the more we let everyone know out loud that this won’t suffice, the better we become.
Next, we need to forget about our differences, our unique identifiers, and embrace our humanity. Sit down and spend a few minutes learning about each other and we’ll likely find we have more in common that what a single glance may indicate. This almost goes without saying, but we are not helpless in reshaping the biases of others. Sometimes the worst of us just need to be enlightened through the welcoming words of another.
Finally, we need to understand that it’s okay to grieve over tragedies without exclusively categorizing each new sorrow. We can sympathize for the police who lose their lives in the line of duty, just as we can do the very same for the innocent people who have been murdered when terrible individuals are granted the privilege to uphold the law. Sorting death into buckets that help strengthen political ideals and personal agendas won’t solve anything. We’re prioritizing ulterior motives ahead of utter sadness. These are people we’re losing. Not battles over centuries-old documents or civil birthrights. We can’t ever forget that.
We are not powerless. We are not destitute. We are not resigned to a fate over which we have no control.
In these terrible times we face, we have the strength to put a stop to this civil war we’re crafting for ourselves. This is a destiny we have yet to script. And above all else, we are capable of writing a happy ending.