Monday, July 11, 2016

Making A Difference vs Making Noise

In the past week our nation has yet again been rocked to the core in the wake of two police shootings of African American men followed by the shooting of 11 police officers, 5 of whom were killed, in Dallas.  As it so often seems lately, the divisions in America were again revealed as social media erupted with outrage and emotion over different aspects of these events.   I saw many people on all sides of these events make statements like "I can no longer be silent" or "unfriend me if you don't think like me" as talking heads of television demand change in America.

Anyone who has driven a car on the freeway and accidentally drifted too far off the side of the road knows in that moment it is very important to take corrective action.  But WHICH corrective action is important.  I'm drifting to the right side of the road and I need to go left so the MORE left I can go, the better, right?  But we all know if the driver does what just FEELS like the right thing to do, he or she might jerk the wheel in the opposite direction to "fix" the problem and in doing so flip their car over, causing an even worse situation than before.   The correct action, of course, is indeed to turn the wheel to the left but in a controlled and deliberate manner so as not to make the situation worse.

Social Media has allowed everyone with an Internet account in America to have a voice, and we've all been using that voice lately, mainly to fight with each other and fan the flames of dissension over where we stand on positions and topics.

As a result, in a time where America needs change, we are instead experiencing yelling.  Most of us will do nothing to actually contribute to a solution for Americas ill's but now, we have the power to feel better about doing nothing as we all have "a voice."  And that voice allows us the power to do nothing very loudly.  Sometimes the more energetic of us might participate in a protest.  Protests also make me feel good because they are a great way to burn off some nervous energy, plus, they can be exciting!  It's fun to gather with a bunch of people around a common theme and then demand that SOMEONE ELSE make the changes we think need to happen.  Let's be honest, protesting at its heart is a demand for SOMEONE ELSE to take action.

Now don't get me wrong, protesting has its place, Martin Luther King used protesting to make great gains in our country, but those protests were to enact changes that could be effected with a vote and a signature of a pen.  Tangible actions.  

But how do we protest away something like racism?   Racism along with all the other "ism's" that exist in our world are heart issues, and if protesting could change hearts then we should have peace on Earth by now.  Ask yourself, have you ever had your mind changed by someone protesting the opposite position to something you think or believe?  Just like over correcting on the freeway, protest and using that great "voice" of social media has the power to accomplish great things...they also can do great damage if used in correctly.

Some of the actions we take after tragic events are like scratching a mosquito feels good, but it doesn't really help the situation.   Sometimes before taking action it might be wise to pause for a moment and ask if the action I am taking is really going to help the situation, and if so, how?  If I shut down a freeway in Phoenix, will it really bring about justice in Baltimore?  And if it doesn't then what will it do?  Will it be positive?  Or might it do more damage to the over all cause? It does not escape me that by even writing this blog, I'm doing the exact thing I'm complaining about, and while it will probably make me feel a little better to have written it, I know in my heart that these typed words will make no real difference.  If I want to make a difference I must get back out there and continue to do rather than say.

We are an impatient people, we like to see things happen now!  I want my food fast, I like my results instant, but true change......heart change.......that's slow.  And to be honest...kinda those things need to take place in the mundane day to day activities of those who commit their lives to such change and often don't live long enough to see the fruits of their labor.  It does no good to "speak out" if it is not followed by action.  And a life committed to action has little need to speak out.  It instead is lived out.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Sweet Healing Power of BLAME

If you’ve had any access to social media, or any other type of media for that matter, you are no doubt aware of a recent story involving a young child who fell into a gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo which resulted in a male gorilla being shot to death in order to save the child.  This incident was tragic on a variety of levels and  led to a viral outpouring of emotions and opinions regarding the matter.  Some blamed the zoo for not having a better enclosure to keep the public from the animals, others blamed the zoo for shooting the gorilla rather than tranquilizing it.  Others still, blamed the parents for not keeping a better eye on their child.  While I don’t really want to grant the event any further attention, I can’t help but see how it so perfectly captures America’s obsession with blame.

We love blame.  Blame provides us a wonderful deposit box for negative emotions.  When something truly terrible happens, and we all hear about it, it is normal to have some strong yet negative feelings as a result.  The problem is that as humans, it's natural for us not to want to deal with or carry these emotions, so we often take the easy way out.  We find someone or something to blame, thus creating a lightning rod in which to focus all of those icky feelings we just don’t like.  The problem with blame is that it often doesn’t do much to fix anything except possibly to help the blamer feel a little better.

I fear we have reached a point in our society where then is no such thing a sad or unfortunate event anymore.  No matter what happens, we immediately begin searching for someone to blame, someone to carry the burden of MY negative emotions so that I may be released of them.  If you want evidence of this, imagine how frustrated we as a society would become if the media stopped releasing pictures of criminals who commit horrific crimes?  We love to see who shot up the school, or murdered a child, or committed a rape or whatever  because it allows us to focus the anger and hatred we might feel on someone specific.  When some idiot cuts us off in traffic, we love to try to catch up simply to get a look at this moron so we can have a specific object of our wrath.

I have to wonder how much the blame game adds to the reluctance of people to take any responsibility for mistake they might make?

In addition I also wonder if perhaps we have become a society that is so childish, that we no longer possess the maturity  to be able to handle the fact that sometimes bad things just happen?  Sometimes we have to deal with difficult realities in which there is no real villain so to speak.  But perhaps the that’s too hard….maybe it's much less effort to simply take the easy way out and take advantage of the quick relief found in creating a villain so as to access that sweet outlet called blame.        

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Way Things Are VS The Way Things Should Be

"You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war" -Albert Einstein

Against my better judgement, I'm going to question one of the most famous quotes from one of the world's most intelligent men.  It seems we are living in a world that is more and more absolute, not in agreement but absolute in stance.  As a culture once we decide where we stand on an issue, we are quick to dismiss anyone who thinks differently as narrow minded idiots for not seeing the world our way.  We see it all the time, recently we've seen it with the whole gender bathroom issue.  One side says we need to be all inclusive and get over our fears and bias while the other recognizes that those would have bad intentions will take advantage of the opportunity to do harm.  Another might be the gun control issue.  One side sees weapons as a source of harm to society, while the other sees it as a source of protection.  We could go on and on, border security, abortion, terrorism, etc...

In my experience, it seems that most of us fall into two basic categories: the realist vs the idealist.  Since there are clearly very intelligent people who fall into both categories it would make sense to me that there are valid pros and cons to almost every topic meaning, intellectually, most topics are pretty complex.

But the pattern that seems to keep emerging to me is the idea vs the real.  The realist will view the idealist as a head in the clouds, naive fool who sees the world as full of rainbows and unicorns.  The idealist on the other hand seems to see the realist as a jaded, pessimistic, knuckle dragging caveman stuck in stone aged thinking.

What if falling squarely into either camp is a detriment?  If one only sees the world for what it is and lacks the capacity to dream of what it could be, then the possibility of a one day better world is lost in that we will never obtain what we fail to strive for.

On the other hand, to see the world strictly from an idealistic view point and ignoring the real evils that exist in the world also threatens the possibility of an ideal world in that there are simply some people who are hell bent on killing, stealing, and destroying.  They will use the passiveness of the strict idealist as a doormat to their own selfish ambitions.

So...what if?  What if the path to a one day utopian world is one where we both strive for love and peace while at the same time recognizing that times may arise where we must stand against those who would threaten those ideals?  One where we stop seeing each other as idiots for not seeing the world the same way but can at least acknowledge and appreciate each others different perspectives.


Friday, March 25, 2016

For They Know Not What They Do

Good Friday......a day the Christian community holds as one of their highest holy days.  A day, the suffering and crucifixion of Christ is remembered.  But of course, the suffering and crucifixion of Christ were necessary in order to make way for the greatest miracle of the Bible.  For many that was the resurrection of Christ.....but for me......I'm not sure anymore if that's the case.  Yes, the resurrection was impressive, but I've come to the conclusion that even more impressive than that was the uttering of these words on that very first Good Friday:

"Father forgive them for they know not what they do."  

I've read over them a thousand times.....a permanent  part of the Easter story, so common in fact, their profound meaning often get lost in the story.  As I now sit firmly in the period of my life that most consider "middle age" I find myself starting to see things a little differently.  I'm sure suffering and mistreatment of others has always existed, but for some reason, I seem to be more aware of it now.  From my current vantage point in life, I can look back at my younger years to specific instances and wish I had acted differently toward people.  At the time, it may have seemed like the thing to do, but now, today, if I could go back in time, there are a number of things I would not do the same when it comes to how I treated others.  I would like to credit these changes to the simple idea that I know more today than I knew back then.  Life has since taught me to have more compassion and empathy than I did before.

Now, no matter how much anyone knows, I think it's a pretty safe assumption that there is more that they don't know.  I find it interesting that while in the midst of being tortured, Jesus did not ask God to forgive the people for what they knew, but instead appealed to God on behalf of what they didn't know.  The assumption here is that IF THEY DID KNOW they WOULDN'T HAVE DONE IT.  Jesus gives those who were wronging him the benefit of the doubt, and attributes their evil actions to their ignorance of the situation and it is in that awareness of their ignorance that He finds the power to forgive.

Which leads me to this........ today, I act differently (or at least try to) than I did when I was young because today I know more than I did then.  Hopefully, 30 years from now, I will be even more aware and act differently then than I do today.  Either way, my actions are guided in part by what I know, but even more by what I don't know.

In a world that seems as divided as ever, where we protest one another, slander each other, belittle others, and yes, even kill and war with each other.  Perhaps the root of all of these terrible things are not all that we know....but instead all that we don't know.  And if there is ever a lesson to learn from Good Friday, perhaps it might be to give people the benefit of the doubt by assuming if we truly knew and understood all the implications of our actions, maybe there are a number of things we would all do differently.  Perhaps part of the path to peace on Earth is learning to forgive......for they know not what they do..      

Friday, December 11, 2015

So you "like" Donald Trump???

I recently saw a Facebook post floating around that was explaining to people how to find out which of their friends "like" Donald Trump.  It then pointed out the importance of "de-friending" these people.  I was really bothered by this post, not because I support Donald Trump, but because it seems this mindset perfectly summarizes the direction of our culture.  The subject of "Donald Trump" in this instance, can really be a blank filled with any topic.  We are dangerously close to regressing back into the days of the Hatfield's and McCoy's in that what this post was really saying was:

"Here's a way to find out who of your friends thinks differently than you so you can stop being friends with them."

I was saddened by the idea that the author of that post felt one's perspective on a SINGLE topic was enough to potentially annul years of memories, experiences, and moments that went into a friendship.  We claim to "celebrate diversity" in our culture, but the fact is we are lying to ourselves, because when we come across that very diversity, we end up ostracizing it and ending relationships over it.  When we cut people out of our lives because they hold different perspectives than we do, our world quickly becomes very small, to the point we eventually only seek out those who think and believe the way we do on EVERY TOPIC!  Which, unfortunately, ends up being like 5 people.....maybe not even that many!

We no longer feel the need to try to share perspectives and possibly change someone's mind through logic and debate, we instead simply want to punish people for being so stupid as to not see the world as clearly and plainly as I do.  Rather than agreeing to disagree on some topics and then connecting and maintaining relationships on the topics for which we do agree, we simply choose to view each other as idiots and completely disassociate with one another.

As long as topics are more important than relationships, our society will not draw closer together but we will begin to drift back apart, negating all of the work those who came before us did to bridge races, religions, and peoples together.  At some point relationship must be important enough that we will seek out things we can agree on, to serve as the adhesive our friendships need to withstand the things with which we don't agree.      

So with that I beg us all, when we find a friend who thinks differently on a topic, rather than being so petty as to end the friendship, let's try to change each other's minds.  If that fails, agree to disagree on that topic, but then let's find something we do agree on, even if its just a common hobby or activity, whatever it takes!  Opinions are important but friends are more important.......and they are worth keeping.  Happy Holidays my friends!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

For Racism to die.......

What would happen if racism truly died in our nation?  When it comes to your life or my life, it probably wouldn't change much because chances are you are one of the vast majority of people in America that is not a racist.  But how would it affect you if you literally made money from racism?  If you got paid more for America becoming more racially divided then would you ever want it to end?  

Racism, as it should be, is an emotionally charged issue. Emotionally charged issues generate a lot of attention.  Attention generates interest and interest generates ratings!   

Remember folks, the media makes their money through advertising, which means the more people they can claim to put your ad in front of the more they can charge for that ad.  It is in the financial interest of an entire industry to get you to watch, and people will watch things that get them fired up.  The more that watch the higher the cost of the advertisements that air during that time and the more money they make. 

Proclaiming racism is one method the media uses to make money, therefore actually trying to quell tensions is not in their best financial interests.  In fact the exact opposite is the case.  

So, if we really want to improve social issues, we must understand it won't happen over the airwaves.  At some point we will have to realize we are all being played.....then shut off the TV or the Internet or whatever and go outside and make a friend.  (And yes, I recognize the hypocrisy of the fact that I'm using the Internet at this very moment to make this point........which is why I'm logging off now....Happy Thanksgiving!!)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Monster In Me

In light of all the recent events in the world, I find myself conflicted as usual when it comes to facing the terrible atrocities that we humans intentionally and enthusiastically inflict on each other.  When ever I turn on the news to learn of a terrorist attack or a gunman on a rampage, I walk away filled with a combination of heartbreak, rage, fear, confusion, along with a handful of other emotions. 

The question that often keeps coming back is how can someone actually do such horrible things to another person?  As much as I want to believe these people have always been monsters, I can help but look at children and see their innate innocence.  Innocence that each of these "monsters" had to have once possessed and for some reason or another eventually shed.  I suppose some had it robbed from them while others simply gave it away, either way, the results are always the same, the wake of their hate leaving a trail of pain, anguish, and destruction. Often times sowing the seeds of rage in the next generation.   

I can't help but acknowledge that if these people started out as innocent children before the monster inside was awaken, then inevitability that same monster must lie somewhere in me, waiting for the nourishment of hate to awaken from its dormant slumber.  

It is this awareness that reminds me I must at all cost pursue it's antithesis at all times.  If hate awakes the monster then I must deprive it of it's oxygen with the suffocating pursuit of love.  And not just any love, but complete and true love, the kind of love that forgives even the smallest infraction, the type of love that is engaged and active, the type of love that drives one to be MORE committed to charity and beauty than  the broken are to hate and destruction.  God hear my prayer!    Win the war of my heart with a love so great as to destroy the monster in me.