This weekend I’ve read and listened to a lot of news. I listened to stories and opinions from various elected officials, various news outlets, people from all sides and all viewpoints. I listened to the most passionate objectors to President Trump’s travel ban. I’ve read articles by people who strongly support the travel ban. I’ve read the details of President Obama’s 2011 6-month halt on Iraqi refugees/immigrants after the discovery of Al Queda terrorists in Bowling Green, KY. I read President Trump’s statement outlining the details and the reasoning of the travel ban he instituted over the weekend. I listened to journalists who highlighted the positives and journalists that highlighted the negatives of the current travel ban. I listened to statements from refugees either already here or hoping to come here. I listened to statements from the families of Americans killed by terrorist activities.
And you know what I found?
I found that in EVERY story, EVERY statement, EVERY news report, there was something legitimate. From the most vehement oppositions to the travel ban to the President’s own statement about the ban, and everything in between, I found something legitimate and reasonable… something I could understand… a way to see things from that person’s or that group’s point of view. I could feel empathy and support for folks on BOTH sides of the issue.
Sometimes I feel very alone in my belief that we can and should try to see things from all sides. I feel like there is no place within the social and political discourse for a person like me who thinks there’s every reason to act with respect toward those who may think differently than me… to treat them with dignity and basic human decency. I feel this way for one pretty simple reason.
WE HAVE LOST THE ABILITY TO LOOK UPON THOSE WHOSE OPINIONS DIFFER FROM OUR OWN WITH ANYTHING OTHER THAN DISGUST THAT THEY ARE “NOT LIKE ME”.
When did America become an “all or nothing”, “my way or you’re a stupid fool” type of country?
When did it become okay to lead with the attitude that… “If you don’t think like me, then I don’t care what you think or how you feel”? When did we decide that it was acceptable to treat people who have different opinions than us as scum, vermin, and pariahs?
Do you know what we do when we act as if the people who differ from us are stupid and ignorant? When we basically say to them… If you think differently than me, I don’t care about you? When we do that, we DE-VALUE them. We say to them, “You are LESS because you think differently than me.” We tell them, “Unless you believe what I believe, you are NOT WORTHY.”
THIS is the hard truth of what we do when, in our political outrage or our political triumphs, we fail to take into account the people who believe differently than us. When our “side” wins, we gloat and say “We won. You lose. Deal with it. Ha ha.”, and then we hurl accusations at the opposing side. When our “side” loses, we cry and yell about the injustice and unfairness that led to our loss and hurl accusations at the opposing side. Both of these are unacceptable ways to react.
I’m APPALLED and ASHAMED by this. I’m ashamed of every person or group who has made a statement or social media post that DE-valued those who oppose them by treating them as if their feelings are unimportant. I’m appalled and ashamed of every person or group who has made a statement or social media post that treated the opposite side as unworthy. I’m appalled and ashamed at every person or group who has made a statement or social media post that lumps everyone who has a different opinion into one big group of stupid, ignorant, uninformed, and worthless losers.
That is the very definition of intolerance.
And I include myself in that group of people of whom I’m appalled and ashamed, because I know I’ve been guilty of the same types of thoughts and statements. But for our own sakes, we MUST move beyond this “mob mentality” of us vs. them.
We are Americans. We can and SHOULD be better than this.