I’m probably overreacting. It’s probably no big deal. This too shall certainly pass. Still, I’m genuinely concerned about the direction our country is heading. What direction, you ask? Increasing violence? Decreasing human rights? Social security running out? Healthcare in limbo? The economy? The threat of terrorism? These are all extremely valid concerns, but I’m most troubled by how we seem to be losing any interest in kindness and mutual respect, and seem to get off on being hateful. 

For the record, I’m not attacking or blaming any one group. I can point a finger at Republicans, Democrats, Christians, Muslims, Jews, athiests, jocks, freaks, nerds, and geeks. Oh, and even me. We all seem to be on the bandwagon of hate — even if we don’t see it, or worse, somehow justify it. Is this magnified and blown out of proportion by the media? Definitely. However, is it real? You better believe it. 

We live in a time when our president tweets hateful messages on a daily basis, religious leaders post discriminatory messages on Facebook, and the news media is on the constant lookout for any controversial, disappointing, or downright hateful news. We are possibly as divided nationally as we’ve been since the Civil War, and there is little evidence indicating improvement anytime soon. I truly fear that in the not too distant future it will be considered acceptable for bank tellers to look us in the eyes, smile, and say, “Thanks so much for banking with us, and go fuck yourself.” 

Despite our very serious problems, all hope is not yet lost. I know for a fact that there are great people doing incredible things every day. We may not all share the same political, religious, or economic views, but there are people putting kindness first. Every single day. It’s not sexy, it’s not popular, but it’s happening, and it needs to get noticed. It needs attention so it can gain traction. This matters — maybe more than anyone realizes. 

It’s not always easy to be genuinely kind and respectful. In fact, it’s damn hard. It’s far easier to lash out, to try to prove a point, to try to make someone feel small, while we make ourselves feel clever. I struggle with it regularly. Taking the high road is sometimes an agonizing climb, but I’m always proud of myself for getting to the top. What people forget — or maybe haven’t learned — is that it feels good to be kind, even to people you disagree with or simply don’t like. If we truly gave everyone a chance, we might just discover that we get along with far more people than we thought. 

I think I was born a realist. I know we will never see eye to eye on everything or be just like one another. Man, I’m glad because life would be awfully boring. I’ve chosen to be an optimist, partly because it just feels better, but also because it forces me work at being a better person. I hope we (and we includes me) can put an effort towards being kind and respectful, because we are all in this together. This is life people, it’s not a drill. Can we agree to stop judging those who are different? Can we let people — as long as they are not directly harming anyone — do what makes them happy? Can we not only accept those who are different from us, but actually wish them the best, and then expect the same in return? 

We all think our opinion is right. We all have beliefs we think others should follow. Many see this as conviction, a positive, the only way. I will continue to do my best to make my conviction kindness. When I’m kind and respectful I always feel like I’m doing what’s right. 

If we care about our nation’s well-being, I hope we will not just agree to disagree, but learn to sincerely respect each other and be honestly kind to one another. This isn’t easy and won’t happen overnight. It takes practice. It requires trying to see the world through the eyes of others, even if we don’t always like the view. We can choose kindness. Don’t jump ship — we can change our course — it’s not too late. However, it’s a big ship, it’s a pain in the ass to steer, and we all must have a hand on the helm. 


The Audacity of Patriotism

January 22, 2017

“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to…remain silent.” – Thomas Jefferson

As our ‘indivisible’ nation embarks on a new era under Trump, we may actually be as divided as we’ve been since the Civil War. The presidential election process brought out the worst in those from both sides of the political fence. We called each oth names, pointed fingers, and dispised those who believed differently than we did — despite many saying they were simply supporting the lesser of two evils. Someone had to win, and now Donald Trump is our president. Some of us are very upset and scared, some are unsure what to think, and others are gloating. This would be no different if Clinton had emerged as the victor. I voted for Clinton, not as the lesser of two evils, but rather because I thought she was a good candidate. Besides her political experience, we share many of the same values and beliefs. Mostly, she seems to have some compassion for people, which I think is extremely important for a president.

I could go into much greater detail about why I believe Clinton was the better choice, but that isn’t why I’m writing…

Since Trump was elected, many of his supporters are asking the rest of us to give him a chance. “Take it easy,” they suggest. “Get on board and see what he can do,” they recommend. “Whatever happens, it won’t be that bad — just like it wasn’t that bad with Obama,” they insist. “Come on, be patriotic and support your president,” they plead.

“Be patriotic…” This is why I’m writing.

What if I said that true patriotism doesn’t mean that we should always be proud of our country. It doesn’t mean that we should always support our leaders. It doesn’t mean that we should always agree to simply try to make the best of the situation in our country. What if I said true patriotism means we should do the exact opposite? A truly patriotic person should question everything that impacts their country. I think our Founding Fathers would agree. Keep in mind that the original Patriots were also known as Rebels and Revolutionaries. Not only did they refuse to make the best of the situation, they declared independence from their country (England), and many died rather than be forced to live under what they felt was unjust rule. I’m not suggesting that anyone should declare independence, start a revolution, or literally fight for their freedom — at least not right now — but when someone tells me that I should support the president because it’s patriotic, I have to speak up.

I understand that we have an election process and that my candidate lost fair and square (or something like that). Like it or not, Donald Trump is in fact my president. However, I will never blindly support him, just as I would never blindly support any president, regardless of their beliefs or political affiliation. I sincerely hope we can get through this term without reversing progress that has been painstakingly made over the past decades and even centuries. I hope we will show compassion for all of the different people who share this nation. Diversity is one of the many things that truly makes America great. I hope people are right when they claim it won’t be “that bad,” and I hope people realize they can act to help make things better. I hope we will protest peacefully and in a way that earns respect from those who believe differently. I hope we will question and debate Trump and his supporters in a respectful way, whether this respect is reciprocated or not. I recall very clearly not liking it when people were hateful to President Obama — and turnabout is not fair play. I hope that Trump is held accountable for his mistakes, and is applauded for any successes. Mostly though, regardless of who we cast our vote for, I hope we will all remember to be truly patriotic. If we do this, the rest should then take care of itself.

Republicans are idiots and Democrats are morons. By my calculations, that makes most of us pretty stupid — and, more importantly, pretty similar.

You can’t scroll through social media (not to mention turn on a TV) without being bombarded by hateful, politically-fueled messages. These missiles are fired from both sides of the aisle, and there is apparently no shortage of ammunition. Pick a topic of debate, and there will be numerous memes or quotes just a few clicks away that will do a wonderful job of pissing someone off. I try to ignore most of it, but I get so tired of lies or gross exaggerations being displayed as facts. Sadly, I think most of the people who make these posts assume that they are spreading worthwhile, truthful information. This is a problem, and it is slowly causing a greater divide between many of us. A divide that doesn’t need to be more than a small fracture. I don’t like getting involved in political discussions, let alone rhetoric, but I also feel like we need to speak up.

By “us” and “we,” I’m referring to most of us. Not the people constantly tweeting about their favorite presidential candidate, but the Average Joes who really just want Americans (and the rest of the world) to get along and be generally happy. You don’t hear from us often because we may not have a lot to say. Many of us are looking at Facebook so we don’t miss the pictures of our nephew’s soccer game, not so we can get into a debate about deporting illegal immigrants. In a word, maybe we are boring. People on the fringes are typically not boring. They may be certifiably nuts, but they get peoples’ attention — right or wrong — and that’s what gets spread around by social and news media outlets. No one is interested in reading or hearing about some fella saying “I believe responsible gun ownership should certainly be allowed, and that thorough background checks should also be required.” Yeah, it’s mundane to many people. Probably because most of us think that way to begin with.

You could say we are boring, but maybe a better word is rational. Sure, we have opinions, but we also know that others are entitled to their opinions, too. The last time I checked, differing opinions and mutual respect was what made this country great. The writer Dean Jackson said, “There can be disagreement without disrespect.” I know we will always have different mentalities on some topics, but I hope for the most part that we can agree to disagree in a respectful way. I truly believe that the vast majority of Americans have each others’ backs. If someone is disrespectful to you, feel good knowing that most Americans at least wouldn’t agree with their tactics.

If you are someone who feels compelled to share opinionated posts, I’m glad you have the freedom to do so. However, do everyone a favor by checking the validity of your post before putting it out there for everyone and your grandmother to see (and judge). Nothing makes a person — who is simultaneously trying to prove a point and annoy others — look worse than to spew false information. It’s dangerous and irresponsible. Especially if it’s done in a hateful way. There is never an excuse for being hateful to anyone.

Unfortunately there will always be a small segment of our population who are overly extreme in their beliefs and refuse to compromise. They are also the people who will inhibit positive change from occurring. We are all Americans and we are all human. Don’t get caught up in the trash you see on social media. Most Republicans don’t think all Muslims are terrorists, and most Democrats don’t want capitalism to cease to exist. Mostly, please don’t spread lies or hate. Let’s hang on to our dignity by always remaining respectful.

I guess I can only speak for myself, but my family and friends are both Republicans and Democrats — and I appreciate hearing their different opinions. We don’t agree on everything, but that’s okay. We all make some good points worth considering, and while we aren’t always brilliant, we are rarely idiots or morons (although everyone is entitled to an occasional bad day). Truth be told, we are all really quite similar.