I shared an article to Facebook. The article pertained to the level of assistance given to Puerto Rico after the most recent devastating hurricane. I purposely choose not to provide a link to it, because the article itself is immaterial to this post.
First, you must understand that I don’t write or share anything on social media with an eye to the number of likes or comments that I receive. I write or post because I deem them important to me.
Anyway, a very dear person, who I do not know outside the Facebook and Instagram realm, commented on the post, and I felt a need to reply to it, because it triggered an issue that has been on my mind, as of late. The following post, though it encompasses my reply, significantly expands on it.
I have to thank you for responding to this post.
You know, it both astounds and saddens me, that few seem to show any interest in responding to articles such as this one. I can’t help but wonder why that is.
Many people appear more comfortable commenting on, for example, cute furry animals and other benign posts that elicit warm, fuzzy, and happy feelings. I truly get that it, because they are a welcome escape from the day after day news of half-truths, lies, criminal behavior, the horrible things that people do to one another, and the most innocent among us, ineffectual governments and leaders all over the world, genocide, religious persecution, and I could go on and on, but I won’t. I stopped watching television years ago, and after listening to public radio for decades, I only do so on very rare occasions. So, I understand the need for escapism, lest one goes completely mad.
Perhaps, many want to, but are afraid to speak their truth, or to have an opinion one way or another, out of the fear of setting themselves up for the vicious attacks that are commonplace in today’s climate. Today, stating an opinion is often followed by personal attacks, and a string of crude, cruel, racist comments, and much worse. (In the political climate in the U.S., I’ve seen such attacks emanating from both sides of the political spectrum, so neither can claim any moral authority.) I can understand the need to protect yourself from such behaviors. Hell, I felt that way for quite some time, and still do.
I have scores of draft posts that never made it to the “publish” stage. As I did with this post, my finger hovered over the “publish” button, because that ‘negativity thought-producing’ demon unleashes all the thoughts that feed the above fears. So, I hovered. Finally, my rational mind counseled me to “feel the fear, but do it anyway,” and I did.
Still, I worried that I would offend one or more of my followers (who only number around 230) or others. Yet, my greatest fear was (is) that if I posted anything indicating my position on controversial issues, I would open myself to the hate and vitriol from those who do so, merely because I have the temerity to hold and express beliefs or opinions that differ from their own. I am embarrassed to admit that I even worried that I would be blocked.
One day, I came to the conclusion that if a follower blocked me, and did not respect me, simply because I have a position that differs from theirs, they are part of the problem that runs rampart, in this country and others. As a result, he or she can not be considered a “friend,” even in the virtual word. In the world in which my mind exists, that word implies someone who accepts you as you are, because our differences enrich our lives and relationships.
In my case, I have never been interested in surrounding myself with people who think and feel exactly as I do. Of course, we share interests, but we do not walk in lockstep with one another. I believe that our differences foster inner growth, because they challenge all of us to consider whether the belief that we proffer and cling to, is our own, or one foisted on us, or adopted by us, from family, friends, society, etc.
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution, originally provided for the free exercise of religion, but it was later amended to protect freedom of speech, the press, and the right to assembly, without federal government action, intended to abridge those rights. Thus, in this DEMOCRACY, each of us is afforded the right to speak, to express our opinion, and to pick a side, regardless of what it may be. In this era of vicious verbal and physical attacks on those who believe differently than they do, I must stand up, if only to denounce any attack that seeks to deprive me and others, of their fundamental rights, even though I may find their opinion different or repugnant to my own.
We are supposed to be a civilized society with people who can “discuss” our differences, at times, vociferously, but without rancor or hatred. Ultimately, if need be, we finally agree to disagree.
So, from now on, bit by bit, I will put myself out there, simply by refusing to hide or conceal my thoughts and feelings on topics about which I feel strongly, even the controversial ones. In all likelihood, some degree of fear will always remain.
I do so in the hope that I hear from and meet others, who also chose to “fight the fear” and to speak her or his truth, in spite of the risks. I welcome the opportunity to communicate with others who detest the present divisiveness, and chose not to follow that path, in lieu of discussing our differences.
The only thing that I find nonnegotiable is that, in spite of our differences, we each work towards civility, mutual respect, equality, peace, inclusion, not divisiveness, and love. Mere words are inadequate; our actions herald the truth of our words, and who we are as a people. Nothing worth doing comes easy, but I am prepared to do what I must to provide my grandchildren with a world based on honor, compassion, trust, faith, mutual respect, empathy, and honesty. These children are our future, and we owe them more than what currently masquerades as public discourse.
The thing is that at a basic level we are all alike — human beings, doing the very best that we can. We each have hopes, dreams, and struggles, but more importantly, we share the desire to live a happy life, to feel a sense of community, to love and be loved, to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, to be allowed to express ourselves, (Hopefully, in a reasoned and respectful manner.) and when the moment arrives that we all must inevitably face, to know that, by our actions, we leave this world better than we found it.
It is true that no one person, by her or himself, can change the current angry, hostile, and unwelcoming environment. It takes each person committing to working towards change in their seemingly small way, and EVERYONE has a role to play. The excuse that, “It doesn’t matter, because nothing that I do will change anything,” is a lie that we tell ourselves, to justify our own inaction.
Imagine millions of people working for change in their little corner of our country. History is our greatest teacher and asset, and it is replete with numerous events in which the power of the few banning together to become a force with which to be reckoned. Such a force is a start, and we can begin right here.