Anyone who isn’t confused really doesn’t understand the situation. …
Edward R. Murrow
First, I will admit that I am confused. Hell, not only am I confused, but I’m also perplexed, befuddled, and frustrated. I sit, watch, and talk to myself while trying to process what’s happening to us as a human race.
Everywhere we see and experience anger, mistrust and meanness becoming normalized. Understandably, given the current situation, we are tense and cautious when we’re out and about during our daily chores. Looking over our shoulders has become a necessary reflex. We keep thinking, who out there is about to snap?
Even within our families we are easily agitated and stressed. Our communities are hopelessly divided, and our country is rife with conspiracy theories and hatred toward the most vulnerable among us.
On a global level, we see the emergence of war as the preferred method of settling disputes or promoting rabid nationalism. This pivot to war over diplomacy is ironic because it feels like we are talking more, both in person and digitally. Yet the reality is that we are talking at each other and not to each other. Some believe that the upheavals in society, the environmental disasters and rise of tyrants and dictators are signs that “The End is Near!” Maybe these doomsday prophets are right — or not. Regardless, until the Archangel Gabriel blows his horn, we must motor on and seek to reverse this trend of callousness toward human life.
We have grown numb to the slaughter of millions of people. It’s like, “So what? At least I’m OK.” Still, each and every one of the millions being killed had a family and was loved/cherished by someone. These deaths should never be viewed as simply statistics. Nonetheless, we feel powerless to do anything to change the situation.
As extremists dominate the news, the middle ground keeps shrinking. Attempting to be reasonable is seen as a weakness. Yet it is the middle ground where we will find workable solutions. The issues confronting us are not as black and white as they are being portrayed. It is the grey area between the black and white where solutions are to be found. Everyday people still have the power to reverse this trend of man’s inhumanity to man.
To accept the world as it is does nothing but guarantee that nothing will change. So exactly what is it that we, the people, can do? Well, first we can seek to be as informed as humanly possible — with a caveat. As Denzel Washington points out, “If you don’t follow the media, you will be uniformed. And if you casually follow only certain media you will be misinformed.” Too many of us get our news/information from media like Fox and CNN who don’t give a damn about the impact of their twisted reporting.
We’ve become too lazy to develop our own point of view on issues. We let the smirking and grinning talking heads chew our mind food and spit it into our brains. What we’ve discovered lately is that these so-called newscasters have only one thing that motivates them — it’s the money. They don’t give a rat’s tush about media integrity. What do they say in the news station backrooms? “If it bleeds, it leads.” So every morning when we turn on our TV or phone we are inundated with bad news. We start our day already depressed. We’ve become addicted to bad news. We are becoming walking zombies.
Good news is embargoed. Bad news gets the eyeballs that these news outlets use to get more eyeballs. Eyeballs on their channel improves their ratings and their profits.
To combat this drift into zombie land, I would suggest the following:
1. Think for yourself. Don’t let anyone walk through your mind with dirty shoes on, as Gandhi would say.
2. Become more tolerant of people with a different point of view. Listen to them and maybe agree to disagree instead of demonizing them.
3. Avoid cults of personalities. Just because someone says one thing that we might agree with does not make them the second coming of the Savior.
4. Combat and challenge negativism with an unrelenting positive attitude.
5. Always remember, as the late Senator Patrick Moynihan said, “We are all entitled to our own opinions, but not to our own facts.” Facts are politically neutral. Facts have no agenda other than to prove or disprove an assumption.
6. Recognize, as Stevie Wonder sings, “True Love asks for nothing. Her acceptance is the way we pay.” Push love on every human being you meet. Your love might not be accepted, but it will never be forgotten.
7. Finally, realize that evil is not an abstraction, it is real. There are evil people out there. And, while attaining dominance at times, evil never triumphs over good in the long run.
In summary, we have the power to restore common decency to its rightful place as the starting point of any interaction with others. As Evelyn Beatrice Hall said in interpreting the French philosopher Voltaire, “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
I would hasten to add: as long as what you’re saying does not endanger innocent lives.