Suddenly I’ve subscribed to two additional newspapers, three news magazines, a couple of thoughtful blogs and I’ve purchased books on history and government; I’ve attended two protests, three documentaries and paid to see “I’m Not Your Negro” twice, so far. I didn’t deliberately or even consciously make it a point to gather more information to make sense of the world around me. I’m attributing my thirst for understanding to self-preservation. I’m not quite sure how that is working. I found that spending my weekends screening “I’m Not Your Negro” or “Matthew Shepard Was a Friend of Mine” aren’t really “feel-good” activities that are conducive to lifting my spirits. It’s hard to imagine that they even generate hopefulness although they should.
The Matthew Shepard documentary is emotionally devastating. I was grateful that the venue where I saw it offered a discussion afterward. The discussion provided the opportunity to validate my feelings in hearing others reactions to the film. That helped. The viewing was only attended by twenty-five or so people; the same number who sat with me in the theatre when I tried to absorb the profoundness of James Baldwin and his contributions to the civil rights movement. Both films come at you with the idea that man has the extraordinary inability to see one another through compassionate eyes. There is some flaw in our character that prohibits us from recognizing that our fundamental humanness makes us all the same. We fail to recognize that the only difference between the proverbial us and them is the random luck of the draw of our birth. We are our brother’s keeper.
So when I see speech being emboldened that promotes otherness, the condemnation of political correctness and policy proposals that perpetuate separateness I need understanding. Just what is it that drives us to the ugliest attributes of tribalism? What do we benefit from the constant us versus them mentality? There are indeed people out there who want to do us harm. To think you can identify them by their skin color, religion, sexuality or gender is just lazy. It’s sloppy, ugly and lazy. I’m tired of pretending I can have respect for those who would allow harm to anyone based on their otherness.
There is an “us versus them.” It is those who would respect the dignity of all people equally and those who don’t. Those who refuse to accept the glorious diversity of man as a good thing are in fact causing harm. As such they should be identified as a threat. They need to be treated with caution and rehabilitated if possible. If they are beyond redemption and insist on clinging to their hateful ways they need to face the consequence of not being accepted. There is no room to normalize the ideologies of bigots, the alt right, segregationists and the like. If we don’t stand up to them now they will only gain strength and power. Resist and Persist. It’s our only hope.
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