All too often, I used to find myself guilty of having blinders on.
When I first began learning about politics these blinders stopped me from seeing the world through anyone else’s eyes, leaving me lost in an echo chamber of my own beliefs. I couldn’t understand how people didn’t see the world and the issues I cared about the same way that I did. How do people think that this is OK? How are people not angry about this? How could anyone disagree with wanting this to change?
I’ll be honest, those questions still frequent my brain.
But now, I seek to answer them.
I’ll begin by stating that I am most certainly a fallible human. I get angry and frustrated at times listening to those different than me- I believe that to be a characteristic of a human being. It is still difficult, and I know for certain I have a lot of learning ahead of me.
However, I fiercely believe this small action can make us more critical thinkers and people filled with much more empathy.
This action being surrounding yourself with things you do not agree with, whether that takes the form of articles, people, or something entirely different.
When we can understand why someone believes what they do, or why they have been led to be afraid of something, we can drop our shields. We can operate not from a defensive position, but from one of kindness and a desire to learn.
You can have deeply held, sincere beliefs and still seek out different opinions. Oftentimes this action will only secure what you believe. But, every so often, it will open your eyes and challenge you. And make no mistake, this moment of realizing you may have been wrong or changing your mind when presented with new information is noble.
The greatest activists, from Martin Luther King Jr. to Harvey Milk, all led with this same idea. That being- we need a coalition. A coalition of those starkly different from each other to band together if something is to be achieved.
But, what would happen if we chose to live this way all of the time?
What would happen if we chose to seek out those nothing like us to help us in our pursuits of a fairer country?
What if instead of name calling or cruel social media posts, we said, “Hey. I don’t think the same way as you. But, we both want this to be better. Why don’t we do this together?”
What if we stopped squeezing ourselves into boxes, thinking that everyone on the “other side” has some sort of desire to ruin everything?
I truly think it would change everything.
Because deep down, we want the same things. We want our families to be happy and safe. We want the freedom to live true to ourselves. We want to be protected and we want to know we have someone, or something, to turn to for help in our time of need.
For fear is one of our greatest motivators, for better or for worse. This is the core reason why media outlets will lead with what scares you. They want you to watch.
This doesn’t mean the stories or topics they are covering aren’t important or true, necessarily, but there is bias on every side. This often leads us not to seek out what is true, but instead what most closely matches to our own beliefs. It isn’t our fault either, our brains are simply wired to be drawn to comfort. But, we must give people a chance to surprise us.
And maybe all it takes is asking, “How did you come to believe that?”
Maybe all it takes is trying.
A disclaimer, there are things that are not to be tolerated. Hatred of any kind, whether it’s racism or bigotry, aren’t deserving of your attention.
But if my words could do anything for you, I would wish for them to fill you with hope. Hope that trying isn’t futile. We may feel fractured, but our divides are not irreparable.
I felt this topic was worth speaking out about because it is all too often forgotten. We fall into habits. We forget what is important. We think what we do doesn’t mean anything. But that isn’t true.
You are important, and the way you live means something. Taking the time to fact check things before you share them matters. Taking the time to reassess your words before you use them to bully another person, even if they are a politician, matters. What you do has an impact on more people than you realize.
Fighting fire with fire will get us nowhere. Be radically rational, and incredibly kind.
For at the end of the day, we are one. The more you think about it, the more extraordinary it becomes that we are even alive. That we get to be human begins together on this planet.
The work of living with love instead of fear is not easy, but it starts with us.
It starts with you.
Today, take a little more time to listen.