The media on both sides of the war of words during this election are relying very heavily on fear. Fear of the other person, the other side, the known, the unknown, the lies, the truths, anything and everything to bring about a state of panic.
I’ve attempted to avoid most media coverage because I knew very early on where my vote would placed. Also, I admittedly place very little responsibility in the president or the government on determining the future of the country I currently reside. Change is brought about by people’s movements and revolution that occur within ourselves, person to person, in our communities and then can grow organically to effect the nation and worldwide.
This isn’t to say that I have avoided the place of fear. I found myself deep in it yesterday after a friend relayed a work encounter that brought my very fear to the forefront of my mind.
The situation occurred when my friend was unwillingly placed in a conversation about the upcoming election. She is not very political but is a voter. She was kindly going to walk away but this individual decided to go into a full on attack of our current president using racist terms and falsehood that only illuminated the hatred and fear filled state of mind this person was coming from. My friend became visibly upset, shaken and had to remove herself from the situation. Where in turn she called and explained to me what just had occurred.
What shocked me was my initial thought, “I’m not surprised someone in the south would have that viewpoint…or that they would think it is ok to openly share this racist views.” That saddens me and shows my own present bias of my home culture that I almost expect many individuals to have fear of someone that is not of their same race. Ok, I’m scurrying around the issue. I’m sad that I’m not surprised that in Little Rock, Arkansas many white individuals are afraid of African American and Latino individuals (I’m not even going to mention the other cultures present in this community). It is the glaring truth and it is the combined reasons of why I did not want to return to this culture and why I know that this is exactly where I need to be. Though, I also need to prevent myself from dehumanizing the ones with the racist views because that in turn makes me a participant in oppressive beliefs that lead to further discord rather than peace. As well as, not assuming or being so very cut and dry with my southern culture, straying away from the assumption that racist beliefs are the expected norm rather than only a part of the culture that is changeable. Head spinning in circles, yet?
If I’m honest, I’m not sure how I would have responded in the moment. I would hope I wouldn’t respond with hateful words in return, but I truly don’t know. This small conversation easily put me in fear. My mind started circling with questions. How many people think this way and truly deep down believe it? What will they do if their candidate does not win? How many act on this belief and bring about harm on someone else daily? How many claim to love God but then go out and openly mock their fellow neighbor that is different from them in some way? How many people see this and then when I proclaim that I am a Christian put me in this same box? How do I show love to this person but also stand firm in my belief of equality? How are we still here in this place of chosen segregation? I can keep going, but I think you get the point.
My only answer: Live my life loving every being I meet unconditionally (this does NOT mean agreeing or choosing non-action) including the one with the like-minded views and the one with racist views. Speak up for others out of love not vengeance. Try hard to not dehumanize someone when they show the darkest elements of humanity. I’m not saying that I will succeed but this is my intention.
I do feel sorry for the person (and unfortunately probably many people) that believe that one human is better than another. I feel this existence is only filled with constant comparisons, fear, hatred, bitterness, discontent, internalized self-hate and complete sadness.
I hope that going into this election that regardless of who wins that “we” will respond not out of fear or hatred. That we will find motivation to work in our own communities and face uncomfortable situations that will allow us to grow exactly where we are planted. I fully believe that Little Rock can become a welcoming place for all regardless of race, gender, religion, economic status and so forth. But it won’t just happen because we cast a vote and then say our duty is over. It is a lifestyle that I believe is fully worth clothing your entire life with: a lifestyle of compassionate actions with your neighbors.
“Compassion grows with the inner recognition that your neighbor shares your humanity with you. This partnership cuts through all walls which might have kept you separate. Across all barriers of land and language, wealth and poverty, knowledge and ignorance, we are one, created from the same dust, subject to the same laws, and destined for the same end. With this compassion you can say, “In the face of the oppressed I recognize my own face and in the hands of the oppressor I recognize my own hand. Their flesh is my flesh, their blood is my blood, their pain is my pain, their smile is my smile…” John M. Perkins