Be Better

In some ways, I feel as if I have lost all hope for humanity. That hate is winning out over love. I am sure social media and the ease of sharing (and manipulating) news are contributing to this illusion that, simply, everything sucks. But the worst place to go anywhere is the comments section of a post or Twitter in general. It amazes me how easily people throw out hate. It amazes me how easily people hurl insults and dismiss each other because of varying opinions. It amazes me we have a wealth of knowledge literally in the palm of our hands, yet no one can be bothered to fact check. What happened to our respect for our fellow man? I feel like we’re going backwards.

Regardless of your political affiliations, you would be hard-pressed to deny that there is definitely a divide in this country right now. I think people put far too much stock into their political party and conform too often to party lines. Myself, I am very moderate. Very moderate. There really is not a dominant party for me on the political spectrum. I refuse to vote simply by party lines. In his Farewell Address, George Washington warned against relying too heavily on political parties, saying “Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.” I would speculate that this “baneful spirit” has gotten worse over time. I know each side has extremists and those tend to be the loudest – that is really no reason to use insults to describe an entire group, especially when the majority of the country is represented by two options. I can guarantee that not every conservative is a religious zealot and not every liberal is a tree-hugging hippie, and I am being kind on those stereotypes; I generally see much worse.

Speaking of the two-party system, has anyone ever heard of a compromise? This stubborness is impacting lives in a huge way, across the board. I don’t understand how people can get voted into office to represent others, to serve constituents, and refuse to compromise. Or, my favorite, take money from donors and in return vote in ways that benefit those donors. Not cool, boys and girls. I don’t care who you are. The right thing is hardly ever an easy thing. A lot of problems our nation faces really shouldn’t be solved in a “this or that” matter, life is generally more complex than that.

I don’t think we’ve yet learned that the world isn’t black and white. Why do we keep putting ourselves in these containers? All it does is give us tunnel vision. The Pilgrims came to America in search of religious freedom. I see so many people sneering at anything other than Christianity.  The following centuries saw millions of immigrants searching for a better life. America was called a melting pot. Now, despite not having a federally-mandated national language, people scream “English only!” even when the conversation doesn’t involve them and it is literally none of their business and has no impact on them. My great-grandparents only spoke Russian, and another set only spoke broken English. I can’t find it now, but I saw a quote the other day that said essentially that America was the only nation founded with a distinct purpose – to have a better life. But we can’t even respect each other on anything. Respect? We can’t even tolerate each other.

Far too often, we use past actions as an excuse for behaviors now. That’s not how it works. Just because it was done before doesn’t make it right. Doing it before doesn’t excuse the behavior now. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat.” George Santayana (1905). Why are we okay with repeating our mistakes? We can be better than this. We should aim to be better than this. And too often, when others try to bring about change, they are ridiculed. The biggest example of this I can think of is the Parkland kids. These kids, some barely 18 and a good bit younger, are insulted and threatened daily on social media because they are trying to bring change after they saw their friends murdered while attending school. I can’t wrap my head around this. These kids suffered an unimaginable tragedy. And they are trying to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else.

As being the alleged adults, what example are we setting for them? Even if we don’t agree with them, they are trying to make it a safer world! They are trying to bring change. Everyone knows the Gandhi quote, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” They are taking action instead of just sitting there letting the world go by. How many of us can say that? How many of us just talk a big game? How many of us are actively trying to make a difference, instead of throwing insults behind a computer screen, and yes I recognize the irony that I am typing this on a computer screen but you know what I mean. Mr. Rogers once said “We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”

Maybe we should see it from their perspective, and maybe they should look at the opposing perspective as well. When looking at some of these problems, I think the best thing people can do is look at all sides. Maybe we’d learn from each other. Or find a solution. I have never actually found anyone who wants to fully repeal the Second Amendment, except one former Supreme Court Justice. Also, I don’t think any elected representative is going to put in the work to actually appeal an amendment or get the support it would need. Only one amendment has ever been appealed – the 18th. It ended prohibition. Absolutely zero surprise.

When it comes to school shootings, can someone answer me this? Why do we focus on the gun and arming teachers/guards, increasing security, etc. in case a school shooting occurs, instead of trying to figure out what the hell is driving a teenager to commit mass murder on his or her peers? Why not try some prevention instead of straight reaction? Why are we not investing in mental health and identifying these problems? I don’t think mental illness should be a get-out-of-jail-free card, but anyone who does that has some serious issues. I’m still jaded enough to believe most people are good and that very few are truly evil. Maybe prevention would help this. But we don’t even talk about that! It goes straight to the guns, which we shouldn’t blame, but solve with more guns. This is a multi-layered problem. Guns are neither fully the problem or solution. I don’t believe there is just one all-encompassing solution.

And now, the real reason I am writing this post. There are terrible things going on in the world all the time. There are terrible people out there. But like I said, I believe most people are good. Or at least, can be good. You have to choose good. Sometimes the right thing is the harder thing and not the popular thing.  But damn, man. Why are we so nasty to one another? It amazes me how people constantly insult and judge with no basis for their opinion, just face value or grasping at straws. You will accomplish so much more in the long run by doing good. Some people might argue that its thankless…but you’re not exactly going to get thanked for being rude either. And doing good can make you feel good! Time out – literally just saw someone on Facebook call someone a “dumb bitch” for having a difference in opinion. Dude. What does that accomplish? In my opinion, the second you start name-calling, you lose all credibility in your argument. We’re adults. We can do better.

Amy Schumer was quoted the other day saying that we need Mr. Rogers. I think she’s absolutely right. Mr. Rogers taught us to be good to each other and help each. Mr. Rogers would be so ashamed of the society we have created.  One of his most famous quotes is, ““When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” There are an awful lot of scary things in the news right now. We need those helpers.

Mr. Rogers also said “Imagine what real neighborhoods would look like if each of us offered, as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person.” Could you imagine? It takes just one person to start it. Think about how often we hear that “pay it forwards” in a drive through go on and on? It doesn’t need to be a huge production of being kind. But the little things add up. They inspire others to be kind. Maybe I’m asking too much. I’d be happy with people not insulting each other when they argue. I’d be happy seeing politicians working together for the greater good, and not for their party agenda.

I am literally begging people to do better. Be kinder. Respect each other. Hate has no place in the world.

No one is benefiting from all of this division and hate and just nastiness. All it does is bring others down and spread more hate and anger. I kind of feel like Yoda right now, preaching about the dark side and the light side. Maybe he was right; “Fear is the path to the dark side, fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” Maybe it is fear that led us to this. But we need to stop looking at the past to justify whatever the hell it is we are doing and look forward. Be better. Do better. This century has been pretty tumultuous and we’re only 18 years in. Our world completely changed on September 11th, 2001 and we are still fighting that war. We had the Great Recession. Things sucked. Hurricane Katrina. School shootings. It might take awhile to change the world and make it better. But we can make our little corner a little bit better. Maybe I’m just rambling. But I just don’t see any benefit to talking shit or insulting someone. We say how actions speak louder than words. That’s true. But words still matter.

Hope matters. I still have hope that we are a better people.

Final thought – I highly suggest reading The Soul of America: The Battle for our Better Angels by Jon Meacham. It showed how we as a country have handled a variety of situations. I read a lot of American historical nonfiction (that’s probably 90% of what I read anymore), and I learned a lot.

I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss. I see the lives for which I lay down my life, peaceful, useful, prosperous and happy. I see that I hold a sanctuary in their hearts, and in the hearts of their descendants, generations hence. It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” – Charles DIckens, A Tale of Two Cities

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Frodo: I can’t do this, Sam.

Sam: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.

Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?

Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.” J.R.R Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

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