Last week, I stood in line at a store and overheard a man say, “All those libs need to be strung up, they are ruining America.” I don’t know the context of the comment, but I do know he wasn’t joking. Red-faced with an angry tone, he was looking for someone to challenge him.
I just shook my head in disbelief, but his words have stayed with me. I have thought a lot about that man’s comments and the word of many others I have read and heard over the past few months. They raise a lot of questions for me, but here’s what I know; liberals aren’t ruining America, and neither are conservatives. People who find themselves in the middle on any given issue aren’t the problem either. The real demons are hate-filled rhetoric and gross generalizations. Maybe it is better to say hate-filled, willful ignorance.
I have had my moments regarding topics I feel passionate about. I have spoken out of turn, painted others with generalizations and preconceived notions, and I have allowed emotion to drive my decisions and conversations as opposed to rational thinking and logic. If you’re honest with yourself, you probably have too. We all have had those situations where hate and ignorance are in the driver’s seat. And this mode of operation seems to be becoming the norm.
It feels like every time I turn on the news, or scroll feeds on social media about current events, America has lost its way. Vehement diatribes spew from politicians, facebooks comment from the right and the left are filled with threats and vile words, and it’s all because of ignorance and hate. People on both sides are refusing to ask questions or see things from another perspective. This isn’t standing by your convictions, it’s ignorance. Willful, hate-filled ignorance.
A wise friend once told me, “If your mind is so made up that you won’t even hear someone else’s perspective… you’re wrong. Even if you are right, you’re still wrong.”
I couldn’t agree more. I have friends who are conservative and others who are liberal. I have friends who are gay and others who are straight. I have friends who are atheists and others who are Christian. Needless to say, I don’t see eye to eye with everyone, but I can sit down with any one of them and have a conversation about religion, politics, abortion, the death penalty, immigration, etc. and know they won’t judge me for my differences and I welcome their challenging questions.
The moment I choose to no longer listen, to no longer take in the ideas and beliefs around someone else’s perspective and mull them over, I’m wrong, regardless of the issue. Why? Because I have taken the first step toward willful ignorance. I have chosen to not hear what else is out there. Listening to someone else’s thoughts and opinions will do one of two things: they will further solidify what I believe or give me a reason to rethink my position. Regardless of whether we agree or disagree on any issue, we can choose to approach the conversation from a position of love and a desire to understand. It’s time for us to stop letting hate define us; to stop letting fear drive us. This reminds me of a post from several years ago:
With so much division across the world, it is time for us to come together.
There is no agent of change more powerful than love in the face of hate. The lines that divide us are many, and when we step up to those lines in hate, they grow wider and deeper until they become chasms seemingly impossible to cross. But when we step up to those lines in love, we can step across them and embrace our brothers and sisters on the other side. This doesn't mean we’re right and they're wrong, it means we can begin to understand that we are different, it means we can begin to understand their fears, just as they can begin to understand ours. Together, we can begin to understand how our fears have created such lines of division. And by understanding each other’s fears, we can learn how to love one another better.
To our conservative friends, we love you. To our liberal friends, we love you. To our Democratic friends, we love you. To our Republican friends, we love you. To our gay friends, we love you. To our straight friends, we love you. To our Christian friends, we love you. To our atheist friends, we love you. To our Muslim friends, we love you. To our refugee friends, we love you. To all of you who feel divided and broken, we love you. Regardless of your race, religion, sexual preference, or nationality, we love you. You all are welcome in our homes and at our tables.
In these times of division, the lines drawn in the sand are being widened by hate, fear, and bigotry on both sides of the issues. It is a time for heroes to step up and stand strong for love, to stand strong for compassion, to stand strong and know that we can love one another but not agree with one another, we can love one another but not believe the same things as one another. To all of our friends, we challenge you to choose love today and in the days to come so this world will have some sense of hope as we move forward.
—From Patrick Gray and Justin Skeesuck of I’ll Push You
This is every bit as applicable now as it was in 2016.
Every day we can engage in conversations around the issues that are important to us. We can engage in dialogue and try to understand other’s perspectives?
We can paint others with generalizations and preconceived notions, refusing to hear what else is out there. We can choose willful, hate-filled ignorance and continue to let our hate define us.