Finding Ourselves in Others

“Why can’t we all just get along?”

We’ve all said this at some point in our lives. If you haven’t yet, good for you!  Try to avoid it.  I’ve come to think of it as a cop-out proclaimed by those who have grown weary of caring, problem-solving and compromise; the vey essence of good relationships!

I’ve used it jokingly in situations that have deteriorated from deep discussions into “us vs. them” debates.  In our nation’s deteriorating climate of intolerance, hate, fear, and finger-pointing merely “getting along” seems so unattainable.  We’re too obsessed with being right.  And yet, I still believe we can find the middle ground of a caring community, a caring nation, a more caring world.

I have to believe.  What’s the alternative?  No hope?  That’s not an option!

I think the solution is simply trying to find ourselves in others.

As a Catholic I’ve been raised on the phrase “find Jesus in the eyes of others,” and I have found that a bit challenging in many cases.  But when I try to see something of myself in another, then it becomes easier to love them and find a way to be respectful and caring.  When that happens, I have found that the other person responds to me in kind.

Last Thursday’s testimony by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford before the Senate Judiciary Committee offers us all yet another opportunity to find ourselves in the many people in that room.  It’s easy to identify with those who share our personal opinions.  We can easily agree with the people in the room who share our political leanings or with those who look like us.  The challenge then is to find oneself in someone we might immediately dismiss as (fill in the blank:  ________________).  Consider, though, the truth that when we dismiss a person and label them, we give ourselves permission to be unkind, unfair, and disrespectful.  It now becomes acceptable to violate another person’s dignity and to treat them as less than human.  History has certainly seen this model before, and it continues to be used in many parts of the world today.

The emotional and political temperature of this nation is off the charts.  Everywhere I turn there are people choosing sides and finding clever ways to prove that they have the correct opinion, perspective, or solution to the problem.  This is not helpful, and, “NO!” you can’t dismiss me simply by calling me naïve!

Personally, I believe Dr. Ford, and if you do, too, then great.  If you don’t believe her, then that’s ok, too.  Thankfully I am one of the lucky ones to have never experienced sexual violence, but I know several who have.  Given the statistic of “1 in 6 women” I’m sure I know more than I realize.  You must know some victims, too.  Ask them what they think.  Their insight might surprise you and move you out of your comfort zone.

But, this post is not meant to persuade anyone to choose a side, or change your opinion.  Our world does not need more division.  It is meant to open your heart to another way.  It is my hope that we will all find the courage and humility to find something of ourselves in the eyes of another, and find a more compassionate way toward justice, healing, and a more loving world.

Practicing Non-violence with 85 Billionaires on a Bus

Is it possible that western society has become so self-absorbed that we are blind to our own self-destructive behavior? While the rich get richer (apparently there are 85 that make up the 1% & they could all fit on a double-decker bus!) they seem to keep this plastic carrot hanging out there for the rest of us 99%-ers. You know the one, the carrot that says “if you work hard enough & long enough you can be wealthy like us.” And I call it a “plastic carrot” because it is a false dream. Not only is it a false dream, it is an unrealistic & unhealthy one, and a plastic carrot can’t possible be good for you!

I don’t know, maybe I’m becoming more & more contemplative in the midst of my mid-life crisis, or maybe just a little cynical.  Or maybe I’ve just never really bought into the “keeping up with the Jones'” mentality. If I allowed myself to be seduced by that plastic carrot I probably would have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and be in debt beyond belief!  So why do so many of the so-called 99% want what the 85 on the bus have?  The only thing that the 85 on the bus have that I might want is control over our systems of governance.  But, wait!  How can a handful of people with money, jets, and mansions have more control over our lives when we outnumber them by, um, 99%???  (Ok, I am being cynical now, and a bit sarcastic!).

In the last several years we have all seen, and maybe even participated in, grassroots movements working for change.  Some have sprung up after one individual stood up & said “NO!” to injustice. Some movements were in response to violence that is symptomatic of a long accepted culture of violence against women. Other groups like the CIW have been around for more than 20 years, yet are still counting their victories.  Still other uprisings have been in response to oppressive regimes, violence, terror, &/or uninvited occupying countries.  Who were the people behind these powerful movements?  Us!  Ordinary people with absolutely nothing to lose & everything to gain!  People who decided that they would speak truth to power because it was what needed to be done.

On a day when we remember Martin Luther King, Jr., one can’t help but think of non-violent resistance.  But how do we practice non-violence in the face of deadly terror or the everyday evils of oppression, violence & poverty?  How do we practice non-violence without becoming so angry & frustrated that we become violent ourselves?  I found Scilla Elworthy’s Ted-Talk answered these questions with clarity & wisdom.  She’s right, I think we are finally “getting it” as humans.  Scilla, MLK, and countless other peaceful people throughout history have come to realize this basic truth: Violence begets violence, but non-violence is a game-changer.

Whether it’s fighting oppression, violence, poverty, GMO’s, fracking, Big-Ag, modern day slavery, or any number of social justice & environmental issues, get out there & fight the good fight!  We have voices that cannot be silenced. Find your niche & practice non-violence with the rest of us.  Be a game-changer & get on the bus!

Violence Against Women Is Shameful

Violence against women affects you and me. It’s against you & me. It knows no national borders, ethnicities, or economic status. It is a global issue that should outrage anyone who feels compassion for people in pain, female or male. After being brutally beaten, raped & thrown (with her male friend) from a moving bus, the death of a 23 year-old Indian medical student (Braveheart) today hit me in an unexpected way. I realized that I too have experienced violence against my womanhood, and have also witnessed violence against women in ways that I still cannot share.

When archaic laws fail to prevent violence against the vulnerable, minorities, or the marginalized of our society, modern society can no longer claim superiority to any prior cultures. Prevention of violence against women is something we need to focus on. Of course punishment for these crimes must be pursued, but prevention must also be immediately addressed. One such law is still not reauthorized in the US, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). It is said that uneducated people tend to be the perpetrators and/or the victims of sexual violence. What does this say about our US Representatives and Senators? What kind of culture do we live in that hesitates to condemn such violent acts of evil as in Delhi? What a culture, indeed, that hoses down and violently attacks protestors demanding higher ethics, and higher standards of respect for women and for all humanity?

Citizens of the USA, of India, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and now Italy, stand up for human dignity! Do what you can to help educate each other, our youth, and our government officials about decency, respect, and reverence for all life. Our world is so much more connected; it just amazes me how the more we become technologically advanced, the more we become insensitive to the humanity of others.

Violence against women is not just a woman’s issue. It affects us all, and it should outrage us all. I wholeheartedly agree with Akanksha Mehta in her post “We Are All Responsible; We Are All Guilty”. It follows the same truth that evil is allowed to exist as long as good people do nothing.