When I see the news and the hefty toll of radicalism and hate around the world, it twists deep inside my gut. Police brutality and outright murder are happening in every community. Police states and religious wars continue overseas. Terror is real, and it’s here. The level of hatred, intolerance, and bigotry that still exists both disgusts and puzzles me.
At the center of my confusion is how we are conditioned to think of ourselves as being so separate from others. We allow things like race, gender, religion, and proximity to define and segregate us. Consistently we allow ourselves to be a part of only one thing or one group. All of us participate in one way or another. Drawing from the exclusivity of the company we keep. It is the mob mentality of us vs. them.
Assumed heritage drives people. Sometimes this manifests as traditions passed down. Other times where we come from can have an even larger impact on how we consider our place in the world. Have our people been wronged or underestimated? These facts are personal and they can bring out things in us that we didn’t know were buried.
Lately, I’ve become more and more interested in my ancestry. I have one aunt that’s a genealogist and another great aunt who was a nun and the historian on my mom’s side. Rumor has it that she as our genealogy charted back to the 1500’s. The possibility of this much family history fascinates me.
Each of us has secrets to uncover when we decide to research our heritage. As an American, I feel it’s all the more important. We are such a young nation, all of us transplants by only a few generations back. Where did we come from and how does this affect how we live? What aren’t we seeing? Sometimes an observation of how someone takes their tea can tell an entire story in a moment.
How does anyone draw comfort from something as limiting as hate? What is the defining thing that makes how I live and think offensive to someone else? Why do we defend our views by trying to destroy how others live and move in the world? Perhaps it’s mostly a defensive struggle, which people rise up to when they feel they’re being challenged. I ask myself these questions often. I’m sometimes not sure if I’ve ever cared about anything enough to warrant real hate towards someone. But I have, I know I have, I’ve just conditioned myself to see things differently.
I worked with a militant evangelical guy once. He was completely insane, not because of what he believed, but because of the lengths he would go to force it upon others. His insistence made my blood boil. There was a level of self-righteousness that I’ve only ever experienced when dealing with hard-line “Christian” groups. I found myself growing biased against people of that particular faith. It was because of the forcefulness of it. He couldn’t rest knowing someone disagreed with his truth.
Over the years I have learned to not take the choices of others personally. Forcing my own beliefs or opinions does nothing for my relationships. I want to always have a clear perspective, unmuddied by prejudice or obligation. If we can understand one another’s story, then there is always hope that we might one day walk together in our unity.
How are you all feeling about your place in the world? Do you feel a close connection to your culture or customs? Were you raised with bias?