The cliché of the era is that these are trying times in our country. There is division between political parties, fear of “the others” that could invade our country and our interrupt our lives and anger about years of silence about sexual and physical abuse at the hands of the more powerful. We get angry, we wring our hands, we minimize or rationalize, and we become numb – in any combination.
Alternatively, you might come from a different perspective that there is “nothing to see here”. You may believe that the negative language is just noise in an empty space. What matters is saying, “look over here, we are engaged in – really – important things to make the country great again. “ Machiavelli is still right all these years later – the ends justify the means.
Consider this; the number of hate groups in the country has grown yet again this year. Women still make less than men for the same work do and #metoo has just pulled the covers off the sexual harassment and power plays that have gone on for years. Whatever the cause for bad behavior, whatever the party of the perpetrators, the truth is we can do better, one day, one person and one word at a time. Yes, words matter but more importantly how we use words matters.
Words make it personal and immediate especially if I do not see or know who you are. Words mean different things to different people. So, consider this. Is it too restrictive to be mindful of how we speak to and treat one another? Is saying something more thoughtful a hindrance to one’s freedom? Is it an indignity to be asked to learn about someone else’s sensitivities that we did not know about before? Is it beneath our station to consider respecting other perspectives?
For those who mock what is considered politically correct, ask yourself when you decided that any attempt to consider the myriad of interpretations of your words was beneath you. When did you decide that too many people were just too sensitive? On the other hand, when did you decide you no longer needed to continue to understand why these issues matter to someone else? The golden rule still applies in religions across the world and it still teaches us reciprocity. Last time I looked in the bible; the principle of the golden rule was still there.
If you are one of those wringing your hands over the audacious comments of presidents, prominent people and the person down the hall, your gesture is not enough. We must speak up and stop allowing bad behavior to get a pass regardless of whom it is. For those who choose to preserve the “peace” I say, okay, this peace allows you to avoid the inconvenient and painful truth that, as Martin Luther King said, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal”.
We have to stop being numb to the tolerance for racism, misogyny, disrespect and abusive language and behaviors. Stuff happens, intolerance drips from the top down into the puddle we are all standing on. The option to clean-up or stay standing in it stands at our feet. As Obama said, “we are the change we are looking for”.
In order to be the change speak up. If you see injustice, say something. If you say something that offends someone, acknowledge it. The internet buzzes with videos of people being caught “live” being outrageously abusive and offensive to their neighbors. The buzz goes viral and this outrageous and unacceptable behavior is normalized for some, and traumatic for someone else. Nevertheless, somewhere in the buzz the message is still implied that this is not acceptable. There is hope that we get that words matter and that racism is still wrong and that sexism and misogyny are unacceptable. Let us all be better.