There is a dichotomy of my attention when I am looking out across the landscape of the country I belong, the United States. On one hand, in my daily life, I rarely come across anything like what the different media outlets and social media would have you believe. I guess that in many ways, that is because I am very fortunate as to where I live and the people I surround myself with. On the other hand, it’s like this nation is tearing itself apart at the seams.
There’s no doubt that there are real problems within the foundations of this country. From a Civil War fought over slavery that many people continue to insist was based on states’ rights (to freely have slaves) to laws or policies that were designed to favor one group over another — think the Red Zoning in Chicago as one of many examples — this country has a history of poor behavior. Then again, don’t most countries? Don’t most groups?
The two questions above aren’t so much to belittle or make negligible the unfortunate and dark events that litter the historical records of this nation, rather it is to place some sense of perspective. And in a way, I state those questions to also illustrate a point: we don’t care about those countries; right now we care about what is happening in our own country. Again, that wouldn’t belittle or dismiss what is going on elsewhere, it simply means that we need to focus on what is going on in front of us rather than being distracted by what is out there, outside of our control.
And that brings it even closer to my point in all this. Like stated above, I don’t see much of what is apparently going on in social media. I don’t see it not because I am siloed in some way. It is simple, I decided that I would judge people based on the merits of their actions rather than what they say or any physical characteristic. That means that the illegal immigrants I’ve known personally who were hard workers and honest people were exactly that: hard workers and honest people whose options were non-existent where they came from. I didn’t see them as a blight, rather an unfortunate feature of a broken immigration system. That is but one example of many that I can list, but it is one that is pertinent to some of the current headlines.
I can see “bad” people too. I see it in the actions they commit — as we see people’s truth not in what they say, but in what they do.
In many ways I feel that much of this broad discussion on social media is a distraction. It’s a distraction to keep us from making that conscious choice to judge each other based on actions or from confronting each other through mutual conversation and learning through this interaction. Instead it tells us to judge based on what someone else says (no matter intent) or by what we think they believe or by some trait that is beyond the person’s locus of control (in other words they couldn’t help being born where, when, or how they were) as though the color of one’s skin has ever been a great indicator of anything other than the color of one’s skin. Or that one’s place of birth tells you anything other than a geographical location.
It sounds almost conspiratorial, but it almost seems like some force would rather we all see racism and evil everywhere rather than coming together and seeing that we are all more alike than we could ever imagine. Think about how trump tended to stoke the flames of particular groups and their paranoia, whether he himself believed in it or not — regardless of that, stoking those emotions served the purpose of power.
And maybe it’s a series of different forces, from organizations each trying in ways to jockey for power to ideals getting twisted and bent. It was easy to pin these behavior on trump, a narcissistic demagogue, but what if it is more pervasive? From people trying to put what they believe as good out into the world to others trying to destroy it. Either way, no matter the cause, we need to resist it. We need to each try to look inward and eschew the tendencies to succumb to these things. If we each focus on being a good person as an individual, keeping to a set of moral, ethical, virtuous standards and become an example of it, not a warrior trying to instill it forcefully in others, then maybe this country — this world — would become a better place. Maybe we would then see the true intent of those behind these organizations that would rather we fight each other.
At worst, by focusing inward, at least you can guarantee that there is one less person contributing to the pain: yourself. At best, it flows to everyone.
Now yes, there are absolutely times where we need to collectively cry out and demand that action be taken. We have to be wary of how often we demand such action though. If we rush out too often, we can once again lose sight of our own moral, ethical, and virtue standards. I cannot say how often is right or wrong; I can only say that unless we are taking the time to make sure that we are good people as individuals, that we are making sure that we are holding our own person accountable, then that is when it gets dangerous.
Don’t get distracted; just be a good person.