June 25th, 9:52 PM marked 40 years since my birth. In lieu of gifts or even charitable donations, for my birthday this year, I would like to ask for something different.
I am asking for a moment. But not just any moment. And not just a single moment in time. Rather, I am asking for anyone who reads this to take a moment to pause and reflect anytime they see, read, or hear something outrageous.
In that moment, please consider who is going to profit off of your anger.
In that moment, please consider whether your anger and vitriol will affect change or just scratch a primordial itch deep in your amygdala.
In that moment, please remember that almost everyone you encounter wants to live in an inclusive, safe, society where all are welcome and treated with dignity and that everyone will have a slightly different version of what that means.
In that moment, please remember that respectful disagreement and a vibrant marketplace of ideas is the cornerstone of democracy. Truly racist or bigoted views are weak and easily defeated without ad hominem responses and other logical fallacies. Resorting to ad hominem responses is counterproductive and a more sign of the limitations of one’s own argument than a true indication of morality of the object of the response.
In that moment, please consider that sharing or further amplifying that outrageous piece of content will only reduce the context that other’s see it with while making it just a bit harder for everyone to find common ground in our shared humanity.
In that moment, please consider your own ignorance of the context in which that person is make the statement you find so repugnant. Try to understand their lived experiences and traumas and pain.
In that moment, please consider the possible gap between your interpretation of something and the possible interpretations that the creator may have intended.
In that moment, consider who your anger serves. There are those who profit from division and discord in the United States of America. It is not me and it is not you and it is not any of your friends. Chief amongst them is Vladimir Putin. Please consider that when you help amplify anything sowing division.
I am not asking anyone to never get outraged or react. There is absolutely racism and bigotry and evil in the world. I am just asking for a brief pause, a moment to consider whether a comment, a video, a post, or anything else is truly an example of that evil or more complex than initial reactions belie.
I am not asking for this for my own personal comfort. It is not about me. This is about our ability, as a nation and more broadly as the human race, to change for the better.U Using creating razor slim majorities to trounce the will of half of the population is neither sustainable nor effective. If we want to fix the many ills1 of society, broad common ground is the strongest foundation.
On the other hand, if Ray Charles singing “America the Beautiful” doesn’t move you, go fuck yourself.
- While society still has many ills, it is worth remembering that over the long term we still have fewer societal ills than pretty much any point in history.↩