It’s what we do

On Facebook the other day I was told by a complete stranger that I am responsible for the “dumming  down” [sic] of America. I thanked her for her comment, felt obliged to clarify the spelling of “dumbing,” and moved on with my life. 

Except it’s staying with me. Not that she called me dumb; she doesn’t know me, my job, my education, my background. She made a snap decision based on my political leanings; I’m dumb because she thinks people who believe as I do are all dumb.

What’s sticking with me is the assumption and accusation of stupidity that was railed at me though my statement was not provoking in the slightest – except for my political leanings. My statement was a plea for compassion. Is it irony that my plea for compassion is answered in the least compassionate way? I don’t know, because I’m an idiot. My English Lit degree taught me nothing, apparently. 

Except it taught me so much. I read books from different times, places & cultures. I visited a few different countries in my history as well, and I learned a little of how the Irish, the English & the Spaniards live.  

Are we Americans so egotistical that we assume we are so much better than any other population of people? We are all just clustered at different spots on the globe; because we were born there, in most cases. We usually are raised with certain cultural or societal mores & tenets, and as a adults hopefully we learn to question those. We either solidify those beliefs or we learn where the flaws are and we choose our own path. This is the American, Catholic, Muslim, black, white, redneck, English, Swahili way; it’s called growing up. We learn, we think, and then we decide what settles best within our souls. 

We Americans have never had our cities, our homes & our neighborhoods destroyed by war. We’ve never had to flee a terrorist regime. We sit in our comfy houses, with central heat to keep us warm, with multiple electronic devices telling what to think or do, or what we should believe. We very casually say, “no, don’t let the Syrian refugees in HERE! They might be bad and kill us.” What if it were the other way around? What if we were fleeing because our city was in tatters, our loved ones gone or dead, no job, no money …… what if it were us? Do you think it’s appropriate for another country to judge our admittance base on the Planned Parenthood shooter? Or the kid who shot up the church? Or the movie theater? Or Columbine? What if Canada closed their borders to Americans because we have too many radicalized, angry young white men with guns? 

When we let fear overcome compassion then they have won. 

When we refuse humanitarian aid because one of the refugees may become radicalized then they have won. 

When we refuse to share our bounty, our abundance of blessings, then they have won. 

When we refuse to save lives … well, you know. 

America was founded on the tenet of religious freedom. America was founded by refugees  who were fleeing an oppressive religious regime. (Yes, I’m speaking of the Europeans and not the native Indians who already had this land – that’s a whole different topic). Have we become so cold, so calculating, that we can’t recall our roots? Why are we here today? Because our ancestors were refugees! 

It takes a village to raise a village. When I see a kid get hurt I’m going to comfort him until is momma can. If my neighbor is out of flour I’m going to give him some. If there is no heat for some then we provide them warmth. It’s what we do – as humans first, Americans second. 

It’s what we do. Without compassion we are nothing. 

Peace, love & every ounce of good cheer,

Stef

P.S. My statement that provoked the dumbing down comment: 

I never said I was unconcerned about the terrorist incidents. I just don’t think preventing aid to refugees is the answer. The vast majority of them are families. I think compassion should dictate we help. The refugee process isn’t quick. There is a significant vetting process before people are allowed to come here. I’m concerned with any stereotyping that all Muslims are bad and I think we need to be careful about that. In my job I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with many Muslims over the last 10 years. They are honest, loving Americans. Some born here, some not. One went to MIT & is now the CEO of a startup. Another is a neurologist. Another was in our Navy. They are all raising their families & loving America. These are just examples, but I think it’s important to humanize them so we don’t lump them all into one category. Every religion produces zealots, like Westboro Baptist, but the radicalization like the San Bernardino shooters, is going to happen regardless of the refugees. Yes, I would feel the same if a loved one of mine was there. I think saving thousands of refugee lives is just as important as fighting extreme radical terrorists. Without compassion we only have fear and that means the terrorists have already won a major victory.

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On Doing My Best

Last week I was working from home for a couple days while my husband was with the little dude at Cub Scout day camp. (Which was a bit disastrous, but that’s another post). I hung out will my 10 year old for two days and it was so fun to have one on one time with him.

As I was “working” on my laptop in the living room, I turned on an episode of House Hunters. My buddy settled down to watch the episode with me and he was surprised when the couple on the show were gay. Specifically, he was confused by the term “partner” that they used to refer to each other and asked if that meant they were business partners. I explained, no, that meant they were life partners. He asked if that meant they were married. I said, well, maybe – but I’m not sure if marriage is legal in that state. So we looked it up online and found out which states allowed gay marriage, which didn’t, and which allowed some other version like a civil union. As you may expect, that segued us into a very interesting conversation on politics and morality. Um, teachable moment? Yes!

I essentially gave him a crash course in politics, Democrats & Republicans (with a passing nod to other parties), and a high-level overview of hot-button issues. I’m sure he only understood a fraction of what I said, but I hope what stuck with him was my emphasis on the need to learn the issues individually. As he gets older I want to him to think, research, and make decisions on the issues according to what seems right to him. He doesn’t have to follow what his dad and I think; he needs to form those ideals on his own, based on his fact-finding, perception and experience.

I want to provide the best moral guidance I possibly can for my boys so they aren’t caught up in simply what they are told they should believe – either by the media, their friends, or other influential adults. I want their world view to be as all-encompassing as possible. I want them to understand that life isn’t fair, but to also understand they can try to BE FAIR to others. That love, compassion, and kindness is so very necessary and though it’s so often lacking anymore they don’t have to follow that trend. I want my children to help make the world a better place and not contribute to the overall lessening of our moral compass, our collective intellect, and our soul as a country and as a collective world. I want them to understand that we are all responsible for each other.

(I realize “moral compass” can be seen as a bit of a priggish term (a bit stick-up-the-butt, so to speak). I don’t mean it that way; to me, moral compass is knowing right from wrong, good from bad, but also having the ability to understand nuances and extenuating circumstances and intentions behind the actions. To be able to see the big picture – how we all work and interact together, how one action can lead to another, and act accordingly in a way that best protects and nurtures the world and her people).

When I read an article online I typically will scroll down and read the comments. I don’t know why I even do this anymore; I am constantly appalled at the vitriol that come from people’s fingers on the interwebs when there’s no social consequence to their words. People spew hate and venom with little regard to the people their words may affect. I’m sure they think their words don’t make a difference. I can tell you, just scrolling down that list and seeing all the unadulterated bile in post after post certainly affects me.

It makes me wonder what happened. What happened to our collective heart? Are we so very polarized that we can’t imagine that public figures (politicians or otherwise) are people, like you and me, and that they are working and doing the best they can according to their beliefs? There has got to be a way for us to work together, regardless of our beliefs and how they dovetail, in order to protect our world. If people don’t start working together, being sensible to what needs to be done, then I have grave fears about where we will be in 10 years. Or even 5.

For my part, I will teach my kids that it’s not just tolerance that is needed. We need a deeper level of understanding. A deeper level of worldly consciousness. We need to be more selfless. Less motivated by the outcome and more motivated by the journey. I’ll try to teach them to look to the future and worry less about instant gratification. That’s a hard one, I’ll admit, even for me. We are so dialed into our here and now that it’s hard to think of 30, 40, 100 years down the road.

There’s no easy answer here. No quick fix, or easy way to undo all the pain out there. Making my kids *good* people won’t fix it all – I know that. All I know is I will do my best. Like my little Cub Scout. He doesn’t know, or care, what the Cub Scouts stand for, what they believe, or what their controversies have been. He only knows that he needs to do his best.

That’s all we can do.

Mucho love,

Stef