With all the different major events happening in our world today (the U.S. 2016 Presidential election, the continuing fight for racial, gender, and homo/heterosexual equality, ISIS, global warming, Brexit, etc.), I fear that we, as citizens of the world, are becoming more divided than ever.
When I was a senior in high school, an old friend of mine said the most amazing thing that I will never forget. We were sitting in our literature class, and I can’t tell you what exactly we were discussing or how this came into play, I just remember he raised his hand, and the teacher called on him and he said, “Isn’t every war a Civil War, because we’re all citizens of the same planet?” The class fell silent, and my jaw dropped. Even my teacher was taken back by the question. And I actually blurted out, “That is the greatest thing I’ve ever heard.” See , we get so caught up in constantly trying to pinpoint the things that separate us, and divide us, that we forget: we are all in this together. White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, gay, straight, bi, trans, man, woman, adult, child, rich, poor, whatever! We all inhabit this earth. We are all brothers and sisters of this beautiful planet. And as many difference as we can find in each other, there will always be the more absolutely salient similarity. We. Are. All. Human. And no one, and nothing, can change that.
So, I know what you’re thinking, “Okay, so what’s your point?” My point is, we all have a long, difficult road of recovery ahead of us. Right now, we are allowing our subconscious to be dictated by outside sources. And yes, you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about. The media. Every day, without even realizing it, we are exposed to what the “powers at be” want us to believe is “perfection”. That could mean a commercial of a “traditional” white family, with a mom, a dad, a son and a daughter, sitting around a dinner table passing around food dishes and filling their plates, or a few extremely attractive, thin women in bikinis playing on the beach, or giving a man a beer, or a t.v. show sitcom of a family with a stay at home mom, a working dad, a rebellious child, and a “nerdy” child, or whatever. You get the point. There’s 2 problems about being consistent exposed to these things with little diversity:
1) It teaches us that being different makes us lesser humans.
When the Orlando shooting occurred earlier this year, I wrote an article about my mixed emotions on how people around the country reacted. Just a day before the shooting, the LGBT+ were being fighting tooth and nail to be recognized as human beings, and it wasn’t until they were targeted and killed that people (for a week at least), set aside their difference and came together to help the community, whether it was by donating blood, sending prayers, or dressing up as those beautiful angels to defend against Westboro, or what have you, people of all faiths, backgrounds and opinions came together in support of the community. And then the breeze blew in, the dust settled and we’re right back at it. On top of that, people of color are still being targeted in shootings and incarceration at much higher rates than any other race. This is a fact that is still being treated as opinion, because people are too lazy or too afraid to put in the time to research the statistics. More than that, racial profiling affects every non-“white” race. When people see a Hispanic person they assume they’re illegal and want them “out of this country”. When people see a black person, they assume they’re ghetto, drug dealing, thieves. When people see a Muslim, or a person of Muslim decent, they assume they are a terrorist. So when these, preconceived notions about individuals are beat in to our minds repeatedly, we begin to build our categories of good and bad, and perhaps with out even realizing it, we being to single out these people who we don’t even know, and throw them into these boxes of generalized stereotypes created under false pretenses. And because SOME of the people are accurately places, we solidify in our minds that we are validated and the vicious cycle continues. And it is the most psychologically destructive occurrence that happens for both the people being stereotyped and those stereotyping.
2) It teaches us to hate/reject those who fall into the “ideals” established.
So by this point people are usually on two sides of the fence. On one side, you have the people who are saying, “This is bullshit. I don’t fit into your box, and it’s not fair that your box exists, because NO ONE fits into it. I am not a bad person. I am a real person. We should create a new box that represents me. And then on the other side you have people saying, “But wait… I fit into that box… I exist. I am not a bad person. I am a real person. We don’t need a new box.” And then tension. See people on the first side and second side are now at war. And you want to know the worst part? They are both right and wrong. There is nothing wrong with being a white male. There is nothing wrong with being a thin, white female. There is nothing wrong with being a “heavy” man or a “heavy” woman. There is nothing wrong with being black or Hispanic, or gay or straight. But there is something wrong with both parties obsession with what characteristics that define a “real” human, fit in that box. The truth is, we are all so different that a “box” shouldn’t exist. It isn’t practical. I see articles every day trying to “redefine” the standards of beauty, but they are just as toxic as the current ones. Telling a girl she has to be curvy, or heavier set to be beautiful is great for the girls who are curvy or heavier set. But what about the thin girls? Are they no longer beautiful because some girls can’t “attain” their bodies? And I’m not talking about the starving super models and TV stars. I’m talking about the women who are just naturally very thin. Who do eat and don’t exercise, and try to gain weight, but can’t. I’m sorry to say ladies, but yes, they do exist. And that is just one simple example. But just for fun, let’s do one more. Race is a pretty big issue right now, and with that, people are becoming increasingly angry with white people. Yes. White people. Not racist, white people. Not white people who have actually wronged another race for being another race. No. All white people. I really hope it’s not necessary for me to go into how screwed up that is. Does white privilege exist? Absolutely. Should we now punish all white people for being white? No, what the hell is wrong with you? If you don’t want to be punished for being born into your skin, why would you want that for someone else?
So where do we go from here?
Guys, there is no simple answer to this. This is no magical cure-all solution to this cluster-f*ck we have going on right now. I didn’t write this article believing that I could fix anything. But, the first step to solving any problem is realizing that there is one. This isn’t a race problem. This isn’t a gay/straight problem. This isn’t a religion problem. This is a human problem. We are all citizens of the same planet. We need to find some way to remember that so that we can come together, as a unite front, and show the “powers at be” that they can’t divide us. Because we are all one. And we all deserve love, equality, justice and the never-ending pursuit of happiness. So I guess one word of advice to you is: Don’t feed into the hate and fear that divides us, but spread the love and acceptance that unites us. As Abraham Lincoln famously said, “A house divided against itself, cannot stand.” I hope you join in on the battle for unity. Good Luck.