Thursday, July 7, 2016

Change is not made from the outside.

“Ignorance leads to fear,
Fear leads to hate,
and Hate leads to violence.
This is the equation.”

On September 11, 2001, the United States felt the impact of terrorism in a public and terrifying way.  Where, before, the fighting between religious beliefs had been distantly held across the ocean between seemingly ancient foes, that morning it reached our shores.

When that happened, the country realized we were unprepared.  Unprepared for that type of aggressive and chaotic violence, unprepared for zealotry that had no interest in preserving human life, and unprepared for a response that wasn’t a learned military reaction.  At the core of that unpreparedness, was a lack of understanding and information.  Sure, we accepted that a multitude of religions lived on our planet and even within our borders, but American’s are self-centered.  We only concerned ourselves with our own beliefs and needs.  We wouldn’t be touched by our lack of understanding, right?

Wrong.  So we did what we did best.  We wrapped ourselves in patriotism and fought back.  Right or wrong, who knows?  Action was needed, so action was taken.  In the process, the kernels of ignorance continued to sprout leading to fears of unknown attacks.  More terrorist events were revealed that hadn’t been made public.  More links in the chains of battles behind the scenes which were suddenly visible due to the internet, global connectivity, and social media.  Fear grew and with that… hate.

Hatred for anyone who was assumed to be Muslims or traitors or extremists, regardless of proof.  Judgement based on clothing, religion, and looks became acceptable.  We created a “them” to look out for in our minds.  Even amidst protests, that fear and hatred grew.  Suddenly, people of Central and South American descent were given more than a passing glance.  Citizens or not?  Real Americans or not?  Traitors or not? 

Some looked around and said, “Hey, this is wrong.  We know as a country judging based on these characteristics is wrong.”  But more looked around in fear and thought, “I have to protect myself and my family.  The threat is everywhere.  It could be anyone.”  We like our labels.  Suddenly everyone was being slapped with a tag.  Divides weren’t just racial or religious, but political and patriotic. 
It became acceptable to voice the secret fears and let them breed into a founded belief of dislike, discontent, and hatred.  Attacks on ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation – rising?  Or just being revealed?

Violence over discourse.  Compromise is for the weak.  Never back down or surrender.  Fear everyone.

There is no need to wonder how we got where we are.  We took this journey together.  Eyes wide open with deaf ears and stood motionless as the small injustices grew like tumbleweeds into larger ones.  The nations we used to criticize, we’re starting to resemble.

It has to stop.  And that starts with us.