To many, today’s social conflicts are binary. You are either pro-cop or anti-cop. You are either pro-life or pro-abortion (love the ridiculous terminology). You are either for us or against us. You get the idea — it’s 100% or nothing.
It’s easy to think that way. The focus is you — your comfort, your life experiences, your beliefs, your truth. It’s challenging to have empathy or concern for people not like you. That kind of empathy is a necessity for peace, equality, and justice, however.
That empathy allows us to consider other people’s situations, experiences, and choices with an open mind. To take these stories as truth and recognize that this truth matters as much as our own. And when those truths are unjust or unfair or simply painful, this kind of empathy allows us to act in order to improve the well being of all human life, not just our own or people like us.
For binary thinkers, that empathy is replaced today with anti-PC fervor — but that is simply a crutch used to justify their fear and feelings of prejudice, racism, sexism, and ultimately hate. This fervor works to demean the truth experienced by others — be it through their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, genetics, or economics. This fervor allows them to wash their hands of any issue they don’t want to take the time to consider or understand.
True empathy also leads to a less straightforward, more complex belief system. Complexity that’s hard to communicate in today’s soundbite and 140-character culture. For example, I find it amazing that someone wouldn’t think this is possible or even logical:
To support police who are invested in their entire community and interested in upholding the law fairly, equally, and completely.
To be against police brutality, racial targeting, and extrajudicial executions. To think that having one of the highest incarceration rates in the world (alongside China) does not match the democracy, “all men created equal”, and “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness” messages of our founders. (Blacks are 6 times as likely to be in jail than whites, despite making up 13% of population. Latinos are nearly 3 times as likely to be in jail as whites, despite making up 16% of population.)
To think gun violence is a horrible disease caused in large part by our culture and our willingness to cede everything to the 36% of our country that own guns. I am OK with people owning guns if we limit the types of weapons available and require licensing, training, and even basic, regular health checks. Because, turns out, that stuff works .
To be pro-choice because it’s not my fucking body or life, even though both my wife and I are against choosing abortion for our life.
[caption id=“attachment_4930” align=“alignnone” width=“600”] Marching with the Ken-ton Girl Scouts at the 2016 Buffalo Pride parade.[/caption]
These are some of my truths, my beliefs — constantly evolving based on listening, reading, and watching through a lens of empathy. Empathy I learned as a child and work to grow over my life.
Empathy my wife and I work every day to instill in our children, because we want them to grow up in a world where pain, injustice, and truth are taken seriously — regardless if it’s in their face or not. We’re teaching our kids to act, not succumb to fear or wash their hands of social and economic issues because they aren’t affected directly or pass blame on whoever their generation’s Millenials turn out to be…
This world needs more listening and less talking. More empathy and less fear. Let’s all spend more time listening, understanding, and evolving as human beings. Who’s with me?