I am hopeful that the world is changing. Whether it is or not, it is obvious that American, and I believe much of the world society is. The days of “us” versus “them” are diminishing as communication becomes faster and easier and we all start to realize that we have more similarities than we have differences.
Those who seem to understand this best are the youngest among us, especially those under thirty or so, although that is not an absolute boundary by any means.
Those who seem to fear this most are generally those with the most to lose; those in power, those who are older and more established in their perceptions of others.
I have a message for a few different groups, segments of society who have intentionally labeled themselves based on what they think, believe, espouse, and so on.
It is time to stop accusing those who are different than you of being evil, malicious, unpatriotic, etc. You will not win people to your positions by doing so, but rather you will alienate those who disagree with you, turning them from merely indifferent to actively against you. Speak your mind, but do so calmly and respectfully without using extremist language or hateful tones. That is your best chance to be heard.
Politicians: it is time for you to stop being reactionary, divisive, and extreme in your tone. I find it telling that the generally accepted belief that the best speeches given in the political primaries and general election by losing candidates in the USA were also the most gracious and conciliatory in tone; that of Hillary Clinton and John McCain as they conceded defeat to a candidate who was consistently gracious, stable, and non-accusing in his tone and discussions of other candidates. Both Democrats and Republicans are guilty of this behavior, as well as members of other political parties. Stop it. Your adversary does not wish the destruction of the country you love, rather he or she wishes to see it prosper just as you do. You disagree on how that may best be accomplished, but neither of you has anything but the best of intentions and wishes. Start believing that about each other, and start talking to one another.
Religious adherents: it is time for you to focus on living your beliefs in the clearest and most consistent of ways and to stop trying to force others to follow them by force. It is definitely okay to discuss what you think or believe and allow it to influence your decisions in life and even dictate your involvement in society, including politics. It is not okay for you to demand that others believe what you believe solely because you think it is right. It is okay to begin a dialogue and calmly and lovingly (or at least kindly) give your reasoning and foundation for believing as you do, in the hopes that others will agree once they come to understand. This is true whether you are a Christian, a Muslim, a Hindu, or a follower of any other religion. If your intent is truly the betterment of yourself, your fellow human, your society, and your world, then start acting like it by treating one another better than you treat one another now.
Finally, for goodness’ sake, will you all please stop with the extremist rhetoric?
“Candidate X wants to eat your children, steal your house, or enslave the population” are utterly foolish arguments. So are, “Religion Y teaches everyone should hate others who believe differently” and “All members of religious groups other than mine want to rule the world through violence, oppression, and have at heart a plot to steal the souls of all who live.” While some sects in nearly every religion and philosophy have extremists, my experience has been that most people have come to their faith in an honest attempt to become the best people they can be, they want to live in peace, raise their kids, work and feed their families, and be left alone. Those who are looking for something better will look first to those of their friends offering a better life example, not to those who offer the most scary, apocalyptic vision of what will happen if you don’t follow their way.
I will not bow to the threat of a bomb. I will not cower before dire predictions of catastrophe. I won’t do it politically. I won’t do it in my choice of religion. I won’t force others to endure such extremism from me. I will offer a better way, with respect, or I will keep silent and let others be.