A few days ago, I was walking home from work in the tunnel between Port Authority and Times square. I was listening to some good tunes when I was abruptly torn from my relatively peaceful commute by the abrasive voice of a subway preacher. I looked up to learn that I (and all one hundred of my immediate commuting neighbors) were going to hell… in the name of Jesus. This is not an unusual occurrence in the city… but in light of current events it really got me thinking.
The temptation to generalize plagues every one of us. Everyday I continue to judge people who support a candidate I find to be ridiculous and unfit, without truly listening to why they find him viable. Regrettably, I continue to lump them all together in the same way that the subway preacher generalized me and all of those other commuters; the same way people who opposed the Women’s March generalized the marchers as over-privileged, bored, radical feminists. I’ll be honest with you. If you support Trump, I have, at some point, categorized you as: ignorant, arrogant, uneducated, uninformed, desperate, hopeless, or misogynistic. I am sorry. I am sorry for having these thoughts about my fellow Americans. It is not right- especially if I make these assumptions blindly. I hope with all of my heart that these assumptions are not true. Everyone is different. All of us have different life experiences which lead to different motives for doing what we do and believing in what we believe.
Every single person was raised with certain beliefs and live their lives according to what they know. This statement defines all of us. However, it is a reality that fear of the unknown and absence of compassion for the unknown develops into a dangerous thing called ignorance. I truly believe the world is made better because of diverse beliefs. However, celebrating your own beliefs without respect for your neighbor’s beliefs is both ignorant and arrogant. It is this disrespect that provides roots for the growth of belief systems founded in hate, exclusion, and superiority. Fortunately, we can deal with people of hateful ideologies by promoting ideologies of peace and love. We must remember that argument is the strongest fuel for the fire of hateful ignorance and what you say to those who subscribe to it most likely won’t be heard. My experience has led me to believe that hateful ideologies are fostered by people who choose only what they want to hear and see. The best thing we can do is focus on the good in the world and lead with compassion . As tempting as it is…you cannot put out a fire with fire.
While in the midst of sorting my thoughts for this post, Kathleen reminded me of the old Indian parable of the blind men and the elephant. The story goes that four blind men touch an elephant to see what it is like. Being that the elephant is so big, each man feels a different part (a tusk, a foot, the trunk, etc.) and when comparing experiences, they find themselves in total disagreement.
Pictured above: “Blind Men Appraising and Elephant” by Ohara Donshu, Edo Period (Early 19th century)
*This piece is held at the Brooklyn Museum!
This parable, just as the elephant, can be seen in many different ways. This might be a stretch…but for the point I want to make, I believe the problems the United States faces today can be represented by the elephant. The ear is women’s rights. The tusk is the unfair nature of white privilege. The torso is the hemorrhaging economy. The tail end is the broken government. The legs are the prejudice against immigration. The feet are the need for attainable healthcare. The neck is the broken prison system. The list goes on and on…
The whole elephant is a conglomerate of problems, but each of us can only experience that which we touch personally. That doesn’t make the other problems any less valid…just less relevant to our own lives. It is my belief that we must push beyond our limited vision to try and see that all problems faced by Americans are important. We may not have personal experience with a certain problem, but we are only hurting ourselves when we cheapen the value of our fellow American’s experiences.
All of these thoughts were stirred up for me by the Women’s March. I have never felt a more palpable sense of unity than I did on January 21st, 2017. I am so honored and proud to say I took part on this historic day. The Women’s March was a beautiful display of peaceful strength, and a beacon of hope for those who feared a new ideology of hate had surpassed the core beliefs of what America truly stands for: unity, equality, and respect for diversity.
Some friends and I planned to join the march route at Grand Central Station. The moment I got off the train it was overwhelming. So many people were joined together to stand up for equality and love. I was moved to tears the moment I stepped outside the doors of Grand Central Station into Pershing Square. The roar of the crowd was deafening and beautiful. Smiling, strong faces of the marching women and men transported me to a heightened sense of emotion. A true feeling of “Sonder” descended upon me… a recognition and appreciation that every life is equally complex.
This march was unlike anything I have ever experienced. Voices proudly echoed chants against hate. And the primal roars that waved throughout the length of the march were colored by individual experience, intention, and hope for a better future.
In the afterglow of the march I was surprised to see a lot of posts and articles where the authors based their opinions of millions of women on one person’s actions. My heart goes out to the people who were dealt a negative view of this important event and my contempt goes out to those who acted in foolishness or hate in the name of a movement driven by peace and a desire for the personal experiences of women and minorities to be recognized and felt.
Don’t tear down what is good, my darlings. Reserve your harsh words and judgement for injustice, and violence, and please heed the danger of generalizing. Our enemies are hate and judgement… not each other. If we continue to spew judgement in the heat of political rants and dare to claim to know each other based on shallow views, Donald Trump wins…and he must not win. Let us go forward with these truths held close to our hearts and continue to resist his divisiveness. If we do this, Donald Trump will inevitably self destruct, and we, the compassionate people of the United States, will emerge from the orange ashes with love and respect lighting our way from the torch of Lady Liberty.
I am a woman, an artist, a thinker, a Christian, a daughter, a sister, and a friend. I am flawed, and I definitely cannot claim to see the entire elephant. As we all march towards the future, please try your best not to judge me, and I promise to extend the same effort to you all.
March on, my darlings.