Friday, January 5, 2018

2018 Word of the Year: Understanding.

This past year, the world just seems crazy. Charlottesville. Barcelona. North Korea.  People killing people and threatening to bomb the planet. I hear words of hate and anger and fear. I see my country being led by a small, spoiled, stupid person who has no love for anyone except himself. In spite of it all, last year, I tried to hope. This year, I'm trying to understand. 

I did not grow up understanding race or racists. 

I was brought up Catholic and my friend next door used to tell me how bad it was to be Catholic. I didn't understand how the church I went to on Sunday had anything to do with that. I felt sad. All I wanted was a friend. 

I didn't understand why bullets were flying through my Gram's front window and my Dad's hotel was surrounded by tanks in Detroit during the 1960's riots. I felt fear. All I wanted was for them to be safe. 

In college, I didn't understand why my new roommate couldn't be seen with me, because her friends were black and I wasn't. I felt embarrassed.  All I wanted was someone to talk to in class. 

I was the only girl in a family of boys, so I do get what it's like to be on the outside looking in.

So, I try to understand. 

This is what I do. What I've always done when faced with a situation, event or life change that's horrible, upsetting and crazy. I dig in and try to figure it out. I ask myself how did it happen and most importantly, why.

I read as many articles from as many sources as I can find. I ask questions. I read some more. I look back into my own personal experience and see what I can understand from it. I read some more. I seek out wise sources with a variety of viewpoints.

I try to see this old landscape of fear and hate with new eyes. 

My grandparents were immigrants from Ireland. They immigrated through Canada in the early 20th century. At the time, the United States had such an immigration boom they were not allowing any more people in who were Catholic, Jewish or African. Irish were called 'micks', Jews 'kikes' and, unfortunately we all still know what blacks were called.  According to a history professor, this huge immigration influx caused southern white Americans to band together forming many of the hate groups we are seeing again today. Confederate statues were erected to 'honor' their heroes. 

I didn't know or understand that since the turn of the 21st century, our country has seen record immigration again. This time the people coming in were Hispanic, Asian and Muslim. Once again, fear and hate raised its ugly head, the hate groups are banding together again and Americans are being beaten and killed.
Understanding does not mean accepting.
I may understand the facts and history but I still don't understand the 'why'. Maybe it's silly and naive but I don't accept why anyone has to be left out. Why one color, culture or religion is better than another or none at all. Why shooting each other leads to a better life for anyone. Why we can't all treat each other with respect regardless of our outside differences. 

I live in a place that honors freedom but no one is free to kill. I have rights and so do you, but no one has the right to violence of any kind. We are all here because we want a place where we can be free to live, love and be safe regardless of color, religion or gender. 

I understand fear, anger and hate. But I do not accept it. 

Because, you see, I understand that on the inside we are all created the same.

We all need to understand, that here in America, we all get to create the life we feel is right for us. We have laws protecting our freedoms of speech, religion and lifestyles. You get to choose. I get to choose. And we can all work, live and love together. 

Let's ring in a New Year with a new word to live by: Understanding. 

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