I’m going to assume that most of you out there are as disturbed as I am by the violent actions and rhetoric that’s going on all across the nation in the name of peaceful protest, and even political campaigns. My policy for this platform is to avoid political controversy, but it’s time to say this, and then I’ll go quietly into the night, insofar as the, “Ain’t it awful?” message.
First, let me assure you that I don’t care if you are a liberal or conservative, what your religion or political party affiliation is, or how you plan to vote. And I’m not going to share any of my own beliefs about that or try to change your opinions.
I’m also going to assume that we share the desire to live our lives and bring up our children and grandchildren in a safe and compassionate community. I don’t have the answers to making that happen if people are determined to be angry, share mean spirited comments, and try to persuade others to agree with their opinions rather than respecting the right of all of us to differ. But I do have thoughts about techniques that might help, and some that haven’t.
For centuries, citizens of every nation have organized marches and protests to draw attention to situations that they considered unfair or harmful to the common good. Drawing attention always puts you at risk. Sticking your neck out invites getting your head chopped off, but it is good to stand strong for your beliefs. When those who want to maintain the status quo respond in hurtful ways and the protestors retaliate, things turn unpeaceful pretty quickly.
What people can’t seem to get through their heads is that a protest is only a first step and needs to stop as soon as their message has been heard. Marching never solved any problem, and often creates a situation where no real discussion can happen. Action that makes a difference is an individual effort, and starts small. We know this because of how societies evolve quietly by infiltration. There will be unobtrusive changes in how schools, businesses, and communities conduct their operations. Little by little, the water is heated up until the frog is finally cooked. Generally, we only notice those changes when a supper of frog legs is about to be served. We tend to think of these subversions in negative terms, but if it works for those with ulterior motives, it will work for good as well.
What if we greeted those who oppose us with a smile and handshake, asked about their families and wished them a good day? We might disengage when someone tries to get us to discuss a controversial issue with the agenda of winning us over to their side. Simply saying, “We’ll have to agree to disagree about this,” and changing the subject, isn’t that hard. Neither is finding at least one complimentary thing to say to, or about, that person. We can join together with other like-minded people to lobby for changes, support candidates who have a record of fairness and honesty, teach our young people to be respectful, and do business with folks who have a positive outlook on life. All of this without engaging in gossip or character assassination, even if the other side does those things.
I read a comment some time back that stayed in my mind, and I hope it will in yours. I wish I’d written down the source so proper credit could be given, but it’s worth passing on anyhow. The writer said, “I don’t want to argue with them. I just want to love them.”