I worry about our souls. I worry about not just who we are becoming but who we have become.
We point the finger of blame, never seeing our own part in the story.
Many years ago, I worked in a retirement community. I was blessed with the opportunity to get to know a lady, a lady with a well known tattoo on the inside of her wrist, one that we would all recognize. She said it took her years to understand why. She was kind and gentle, but strong as steel. Her soft voice would quake with power and emotion when she talked about the past.
I looked like her sister. I looked like her sister who was murdered in the Holocaust.
Towards the end of my time working there, she was slipping into Alzheimer’s. The disease is heartbreaking either way, but in her case, it was so much worse. When she was in the middle of her episode, she would become convinced I was her sister and would talk to me about the memories of their childhood. When she came back, she was heartbroken all over again. I would leave work crying, sobbing, because her heartache was so real. It was her moving to a full care facility that lead to me leaving the job. It was too hard for me to be there anymore.
Even before that, back among the time of the ancients, I lived in the south while I grew up. In the seventh grade, we all had to read “To Kill a Mockingbird”. I was in the gifted program and our annual tradition was a field trip at the end of the year that lasted a few days. So we read the book and headed off to Biloxi, Mississippi.
Our class, which had been together as a unit for five years, had one African American, the utterly charming and gentlemanly son of a Southern Baptist preacher who wore dress slacks and button downs every single day. An unbelievably fine young man who, as I have heard, grew into a fine man. Our class stopped at a gas station in the middle of nowhere for a break from the bus.
The man who owned the gas station must have been in his sixties or seventies. He still proudly had the whites only signs up. He tried to enforce them. That didn’t go well for him. Our teacher, the best I had in all my years of education, turned to pure fire. Police were called. Against him.
I do not believe that violence is the answer for hatred. While yes, back in my younger days, I punched more than a few skinheads (A large contingency of my friends group were and still are drag queens. The local group was pretty scared of me for a few years. My temper was… notorious.), I have found better results in calm, rational, but confrontational conversations. And yes, I have instigated several racists from leaving their beliefs. And the questions are so simple.
Please explain to me what they did to you personally.
Please explain to me why you are so angry at the world.
Please explain to me what we can do to help you create a better life.
Hate is based in anger. Every single time. Anger is always a personal emotion. Always. It means that something is deeply wrong. And meeting anger with anger just makes explosions. Meeting anger with calmness…. (Heck, that’s the rule in any and all customer service job. Don’t show anger to angry customers. Ever.)
We aren’t asking why they are angry and trying to deal with it. We’re just seeing their anger and giving more of it back.
Oh how I worry about what we will become.