Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Unspoken, Hate and Healing

Hate. A strong ugly word. I remember being on an ambulance call in a small town in western NY. The individual we went to transport to the hospital was one of two black people who lived in our town. I went to school with him. He was nice. He was smart. He was muddled sitting in a kitchen, in a dingy small town slum house. The rest of the squad had the look of impatience and unspoken distaste. The words they used to justify encouraging him to deny transport "drugs." No evidence of drugs there but that's what they wanted to believe. I tried to do vitals and help him, the others stood back. The unspoken body language he read motivated him to decline transport.
I was shocked. There was awkwardness after we left. This was a truly skilled squad, I was friends with everyone on that call. My brother was on that call.
That silent, unspoken consent to view a situation in a way that didn't rock the boat and bowed to outdated values was eye opening.
I started really looking at how I was raised. At my community. Why did my half black aunt tell most people she was northern Italian?
When I was young, I tried to do things for social approval in the hopes I could win the love of my parents. I wanted friends.
I was rewarded for cruelty and ridiculed for compassion. Tricked my brother into drinking toilet water, get to sit on my dad's lap. Trick the neighbor into shooting a dog in the face with a squirt gun, so she got nipped- Mom chastised me but Dad took me out to point out animals so he could shoot them. Intimidate someone, Mom might brag to all her friends.
It didn't feel right. I was small, smart and female in a small minded town. If I'd been a boy, I would have been popular. I wasn't, so I made people nervous. Other kids didn't like me. I was teased, locked in lockers, bullied and got attacked by other kids. I spent a lot of time at the nurses office. After a while, I stopped seeking approval. I watched. I observed. I stopped wanting approval from peers. Over time, watching how my parents manipulated and mistreated nice people I became embarrassed and started learning from those nice people how to be less of a monster and more of a human being.
I chose to grow.
With the election and the behavior of a portion of people who seem determined to say and do terrible things- in part for approval from people they look up to and in part due to their desire to do something or say something to hurt those they choose to hate or antagonize.
Confronting them only gives them reinforcement and resolve- locking them against letting go of hate, asking them questions and getting them to see where their hate logic fails is the key to unlocking that door.
It's easy to hate a group of people. It's easy to judge. It's easy to dismiss, justify, turn a blind eye and immerse in the shallow socially acceptable waters of those who are like minded.
It's harder to accept responsibility for mistakes and hate or fear driven words and deeds. It is harder to change and accept that the views you were raised with might not be right or respectful.
What causes hate? Judgement. Teachings. Past experiences which might have been with an individual but have been generalized. "You people," "they," "all," "always," and "never" are dangerous words.
Hate is not something you fight, fighting hate is like arguing with a fool. You come out exhausted, drained, frustrated- and the fool still never changes.
Hate is something you change through your own choices and behavior. Questions. Information. Helping others realize they are hurting other wonderful people who did nothing to warrant such treatment or judgement. Imagine hate as a pus filled wound someone is proud of, to reduce it the person with the wound has to realize they have a wound and they have to want to address it. If you chase them around throwing bottles of antiseptic and squirting antibiotic ointment in their direction- its going to make a mess and its going to utterly fail.
To change hate and reduce bigotry, we as a people need to come together and communicate. We need to build support networks. We need more education and critical thinking, less emotional responding.
We need to find a way to remind people that we are all human, we all deserve to be respected.
Bashing someone because of their gender, religion, ethnicity- these things need to become a thing of the past. This will only happen by coming together, demonstrating over and over that the justifications people hide behind to do horrible things are bullshit and that our society will not tolerate it- regardless of who leads the country.
Folks, this is on us. We've got to go beyond our echo chambers and face the hate with truth. "You got beat by a girl." "What does gender have to do with it?" Is my new response. Actions speak louder than words. Demonstrate reality, and the house of cards collapses. Create connections. Remind people of connections they have. Real people making real strides forward despite the biases they face.
Some day perhaps the unspoken will not be prejudice, some day I hope to see the unspoken to be inclusion and empathy.