We often conceive of the world as only one way and it is the way in which we perceive it. But most of us acknowledge that we have different perceptions and values—that’s why we have different religions and different political parties and different food preferences. When we don’t accept others’ perspectives as truths, we create divisions within our society that stall progress and facilitate hatred.
As our society becomes more and more polarized, empathy and compassion for the other has become increasingly sparse. People on every and all sides look to the other with confusion and detest and safe space for discussion is shrinking, leaving everyone breathless. If we can’t understand the “other”, what hope do we have for a United States of America?
Empathize with the pain that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color cry as they work to claim their right to existence, their right to protection by the law and from the law. Hear their voices of exhaustion from burying another brother, another sister, another friend. See the statistics that support the subconscious racial employment bias, or the disproportionate mal-healthcare practices experienced by Black people, specifically Black women, who are treated by White doctors. Understand that the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, school integration began in 1954, and slavery in this country began in 1619. Out of the past 400 years of the systemic and violent subjugation of Black people to White supremacy, 87% was legal and standard.
But empathize with the gun-toting, confederate flag wielding countryman whose childhood was shaped by weekend hunting trips and whose history textbook preached the cause of the civil war to be motivated entirely by economic sovereignty rather than racial inferiority. If hatred weren’t fuelled by ignorance, why should we hate those less informed? Less exposed? Defaulting to label someone as “racist” is the quickest way to shut down dialogue when misunderstanding or unfamiliarity leads their logic over actual racist beliefs.
Empathize with the Trump supporter whose post-recession economy is not booming and whose roads are certainly not paved with gold. Latching onto the Immigrant scapegoat for their misfortune, because their misfortune was thrust upon them by the mass pillage of the banks in 2008, or the offshoring of manufacturing jobs in the early 2000s, or the monopolization of agribusiness that merely contributed to the already tall economic marginalization of the country’s middle. All strengthen the desire to return to an America where working folk were not economically marginalized; all strengthen the rejection of “white privilege” by an underprivileged group.
Empathize with the immigrant who is blamed for such slaughter. But whose home they are fleeing due to slaughter of its own. Who contribute taxes regardless of their legal status but are denied eligibility for welfare benefits and Medicaid. What was once a welcoming country for refugees and asylum-seekers was cut up, blended, and boiled. Fed to the grassroots white supremacists from the bowls of for-profit immigration facilities carried by the spoons of the profiteering media who preach of the stability of our race-based hierarchy.
Empathize with the anti-vaxxer whose mistrust in our government and healthcare industry is justified as prescription class-action lawsuit after class-action lawsuit plague our tv screens, and direct bribery of the FDA by pharmaceutical companies is documented and common.
Empathize with the wealthy. Their whole lives fed rich, white propaganda bullshit after rich, white propaganda bullshit. Not to be exposed to people of color unless as via employments of service. Taught that achieving more was man’s ultimate destiny and skirting regulations and consumer protection was in the training handbook for achieving economic efficiency and high profit margins. Fending for their families, who would not achieve the level of lavish consumption without sizeable millions at their desire and disposal, they so secluded themselves from the greater society, they have fallen blind to the impacts of their profiteering pursuits on their fellow human. How further away is the other face to be not included in God’s love thy neighbor clause?
The divide between sides is as frustrating as it is pitiful. To see people hating humans just because they’re told that the other is the true human-hater is the real enemy of our country.
We know we view the world differently, but we do not accept that the truth is not singular. There are 7 billion truths and when we accept others’ truths with as much validation as our own, there is more room for dialogue on why Black Lives Matter, why we need governmental protection from greedy banks and pharmaceutical companies, and why Immigrants shouldn’t be kept in cages. Acknowledging the plurality of truths and experience is just the first step towards healthy dialogue engagement; and in the end, the world becomes a lot less polarized.