Some Thoughts On Tolerance That Go Beyond Race…

George Floyd’s death shouldn’t divide us. It’s a wake up call to rally around the principles that should unite us.

Anger is all around us now.

Anger at the unspeakable death of George Floyd, anger at a president who doesn’t “get” the powder keg this county is sitting on, anger at the opportunists who exploit our pain. I read my social media feeds and see outrage from people who want a better world and are incensed at those they blame for making the world as shitty as it is now.

But in these times, I think we should be gentle with each other. In these times, we need to remember that we’re all Americans riding the same waves, even if we’re in different boats. As hard as it is, I think we need to spread love, even when others are spreading hate.

I’m compelled to say this because I’ve recently gotten a glimpse of what it’s like to be seen as the “other,” and it’s been a rude awakening. I‘ve seen what it’s like to come from a place of good intentions and speak my “truth,” only to be verbally assaulted and insulted by other well-intentioned people. People who consider themselves tolerant and accepting of diversity, but whose idea of tolerance is limited to those who agree with what they believe is “right.”

A few of these well-meaning people who want to make the world a better place have become surprisingly intolerant — even abusive — in their language and behavior. Recently, I had to block a Facebook friend who wasn’t a neo-Nazi or a white supremacist, but who was just as intimidating and abusive — in a different way. His comments to me were horribly demeaning. They were alienating and disempowering. And I hated to block him, but it was necessary, because he could not disagree with me respectfully.

He is the antithesis of the tolerance he preaches, and he doesn’t even realize it.

So what I’m saying is that the situation we face now is much, much more complicated than it may seem on the surface. And it makes me so sad.

It also makes me wonder if maybe the only way to get to the other side of this madness is by understanding that common ground may not mean always agreeing on “common facts.” There’s so much fear, anger and mistrust now that it may not even be possible to agree on “common facts.” Because it’s just so damn hard to know what the truth is anymore or who to trust! As a country, we are absolutely bankrupt on trust — from our institutions to our media to our leaders.

We don’t even trust each other.

So maybe the best path forward is to respectfully hear the thoughts and opinions of others, graciously, and even if we disagree with them, ask ourselves: “Okay, but what DO we agree on?” Instead of focusing on the issues, opinions and “facts” that divide us, maybe we should instead ask ourselves what is it that UNITES us?

I think if people of all colors, classes and political stripes asked these questions, we would find that we agree on a few core principles that we can all rally around. And if we can unite around these core principles, maybe we can start to make this country a better place. Because I sincerely believe we’re not as different from each other as it seems. But this isn’t a narrative the media advances, and it’s not one that social media facilitates.

I think something ancient within us is dying now, and it’s an extremely painful process. As it dies, I think we will have the opportunity to give birth to something very beautiful. But that can’t happen if we see each other as enemies during this critical time, if we allow Floyd’s tragic death to further divide us. I think his death goes beyond police brutality against black people. It’s emblematic of a much deeper wound, and we can’t begin to heal that wound if we continue to alienate ourselves: black vs white; civilians vs police; Democrat vs Republicans; Antifa vs white supremacists.

We have at our fingertips the opportunity to stage a MUCH bigger movement, one that can advance the condition of hundreds of millions of people worldwide — if we can only stop focusing on the things we disagree on an instead focus on the few things almost all of us agree on:

  1. Tolerance and respect for all thoughts and opinions

Stay safe, be well, and please try to love and be gentle with others. Even when it hurts.

Unplugged from our distorted reality. Check out my book, “Reality Bites: Insights on Bridging the American Divide.”

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