Thursday, July 14, 2016

Random Acts

I’m going gray. Technically my strawberry-blonde / red locks are transforming into white – but there’s still a good amount of each. The transformation has been happening for years. My Dad once told me that his hair turned to white in a matter of weeks so once I found that first strand some twenty years ago I’ve been looking at the rest of them for years wondering when the switch will occur. (Dad’s probably looking down with his crinkly eyes and wry smile, happy he got one over on me.) Every now and again I will catch myself in a reflection and marvel at the shift in proportions. There’s nothing to do about it and I have plenty else to worry and obsess about – but it’s one of those things that incrementally been happening and one day soon I’ll notice that one color will predominates any other. I think that’s a metaphor for race relations and violence in the U.S. right now.

From our earliest days as America has been a mix of people. It started with Native Americans and European settlers and then African Americans were brought to these shores unwillingly as slaves. Others came to explore the bountiful opportunities and riches that the land offered or to escape persecution.

We have not handled the differences we have with each other well. There has been prejudice, discrimination, retaliation and fear throughout American History. Try as current columnists might, there is no point to go “aha! This all started with…” without literally starting with the arrival of The Mayflower.

In the past few years the level of violence has increased. Has it? Native Americans were slayed by the thousands in the colonists land grabs in America’s earliest days. The U.S. Government quarantined Japanese people during World War II. More recently black people were lynched (hung from tree posts) in the U.S. for decades before there was a movement to stop that violence. There are too many examples of violence against one group of people based on their difference.

The social media impact on our lives is more reflective of how things have changed. One of the incidents in July 2016 was aired lived on Facebook as the victim died. Everything is happening in real time and is available for immediate consumption instead of a news story that took even a day or two to wend its way through the country. It now takes seconds. Events happen so quickly now that the murders of 49 people in Orlando one month ago (June 2016) now seem distant compared to the fresh events of police shooting citizens and a sniper killing police officers.

There are differences between the races. There are differences between classes of people. If we wanted to we could find and focus on those differences. What we don't do enough of is look at what we have in common.

Are we a more violent society? Or do we just have access to more weapons and they’re more sophisticated?

Are we less tolerant? Or do we now have ‘permission’ to express our fear and dislike of anything different because we know there’s others like us out there?

Is it ever going to stop? No, probably not. It's been going on too long and too many people seem invested in their way and their interpretation.

Can we do anything? Absolutely. These past weeks and months (and years) have been a barrage of random acts of violence and hatred. The optimistic pacifist side of me wants us to all to get along. The more practical side of me will settle for us each taking on a random act of kindness instead. That feels more achievable. It's a long stretch of a metaphor, but accepting that my hair isn't all one color or the other - that it's a true mix and combination is very much like accepting that the world isn't just like me. 

What random act of kindness will you take that on?

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