It has been a rough past few days. Even though I thought I had thinned my social media friends to a group of more reasonable people, you still end up seeing the most ridiculous comments come up under friends’ threads in regards to the Syrian refugee situation. And still there are others that you feel obligated to keep as friends, but at this point I just feel like I can’t do it anymore. While I feel that it is important to not isolate myself intellectually, what I see through social media does not present me with intellectual diversity, only differing opinions. Opinions not based on any evidence, but simply fear and rhetoric. Is it important for me to know that such viewpoints exist? Sure. But I know they exist now, and I think it’s time to be done with it. Let’s face it. Social media just isn’t the place to change anybody’s mind. There was one person whose opinion I influenced in my entire 7 years or so on Facebook. I remember it fondly. It was a beautiful moment. Perhaps I hoped I could relive that moment again somehow, but either I’m utterly awful and changing people’s mind, or social media just isn’t the place to do it. Or maybe it’s both. Either way the result is the same. My sanity and well-being is more important, because being bombarded with the kind of people there are out there just drains me of my strength. And I’m not talking about ISIS. I expect evil to exist, but I also expect us to fight that anyway we can. Not just with guns, but with the most powerful weapon we have against hate and that is compassion and love. And I just don’t see enough of it right now.
A lot of the impetus for this e-mail came from reading an article this morning here about fear. Something I knew, but I reminder of how fruitless the battle is on social media is no matter how many studies or facts you post, ultimately what you are fighting is fear. People who don’t want Syrian refugees are afraid. Whether that fear is unfounded or not, this is the culture we live in. Politicians (especially on the GOP side) and the media love to make people afraid. People who are afraid are easier to control, the less likely they are to think critically, and the less likely they are to use reason to get them out of that state of fear. I must ask myself the question then if engaging someone in an issue directly isn’t working, how do I make people less afraid? I can find no way to easily do that on social media, so I’ve decided that ultimately maybe it’s better that if social media is going to be relaxing and enjoyable than I just need to make it a community that I want to be in. I’ve thought about dropping Facebook altogether, but with family far and wide, and good friends I want to stay in touch with I know that’s not realistic, but maybe it’s my own weakness, or maybe it’s just age, but I can’t keep getting bombarded with bigotry and hatred every time a tragic event happens and we have the compassionate reaction continues to get treated as the worst idea ever.
To those of you who are afraid. I wish I could take that fear away. I wish I could help you realize that statistically, the real things you should be afraid of in this world have nothing do with refugees fleeing for their lives, black people, or gay people. I wish I could convince you that nobody is coming for your guns, nobody is persecuting you for being Christian, nobody is turning your children autistic or trying to poison you with vaccines, and the anthropogenic climate change is a real problem and not a liberal agenda by scientists. I wish I could convince you that most people really do want to help you and that most people want to simply enjoy the same feelings of freedom and safety that you have even if you do live in too much fear to really enjoy the life you’ve been given.
Many of you who live in fear, live in a land of what ifs. I wish I could ask you to ask a different set of what ifs too. What if things actually get better if we help people? What if by embracing the unknown it becomes known and we aren’t so afraid anymore? What if instead of creating more enemies, you gain more friends. What if defeating an enemy is actually done through compassion than hate? What if those people who you dehumanize are not that different from you? What if the difference in whether the outcome of a situation is good or bad, depends mostly on your attitude and that you can make things better simply facing a situation with courage, love, and humility, instead of running and hiding? And since history teaches that empires often crumble, what I really wish is that you seriously sit down and ask the question what if that destitute Syrian refugee who once had all the comfort in the world but who is destitute, scared and has lost friends, family, and love ones was you? Really think about it. Really think about what kindness would mean to you at that point. Really think about how desperate you might be to even have a remote chance of feeding your children.
And finally to those whose concern for the homeless and impoverished in our own nation have come to the fore. Assuming you are not just making excuses, then bravo. We have a lot of people who suffer here too. We have growing income inequality, a shrinking middle class. We have a high cost of tuition that prevents many people from getting educated unless they start off life in a great deal of debt. We have a lack of sex education, we have a lack of social support for families who need more maternity and paternity leave. We have disparity in public education K-12, and many states that lack funding, accurate historical textbooks, and are forced to not teach strongly supported scientific theories like evolution, the big bang and anthropogenic climate change. We have a corrupt political system that favors money over serving the people. We have incarcerated far too much of our population for minor crimes, and a tilted justice system against minorities that prevent them achieving the equal status that law guarantees them. We have spent vast sums of money on foreign wars that haven’t seemed to make us feel any safer, and have most likely bred more harm in the world than we have helped. And if this compassion that is overflowing in your heart for your fellow man or woman here in the U.S. I encourage to fight for it every day, not just on days where we talk about Syrian refugees being let into the country. I encourage you to always be politically active and vote for those people who can bring about the change we need to help our own people. I even have a presidential candidate just for you. 🙂
You live in a country that over time has helped many impoverished people from other countries. You have helped women, blacks, and LGBT’s become more equal and gain more freedom. These are all things to be proud of. Compassion requires perseverance as well, so don’t ever think you are done.