Reaction to Anti-Islam Protester at Phoenix Mosque

In an effort to practice what I preach  I counted down from ten to my initial reaction to this video from the Arizona Mosque Protest. I then re-constructed my reaction into this:

I’m glad we give freedom of speech to all. I’m sad they chose to use it the way they have. Im glad people showed up to use their free speech to show their love for their fellow citizens in the face of hate. I’m glad we have good Police like those to allow both sides to express themselves without escalation. I’m glad people did not resort to assuming everyone there is a thug. I don’t believe these people represent all whites or that whites need to explain themselves because of these people. I will try to be consistent in these views no matter the situation. I understand these protesters are scared and have had no help to cope with their fear as a community. That fear/ignorance is all of our faults and we should reach out to them to close the gap between their fears and their fellow humans.

Wrong and right, a practical approach to the news

A news story is just that,. It is not the entire picture of an event – it never is and probably never will be. The world creates too much information to pack into an hour or less of stories.

Responsibly balance what you interpret

This is where your brain and heart come in. It is up to you to always remember that with each story there are two sides and perspectives on every matter. It is important to remember:

  1. That groups of people aren’t all bad
  2. Power is a delicate asset (and privilege) to have over someone
  3. There is still racial (and religious and economic …) tension in the U.S., if not the world. If you ignore it then, like an infection, it will only get worse.
  4. The words we choose are powerful in fueling or dousing the issues above. Negatively classifying a group may be easier for you, but can unnecessarily create a bigger divide per #3 .

For every story you show me of a “black” person shooting a “white” person, I could Google the opposite. Show me A Muslim shot in America, I can Google a tragedy of another group’s loss. We see it every day on social media. The untold stories of a group desperately trying to prove that their group is not the problem. Sadly, I’m doing so, they often try to prove how another group is the problem. They do so directly or indirectly, on purpose or sometimes on accident. Both sides rarely get covered in the same breath. Rarely is there any attempt to see how both sides have pain, loss or tragedy. Why? What would be lost?

Wrong is not exclusive

Can we start by agreeing that these are all wrong? If a police officer dies or an unarmed civilian dies they are both wrong, right? Is it wrong when a police officer frames a civilian? Of course it is. Since they are an authority with power news of it will cause a shock wave of fear in citizens minds that hear it. More so than a story of a civilian framing another civilian. It goes for all types of power: A teacher taking advantage of a student; a political official taking advantage of their constituency; a boss taking advantage of their employee; a wealthy person kicking a homeless person on the street. People fear the powerful preying on the less powerful and praise a David that takes down a Goliath. Not all people of power are corrupt, but when corruption infiltrates the powerful the consequences can be widely devastating to a society. 

The dynamic of these fears toward the powerful are likely learned from our history: Once those of power gain absolute power, freedom is lost. – But I digress. What I am really driving at here is: it is all wrong.  Why not nurture a society that openly confronts each wrong individually and makes an effort to put an end to them all?

The Importance of Being Heard

B2T86N Businesswoman shouting at telephone. Image shot 2008. Exact date unknown.
Average Comcast call
When people aren’t feeling heard they get angry. Think of how mad you get when Comcast (or another cable monopoly) takes your money and gives you no options to resolve the problem on the phone. Being rendered powerless sucks. Of course, you *have* the power to sue or visit their office, but, for the most part, there isn’t much you can do without exerting far more effort than should be required.

Now imagine all your neighbors have no money, and Comcast does it to your entire neighborhood – at the same time or in the same building. More directly, imagine a group of any [race|religion|etc] in a town of low income or out of work people (more importantly, imagine a group “just like you” with less) that simultaneously see multiple shootings of “their own” killed on TV by an alternate group. Imagine hearing the victim was unarmed or under age. What if they felt they didn’t have a voice or options? Would they riot? Probably. Would they be wrong to do so? Yes. Is the other group wrong for killing their unarmed, less fortunate, less empowered person? Yes. It is all yes!

You don’t have to choose a side. You don’t have to say “no” to one thing just so you may agree to another. Believe it or not, you can agree it is all wrong at the same time! No one gets hurt when you support people that have been wronged. Your group will not suffer as a result. (Those that do are probably the outliers that have gotten us in this tense situation in the first place. Help educate them too.) Believe it or not you can openly understand why a person has been wronged and is angry. You can also openly not agree with how they reacted too.

The wrong & right seesaw

We often try to highlight one wrong doing to that best represent how we feel, and,  inadvertently, we can end up belittle the other wrongs that occurred in the situation. As a result, more people feel unheard and more problems pop up. What would happen if people understood the other side and let them have the voice they are dying to have. “Hey [person relating to a tragic event], we are all sincerely sorry for your loss. It shouldn’t happen and we will sincerely going to try and make sure it doesn’t happen again.” We don’t use slurs or classifications to supplement our condolences, and, then, we follow up with action.  What if we just said – yeah – about what happened – that’s not right. It shouldn’t happen again. What if those with more power or money or influence said, “Yes, I can see how we can make others feel powerless. Can I use my position more responsibly in some way? Can I use my position to squelch these issues instead of just fearing I will lose the position I have?”

Practical answers to wrongdoing

Is it wrong when a Muslim is easily labeled a “terrorist” but a non-Muslim of the same offense is just a “shooter”? Yes, of course it is. Is it wrong when an unarmed child is killed? Yes. Terribly so. Is it wrong when an officer is shot in the line of duty? Of course! It is tragic. Is it wrong that anyone is racially singled out, verbally or more tangibly so? Why do you need a rebuttal to that question? Of course it is wrong. Does it happen all the time? Yes. Far too frequently. Can we stop it all? Probably not. Can we try? Yes. Are there income gaps? Yes. Are they all for unjust reasons? Probably not. Are there many that are? Definitely. Is income inequality in those cases wrong? Without a doubt. Do we lose anything by admitting it? No.

We can always try to put an end to any of those wrongs. It is each of our individual responsibility to do so because when we don’t EVERYONE suffers eventually – in some pent up, anger filled, mob assembled way. Call it societal debt: You may want it easy now and ignore how others feel, but eventually it bubbles up – with compounded interest.

It seems like the world has so many “but”s, and “only if”s and “what about mine”s to divvy out. Sure, have those words – it’s natural. What I am asking is that you try and supplement a story with, “I see”, “I understand”, “Yes that is wrong”, “How can we make it better” or “I agree with one part, but it doesn’t help anyone that they said the other.”

My approach

How does it work in practice in my mind? Well if you read this far maybe you’d like to know 😉 If a group I don’t agree with says something that makes sense I try and say “okay that is a good point. I agree with that single point.” And follow up with ,  “However I don’t think it is right to also say X. Can you dig into that more?” or “can you explain what you mean by Y?” Do I fear I will lose my overall position if I concede one iota of ground? Absolutely. But that fear is one to battle within yourself, not support. It is really hard to do, but when it is all said and done I feel like often both sides walk away feeling more bonded, fulfilled and with much to think about.

I have found, as I take this approach of openly agreeing to points that make sense to me (even if the larger argument does not) and being specific with what I don’t agree with, the other side follows suit. As a whole the debate becomes a conversation. I have found that you may get flack for saying “I agree with what you said, but you probably shouldn’t use this word”, or asking “why did you use that word?” may get an initial negative reaction, but it often ends well.

I am also trying to be more balanced on my social media. If a story has a fair point (no matter what side) I try to “like” it. If people gang up on a figure or group, but the point the group is making seem reasonable – I try to ask them to dig in more. Even at the risk of being deemed “wrong” or some sort of traitor by my friends for asking.

If the story has terms that divide unnecessarily like “thug”, “terrorist”, or uses grouping terms like “cops”, “blacks”, “muslims” I try to dig a bit deeper into their reasoning. Why? As Ghandi said, be the change you wish to see. It is just as much an exercise in self improvement than it has to do with changing minds. It is hard as $h!t to do those things – and deep down I know it is the overall right thing to do. Usually working on things with that combination are pretty valuable in life.


I may get flack for this post, but in the spirit of it – feel free to let me know where you disagree and I will try to see your side while offering mine 🙂


The Good Ol’ Days (satire)

I miss the good ol’ days
You know
where I could like who I like
hate who I hate
And not have to worry about being
“Politically correct” and
not get corrected all the damn time

Ah, yeah, the Good ol’ days
I could keep to myself if I wanta
make jokes about whoever I wanna
and not get persecuted for it
not lose my job for it
I was secure

The good ol’ days
I could sit where I wanted
in my own section
with my own kind
and just relax
and breathe
and rest

Ah, the leave it to beaver days
Yeah, that’s when we had it right!
breakfast was waiting for ya every mornin’
no questions asked
separate beds, schools, offices and water fountains
life was easy
you knew your role
it was less complex

The good old days, dammit!
no one was being “watched”
no one was worried about being “recorded”
there was no “social media”
just MY media
it was quieter
less noisy

Back then, only WE had the Nuclear bombs
Ya know what I mean?
only we could vote
our word was the last word
everything was clean cut
we were right
it was easy

Yeah, I wish we could go back
to those good old days
where everyone (who mattered)
had it good
like me

Are we as humans not born moral?

Religion doesn’t create morality ….our humanity is the foundation of morality. Give the power of being human the ability to love life. Do you love life? Do you want to kill right now? Even if God said not to love would you, could you love your wife, your dog or your son less?  That feeling within, that conscience or that burning feeling in your chest is your humanity. That person on your shoulder telling you not to do wrong is within you, and that regret you feel and can’t get rid of far after a wrong has been done is part of what makes you human. Your morality, created by God or not, your natural state of being human is what guides you and 99% of those around you.

Religion doesn’t create morality and nor should religion usurp your innate feelings to care for your fellow man – humanity IS the foundation for morality. We should not lose sight of the fact that we are moral by nature, for the sake of prosperity and civilization we always have been. Under hundreds of religions there is a common thread, preservation of life, and the dignities and freedoms that come with such life. Give the credit of being moral back to the people and allow we the people to love life for life’s sake, not based on an order by God.

With or without a greater being watching over us the essence of this observation is that we are humans and we want the best for ourselves and our loved ones as humans, innately.  If we assume that ‘without a higher power guiding us all is lost’ then we are invariably saying that we are all bad people innately and we are only acting good because we don’t want to receive judgment or punishment, which actually is just plain saying we are bad people. So why try to be good, we aren’t ‘fooling” god…do you think you can fool god? I mean we are living a lie if we are innately bad unless someone demands we are good. I guess my problem with that line of thinking  is that I think I’m a good person that wants what’s best for my friends and loved ones, without being scared into that feeling. I mean did you get forced into loving your child?! I would hope not, you are probabl a good person whether or not someone told you to be. Yes you make mistakes and yes you need guidance but over time it seems like guidance stopped being guidance at all, it became more like mindless slavery and lack of credit to how great of a person you are innately, as a human

If  the only thing keeping one man to the next civil is something outside of that man then what are we protecting when we “try” to be good? You can’t force good out of someone. It’s simple: Do you love life? Do you enjoy being alive, do you enjoy living? You should. Without any denomination or oath do you have the will within you to face another human and kill them without remorse or conscience? For those that have no remorse, which I firmly believe to be the infinitely small minority of people out there, I would bet that there is no thread of consistency among them by race or religion, most likely it is their environment that has left them without a ‘moral compass’ as it isnt a lack of doctorine but the over empahsis in adobting a more negatively focused doctorine that can be found any where a person is willing to take a message out of context. Even worst, their misguided beliefs could only be exacerbated, and often is, by their choice of interpretation on what God intends for them to do. Religion has not stopped atrocities on man. Some may argue that it has been the fuel for hate in most cases throughout history.  I love the moral compass that is found within relgion. This compass can indeed help guide you in times of doubt or lack of pupose and hope, but it is not the compass but the legs of  man that does the walking.

At this point those on the extreme right believe that the lack of religion is indeed the lack of morality, but that perseption lacks a faith in man kind  and I beleive the more and more we disect man, humanity, and morality from one another and give all the credit of purpose or goodness to religon we will end up losing ourselves and what maks us beautiful and human. For the most part it is baseless as even the most devout person with mental problems could not repress those problems from within, strictly through their religion alone. The written word can help remind us, re-inspire or re-solidify our love of life but we must re-invigorate our understanding that we as a people are indeed good and no doctrine will keep the bad minority of the world out. It is paranoid, selfish, ascetic, and overall negative.

If religion did indeed “create” morality then let us rely on that creation now within us once again, and let us be moral for morals sake as we were born/created to do so.  I was once told by a devout conservative that I scared him because I did not broadcast or adopt  a specific doctoring or religion that I believed in, in his words “how can I be sure you wont decide to kill tomorrow if you chose to without knowing what set of rules it is you abide by, a written doctoring”. I responded with “How can I be sure that since you have fragmented your fundamental human morals from a written doctrine/faith one day you won’t hear/read what you believe is Gods word that instruct you to kill me. Won’t you act on that guide as a devout follower without question or rebuttal, in essance dyning your instinct not to kill. Ins’t it more interesting that many have killed against their better judgment or concious in the name of some higher power?”  I don’t think this man was a bad person, but most of the worlds most heinous atrocities were constructed in this manner, from women to black, to Jews, to gays and beyond fanaticals only have power when man abandons their own personal beliefs in their innate perspectives on love, life, humanity and our resilience.  It feels like we have lost faith in humanity far before anyone can truly argue that we have lost our faith in religion and good.