Early this morning, while walking with my faithful canine companion, an SUV pulls out from a driveway just ahead of us and heads in our direction. The driver, a male stranger of middle age, offers a friendly wave and smile. As I wave back, my heart lifts from this simple act of kindness.
It brought to mind a man who for about 20 years has been, among other things, a friend of the unconditional variety. We haven’t spoken for 6 months? It’s like we talked yesterday. You know what I mean. This man lives in a different city and holds political views in diametrical opposition to my own. He and I speak on the phone with some regularity. We know where we each stand; he sometimes teases me about my views, as I do about his. But we do not argue.
These days political differences, once a more or less permeable boundary, as in “working across the aisle,” have morphed into alternate realities. Each “community” grinds their own axe, to hell with others who see things differently. We saw the extremities of this divide on the day when citizens attacked their own capitol, some with apparent murderous intent.
No amount of persuasive speech or rational evidence will change the minds of those whose are charged up with anger. Anger, as you know, is an expression of fear. Bullies are fearful. Those who engage one-on-one with bullies are foolish, yet letting bullies rage unhindered only serves to endanger others.
Should there be limits on free speech? I am not so sure that turning off the tap at this point serves much purpose. The flow will only erupt and spew elsewhere. Hateful speech may incite some, but the root of the problem lies elsewhere. You can only light a fire where the fuel is already laid. What are those who are so angry afraid of? That’s where to begin with solutions.
A man pulls out of his driveway. He waves and smiles at a woman walking her dog in the morning sun. The woman waves back. Her heart is lifted. She thinks of the good that comes from kindness. And sharing this, she knows that some will view her as simplistic.
Rage on, my friends! Or relax, regain perspective, and share a friendly wave with a stranger. Refrain from argument. See behind the anger. Don’t react to bullies–they feed off of anger. Try not to shun those who currently dwell in an alternate reality.
Having said this, we need to work together towards an equitable society where all life forms can thrive. Where humans beings are equal regardless of any external factors, where all have enough but not too much.
Sending you a smile. Share it with the next stranger you meet.