LESS DOGMA, MORE PATIENCE, PLEASE
By NANCY PATRICK
Did you know you can actually look up colors related to causes and find a long list of color symbols? Wikipedia has a list of awareness months and days. Anything that anyone has ever cared about appears on one list or another because we all have our pet peeves, projects, and passions.
Something I would like to draw attention to with an awareness month or recognition day relates to the problem of societal anger and intolerance. I don’t know what color I would choose—maybe a powder blue because of the soft pastel rather than a bright primary color.
I think of pastels as quieter than primary colors. Pastels whisper to me. They say, “Be quiet. Stay calm. Think. Listen. Understand. Reserve judgment. Be rational. Focus.” Not only do I need to hear these cautions, but also, I think many others need to open ears, close mouths, focus eyes, and turn on brains.
In my nearly seven decades of life, I have lived through some tense times in the world. Fortunately, I did not live during either WWI or WWII, but throughout my childhood, the United States seems to have involved itself in one way or another in wars around the world.
Some of those wars received more public support than others, with my generation experiencing the full impact of the war in Viet Nam. Many of my peers lost either their lives or their loved ones in that war. That time in history was rife with violence, demonstrations, and riots, with many young men fleeing to Canada to avoid the United States draft. Even though many Americans thought our country had no business in Viet Nam, we did not blame the soldiers who went to serve.
Many years later, we engaged in the war on terror after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York City. Again, not all Americans agreed on our government’s policies regarding that war, which as we all know, continues. Again, citizens do not condemn or blame the soldiers who serve in those wars. Many of us put magnets of support for our troops on our cars during those wars.
Our present social climate has nothing to do with policy. It has everything to do with a full-blown, mud-slinging feud between political parties. The way our country now engages in a war of personalities, values, and fundamental beliefs saddens and frustrates me. Our handling of these longstanding differences has become outrageous and dangerous.
Many people have no qualms about telling the world exactly what they think about individuals, events, policies, others’ beliefs and values, and others’ rights. Social media seems to have erased “filters.” When I say filter, I refer to people’s ability to screen their thoughts before speaking them.
I grew up with an awareness of different levels of appropriate behavior and conversation. For example, the home environment allowed a relaxed atmosphere for discussing almost anything, but school, church, and office had a different set of rules for appropriateness. In addition, we reserved some topics for very special and limited audiences. Of course, back then I had the advantage of time to think things over before voicing my opinions whereas people today via social media vent in real time to a wide and unspecified audience. These thoughts—sometimes random, incoherent, volatile, inappropriate, and wrong—often cause offenses, anger, and violence.
My vision for our society includes a drastic change of attitude among our citizens. I deplore the hatred and violence I witness every day and dream of a time when we can respect the rights of others to disagree with us without fear of retaliation. Many people feel such strong allegiances to certain parties that they seem to have lost their individual strength to stand firmly for what they truly believe—not what someone else has told them to believe.
These allegiances have divided many families and friends. The venue of social media often tempts people to think that all readers believe as they do religiously, politically, or socially. If readers are not in the majority camp of the person posting the comments and makes a contrary remark, they open the door to scathing replies meant to demoralize and humiliate the writers. Some of the remarks are personal and insulting such as, “I thought you had a brain, but I was wrong” or “How can you claim to be a Christian and believe that?” Sometimes people forget that not all members of any religious group believe the same things.
My real goal aims for less dogma from the various viewpoints and more patience, tolerance, and kindness. I joined Facebook, my only social media membership, a year ago in order to participate in my class reunion plans. As much as I enjoyed being in touch with classmates again, I soon learned that I hold extremely different views from many of my classmates.
In order to remain friendly and included, I have refrained from responding to politically charged comments with which I disagree. Although sometimes difficult to keep my thoughts private, I find the self-discipline allows me to stay in the fold. I find the relationships worth the price I pay by keeping my mouth shut. I hope that others will reassess their reactions and find kinder, calmer, and more rational ways to accomplish their goals.
When we want to express ourselves openly, freely, and without fear of retribution, we should join groups that share our values. Facebook has many such groups that tie members together ideologically. That way, we can make new friends as we keep our old ones.
Nancy Patrick is a retired teacher who lives in Abilene and enjoys writing.