My heart has become heavier and heavier over the last few days and weeks, and I finally feel so strongly compelled to write about it that I can’t stop myself.
As the 2016 election process has continued to evolve, I have watched the American commentary on the candidates and supporters of the candidates dissolve intro vitriolic statements of hate. We have regressed to a society that refuses to understand that the world is grey and blue and red with many different shades, and instead, aligned in camps that view the world exclusively in black and white. Wrong and right. My way or not at all.
We have stopped remembering the foundations of our country – all men and women are equal regardless of gender, religion, race, socioeconomic status, or sexual orientation. We ALL deserve respect and we all deserve a voice.
Yesterday, for me, things came to a head. In one day, I saw and read two of the most horrifying viral stories of the week about how Americans have treated each other. It was followed by reading through commentary on Facebook as my friends and family processed the Republican election. I was shocked and crushed at how angry and hurt and cruel we spoke to each other – not to strangers (which is still wrong) – but to friends and family that we love. Why do we feel like others must agree 100% with what we believe. That is inherently, the most unAmerican concept of all. In a country founded on the tenet of freedom of speech, we have become a society that is constantly trying to silence each other.
The Welfare Story
Yesterday, I read a Scary Mommy blog by Maria Guido that touched on a viral video of a woman at Walmart berating a man for using food stamps. She screamed at him in public in front of her kids and his.
As a child who grew up with food stamps for a short period of my life, I remember the shame and anger that I felt the first time that I had to pay for bread with foodstamps. I remember my mom secretly crying at midnight in the bathroom when she thought we were asleep because she worked full time as a teacher – an educator – and didn’t make enough for us to live on in her first year in a new job. Those months on public assistance are something that I vowed that I would never go through again, and I pray each day that it is true.
No one knows someone’s story when they rely on government assistance, but we have no right – never a right – to judge. The women in the video was wrong. Her actions were horrible. But, do we as a society, have a right to be so quick and publicly capable of judging someone’s missteps either. Are we right in posting this online and watching it spiral out of control? Someone knows this woman. And while I hope that someone will educate her personally on why she was wrong to behave this way, in the community that she lives in, she is likely publicly shamed.
I will admit that I’ve blogged emotionally before – even about the misdeeds of others. But, I’ve worked hard in my writing if an individual is included, to mask their identity and allow them to maintain anonymity. The video shows the woman, her child and the man’s child. That cannot be taken away. Will her child be bullied in school? Will his?
In the spirit of public outrage, I know why this went viral and I abhor the behavior. But was the public show of outrage, the posting of the video with two children’s faces shown, ok? I don’t know. I truly don’t.
The Diversity Discussion
Another huge conversation this week is the uproar created by on Old Navy ad that shows a bi-racial couple. Every news organization has made it a story, though my favorite commentary came from the Huffington Post on Monday. I would agree with the author on the American response – “Bravo Internet!” – and the social media movement #LoveWins.
We are a country that really hasn’t fully acknowledged the demons in our closet. We built our country on the backs of minorities and the poor. And the wounds left behind have not fully healed because they haven’t fully been treated, or acknowledged.
We can’t fix it in one day, nor can one person fix it, but a social movement built in peace and kindness – #LoveWins – is a damn good place to start. We may not be able to change people’s opinions on race, religion or sexual preference, but we can show through love over hate, that cruelty and violence, viscious words masked in the anonymity of the internet, embracing racism and sexism and more, is not tolerated in the America that we want to live in.
We Cannot Repeat History
I want to end with what touched me most yesterday in my daily internet interactions. A post by my friend and neighbor who lost family in Europe in the 1940s. In her Facebook post, she named the children who would have been her aunts and uncles that couldn’t escape a regime that was created and existed in evil and violence and hate. She shared this image from the holocaust that truly shows the cost to the world when hate wins out.
Remember the lessons that our grandparents learned first hand. We must fight the hate. We must win with love.