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I hope this has a point…

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“She’s a liberal! That’s why she says those things!”, the man exclaimed on the cable news network. “They all have their head in the sand because they don’t want to hear the truth”, was the follow-up. As I watched and heard this banter my mind went to the word chosen to describe this person. She was labeled a liberal. We’ve been trained how to respond to that word through years of conditioning. If ours is a conservative background our defense mechanism kicks in and we already discount any logical points raised in the discussion by this person. If we’ve been indoctrinated with a liberal education we tend to take what this liberal person says without question. Growing up in a household with a republican mother and a democratic father I’ve been exposed to both. Are there always two sides to everything? Or could there be many ways to see things? The news commentator said this liberal didn’t want to hear the truth. Politicians, Legal professionals, Educators and Religious speakers love that word. But whose truth are we talking about? I decided to get some literal definitions of these words and see if I can make some sense out of this.

Let’s look at the word liberal in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary.

  1. Of, relating to, or based on the liberal arts
  2. Marked by generosity; given or provided in a generous, open-handed way
  3. Lacking moral restraint obsolete
  4. Not literal or strict.
  5. Broad-minded; especially: not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or traditional forms.
  6. Of, favoring, or based upon the principles of liberalism; Capitalized: of or constituting a political party advocating or associated with the principles of political liberalism.

Here’s Merriam-Webster’s definition of truth.

  1. Sincerity in action or character,
  2. The state of being the case, the body of real things, events and facts, a transcendent fundamental of spiritual reality, a judgment, proposition, or idea that is true or accepted as true, the body of true statements and propositions,
  3. The property of being in accord with fact or reality, fidelity to an original or to a standard,
  4. In accordance with fact.

As I suspected these two words have many different meanings. And depending who’s saying them, where they are said, and how they are uttered can make all the difference. Human beings have the gift of speech. Words can be beautiful and be uplifting and loving avenues that lead to positive outcomes. But they can also be hurtful, disconcerting, evil and deceiving. We tend to use words to label others. We put people into a category using words that are aligned with our belief system. A belief system that automatically puts us at odds with anything that questions those beliefs. I’m labeled a compassionate, loving man by some, and others an unrealistic dreamer who doesn’t live in the real world. When people ask me questions about what I think or feel it takes me a long time to answer. I don’t like labeling myself because as soon as I say a word, people automatically have a opinion based on their truth. I do it too. And I don’t like the fact that my brain categorizes in that way. So I’ve challenged myself to stop labeling people. I’m going to choose my words carefully. If I know a person I’m speaking too has a different belief system from me, I will simply say, “you may not want to hear what I think on that matter.” If they press me, I will say, “I will tell you, but realize I am not attacking you in any way. It’s okay that we don’t see eye to eye on all things.” What I will not do is label myself by a politcal party or religious affiliation.

When asked if I am proud to be an American I quote my mother when she used to say, “pride commeth before the fall.” It’s a genuine human emotion to feel a sense of accomplishment or to feel good about people who achieve great things. But if that feeling separates us from other human beings than I say it isn’t good. Yes, I was born and reside in America so therefore I am an American. But being an American doesn’t make me any better than any other human being with a different nationality.

Even now I’m sure if one of you is reading this you already have an opinion about my beliefs and have, in your own way, labeled me. I understand because our minds always try to make sense out of things that are either different than us or question our belief system. But I truly feel the problems in the world today are human problems. Too long we’ve used words to categorize people, who in many ways are just like us. But because they don’t talk like us, look like us, behave like us, believe like us and act like us we discount them. And that’s just not a nice thing to do.

As a baby we are open to all. In in a few short years we are taught what is good and what is bad. As we get older we are taught who to listen to and who not to listen too. And most times, but not always, we carry those rules into adulthood. And because of that, we must be careful what words we use and what labels we apply to people. Because like us, other people have a belief system too.

Alright, back to our liberal who doesn’t know the truth in the beginning of this short essay. She was indoctrinated with a belief system and it is her choice to feels. The same goes for the news anchor who feels a different way. The truth that is spoken is also relative. And it is obvious that both of their truths are different. So when this impasse is reached we must seek out facts. Things the are indisputable. Are their such things?

Perhaps it’s a good idea for all human beings to install a fact checker on ourselves. When I did it to myself I quickly found out that many of my beliefs were just that; beliefs. They weren’t based on indisputable fact but rather years of conditioning. That doesn’t mean they are false because they are very true to me but what is fact?

I am human. I am male. I am flawed. I love. These facts can be proven by scientific fact or by my actions. As far as my beliefs go…well, I’ll gladly share those beliefs with you if asked.

Things I felt compelled to say…with love.

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Have you ever been so mad at someone you wanted to hurt them? I’m not only speaking about physical hurt, but emotional hurt as well. Retaliation is “to do something bad to someone who has hurt you or treated you badly.” Perhaps you’ve been jilted in a relationship and you can think of nothing but making the person that hurt you pay for how they treated you. I remember feeling that way several times over the years. My heart raced at the thought of getting revenge. And a false sense of gratification filled my senses when I achieved my goal of hurting the other person. But did it do anything positive? I was taught to treat others as I want to be treated. So, would I want someone to hurt me if I hurt them intentionally or otherwise? No, I wouldn’t want anyone to hurt me.

My heart hurts for everyone affected by the terrorist attacks across the globe. The senseless violence that killed and wounded so many and left individuals fatherless, motherless, sisterless, brotherless and friendless. But is the answer retaliation? Violence begets violence I was always taught. If a man strikes you on your left cheek do you strike him? Or do you offer him your right cheek as well? So many mixed messages race through my mind when I struggle to find a way to deal with the violent, hateful acts that continue to hurt so many. Like, why do these terrorists hate? What could have happened to cause them to want to hurt people? We say, for no reason, but they seem to have rationalized a reason haven’t they? Or they wouldn’t have done it in the first place. That’s where I scratch my head over terrorism in general. My mom would say, “they need God in their lives.” But they kill senselessly in the name of God. Historically speaking, zealots have been doing that for thousands of years. Why?

Psychologically speaking there seems to be a feeding of the id, ego and superego. Plus, a sincere lack of empathy. As an older man I can’t even fathom the thought of hurting someone, let alone killing someone for any reason. I tend to feel for everyone involved in a certain way. My heart hurts for the victims and their families and my soul aches for the misdirected, lost, hateful individuals who don’t seem to feel at all. Please, don’t try to twist my words and ask, “How can you feel for these horrible, hateful people who kill others for no reason?” Spiritually speaking it’s the only way I CAN look at it. Is the answer simply to kill those who kill us? Is killing acceptable as long we have a good reason? The legal systems have a entire list of these “good reasons” but does it make it right to take another life?

I know what many of you are thinking. Who is this tree-hugging, life is beautiful, peace, love and flowers whack-job who’s spewing this love is stronger than hate rhetoric. Doesn’t he live in the real world? Of course I do! And like many of you I have thoughts of revenge, feelings of retaliation, even bouts of internal frustration and anger. But, I do my best to emulate the actions of peaceful mentors who taught me by example that love IS the answer. I too can be hypocritical sometimes but I really do my best to love first and foremost. And in my “pie in the sky” outlook, we CAN change others and the world if we all try a little harder to love each other.

In the short-term I know it seems unfathomable NOT to retaliate with killing all the zealots who perform these heinous acts and somewhere in my mind I think about hurting them too. I just really hate myself for having those thoughts. Because somewhere in my soul it just doesn’t seem right. Perhaps there is a solution to not only bring these people to justice but also change their opinion of we “infidels”. And maybe it starts with changing they way we behave in our daily lives. Perhaps we can be more understanding of our neighbors, our co-workers, our acquaintances. If we’re less judgmental. If we don’t expect everyone to believe as we do. Perhaps we can begin a global shift that can begin healing the world, one person at a time…with unconditional love.