Navigating a Divisive America
“Let passion fill your sails, but let reason be your rudder” – Khalil Gibran
This past week America acknowledged the 50th Anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I don’t know if this was a celebration of his life or a mourning of his death. What I DO know is that it sparked questions among the African-American community as to if “things have gotten better in America since the Civil Rights Movement or have things gotten worse?” The concept of “better” or “worse” is relative to the individual person’s perspective. What we contend is that things have certainly changed. How we receive and perceive that change determines our understanding of “better” or “worse” in this context. One thing seems certain: perhaps due to the speed of technology, we are smack in the middle of a very divisive America. Whether it be racial relations, religion, politics, sexual orientation, diplomacy, etc. we are in a perceived divisive state. Everyone seems to be on a “side” of every issue and we seem to be willing to fight to the end to defend it. What is the basis of this behavior? What is the solution to the challenges we face? How do we handle Navigating a Divisive America?
In today’s times compared to the past, information, whether authentic or fake, travels extremely fast. And with today’s technology, we also have an immediate platform to respond and share our opinions, views and emotions with whatever is happening at that very moment. Unfortunately, this helps to perpetuate divisiveness because many believe their views are the sole truths to whatever the situation. The amount of emotion we offer in these divisive scenarios feeds the issues and therefore they grow. Our emotions feed the beast of discontent without solution. And we stand firm as if our opinion, our emotions, our views are the only ones that are actually valid and true. “I don’t care about your experience! I don’t care who you are! You don’t look like me. You don’t wear what I wear or listen to the same music. What you like is STUPID and what I like is REAL!” Why are we so matter-of-fact with life? As if we have everything figured out and there can be no other way, lest we ‘all die horribly.’ When did we become so resolute? And does that resolution serve to further our intentions or stifle them? The fact is, the resistance we offer, backed with the passionate emotion we feel, only fuels the very thing we don’t want. In other words, the more we focus on what it is we DON’T want, the more of that thing we invite into our life’s experience. This is a fact. Therefore, “let passion fill your sails, but let reason be your rudder.” Reason.
A person walks into a school and kills 17 children. But we are literally “fighting to the death” about the right to bare arms. It’s not about taking away a person’s right to have a gun. It is about creating laws that protect against the type of weapons being manufactured and sold. So, at the very least, perhaps this helps slow down the number of bullets being shot, in an effort to mitigate mass murder. Reason. Illegal immigrants perceptibly put a strain on resources in America. But it’s not about building a wall between us like my children do in their room when they are angry with each other. It’s about working together to build a better system that stops the illegal crossing and also working harder to document people correctly. Reason. A police officer shoots, beats or chokes an African-American to death. Black Lives Matter demonstrates and is considered a terrorist group. It’s not about perpetuating the violence. It’s about acknowledging and embracing the unconscious and sometimes prevalent bias some officers have towards people of color first. And suggesting use of any of the other several methods police have at their disposal BEFORE pulling your service weapon and murdering someone. i.e. taser, nightstick, stun gun, pepper spray, rubber bullets, your partner, etc. Reason.
But everyone has their opinion on these issues that divide America. And everyone has the right to feel exactly what they choose to feel. This is one of the tenets America was built on. Yet, based on today’s divisive America, we seem to have forgotten this. And therein lies the breakdown in our communication…making our situation in America that much more divisive. Isn’t it ironic? Isn’t it ironic that this country was supposed to be built on the celebration of different cultures, backgrounds and religions? Yet, we are one of THE most intolerable countries in the world. “I don’t like you because you’re Muslim, you’re black, you’re gay, you’re a woman, you’re a Jew, you’re poor…” Our lack of understanding and appreciation and the fervor we carry regarding who we are and what we believe will cause us to lose the very things we are fighting SO hard to protect. Being open and understanding allows for growth instead of stagnation. There is no need to think or believe that when we open ourselves up for understanding and appreciation that what WE believe will be diminished in any way.
This past week we were marketing our book, From Alignment to Enlightenment – The Path to Joy & Peace, on Social Media. The ad went out to about 5,000 people and many of them engaged in some type of way via “likes” and/or comments. The book touts spiritual empowerment: finding purpose, identifying limiting beliefs, creating the reality you desire, etc. One gentleman’s comment was “Thanks anyways…Jesus is my author and finisher of my story…everlasting life!” We responded to the man’s comment with a “like” of our own. What struck me funny and the thought that came to mind was, “does he feel his religion or religious beliefs will be threatened or diminished because he reads a book about finding peace and joy that is not based in Christian belief?” And if so, “are your beliefs built on that shaky of ground to where you need to reaffirm you are ‘okay’ by making that comment?”
It seems that many people in today’s divisive America demonstrate the same insecure behavior on several topics. People are insecure in their political beliefs… racial bias beliefs…community beliefs…work beliefs…religious beliefs…socioeconomic beliefs…and seem to be prepared to fight to the finish to defend them. If someone else has a differing opinion, different experience, different view or different understanding there is no reason to allow insecurities to overwhelm you to stand up and fight to the death for what you believe. And imagine an America where our varying beliefs actually having commonalities or even supporting or complimenting our core beliefs. Reason. Understand…our individual beliefs are never in competition with someone else’s beliefs. There is no trophy at the end of an opinion-based contest. So why give it that energy? In fact, the more energy given to those types of scenarios only serve to feed them and the situations continue to perpetuate themselves. Instead of inviting chaos into your world…invite peace.
A Few Keys to Navigating a Divisive America
- Be Confident in Who YOU Are and What YOU Believe.
No person on this earth has control over you. And especially no person’s beliefs have power over you. The same as your beliefs can’t control another person’s actions. Accepting and acknowledging this fact will help you live more stress free. Why? BECAUSE YOU WILL REALIZE YOU CAN’T CONTROL THE WORLD! It’s not your job!
- Be Open to Learn
Think back to when you were a child. Or think back to when your children were toddlers or young students in school. Learning was exciting! And the more we learned, the more confident we became. We felt good to learn and apply something new. When you studied for an exam and got an A+ you felt a great sense of accomplishment. The issue is, many people see academic learning as a starting/stopping point after completion. The reality is…we never stop learning unless we DECIDE we know everything we need to know. Life can be so much more interesting when we remain open to learning. Learn about another culture. Learn about another religion, another race, creed or color. Learn as much as possible. Stop talking so much about yourself. And listen to someone else’s story. Realize you don’t know it all.
- Find Something Good in ALL Things
When we can find something good or learn to find something of value or appreciation in ALL things, it will be that much harder to hate it. And the funny thing about this wonderfully made Universe is, the more we find to appreciate, the more abundant our life experiences become. The more we find dissatisfaction and discontent in people and things, the more dissatisfaction and discontent is delivered into our lives.
Live life openly, welcoming positive experiences. Learn to navigate like the Captain you were born to be.