Like many this year, I have been struggling. Specifically, with the ugliness on display in this country: the racism, the misogyny, the sexism, the homophobia, the transphobia, the xenophobia. These things have always existed, but they seem to have moved to the forefront. Or maybe I am just more clearly seeing it.
It likely seems worse because we have started to wake up to the fact that none of these things were ever OK and that more or less accepting them as a part of life was horrendous. People are now saying these things can no longer be shrugged off.
We are all equal. Our differences are not wrong or sinful. These persecuted groups are what make the world beautiful, but that beauty has been muted by a society created in the image of straight white men. With their power being challenged, many of them (but by no means all) are digging their heels in.
There seems to be an increasing pride in having views based in persecution. There's righteousness. A sense of entitlement. How dare we label them as racist, homophobic, etc? We are the bigots for asking them to change. They have the right to their opinion.
Not all opinions are created equal. Not all views should be accepted as valid. If an opinion is based upon hating someone for something they literally have no control over; if your belief is based on the degradation of a whole group of people — then no, we can’t agree to disagree. Some things are just wrong. Period. Full stop.
Problematic views regarding race, gender and sexuality have lasted for centuries because they are passed down generationally. At some point, you have to say, “No, that is wrong.” But herein lies the problem. No one likes being told they are wrong, especially about something they have held to be true for years. How do you fight that?
I have gotten angry about the things I have been reading, hearing and seeing, but I am tired of being angry. It isn’t a healthy emotion. It is anger that has twisted those whose views are upsetting me into bitter, spiteful people full of contempt. I have seen it from the other side, too, with name calling and petty attacks on character. It doesn’t help. It just emboldens the other side to stick to their guns.
Both conservatives and liberals have taken to seeing each other as stereotypes. There’s no debate. No exchange of ideas. No listening. Just mudslinging. We are increasingly becoming a society of narcissistic psychopaths, and I don’t necessarily mean that in a violent or criminal sense.
Merriman-Webster defines "psychopath" as “a person having an egocentric and antisocial personality marked by a lack of remorse for one's actions, an absence of empathy for others, and often criminal tendencies.”
That is a pretty accurate depiction of an uncomfortably high number of people in this nation. It is becoming more and more clear that the biggest problem in this country is a lack of empathy. It is the root of all that is wrong, not just in the United States but the world.
The lack of compassion, basic human decency and respect toward others that I see on a daily basis makes my heart ache. How is it that so many people can so easily deny the existence of others simply because it is different from their own?
I think the only way forward is to try to appeal to people's humanity. They do have some. It is buried deep down. I see some hope in the COVID-deniers that got the coronavirus and saw how bad it was first-hand. They saw they were wrong and began sharing their stories, advocating for awareness.
If these racists, sexists, homophobes, etc., actually experienced even a small window into the world of the people they so broadly label, maybe they would think twice. This may be naive optimism in thinking it is that simple. I realize those types of beliefs are deeply rooted and hard to unlearn, but they were learned. We aren’t born hating. We are taught to hate.
We can’t merely tell people they are wrong. We need to show them they are wrong. We all need to share our stories, our experiences. Most probably won’t listen, but if we can just get one to see the humanity in those they have been persecuting, maybe they will become an advocate, too, and add their story to the cause.
We all need to reconnect with our humanity.
Alec Kerr is the arts and entertainment editor for The Conway Daily Sun.