'oneness' and 'otherness'

I have been trying to avoid talking about politics. I even penned a post a few weeks ago and decided to shelve it for never. I have had a personal desire to listen to the American ‘news’ to feel connected to home, but sadly the only news of note seems to be violence (fear) or politics (hate salted with fear). 

As I listen to the candidates on both sides, it feels like the United States is working as hard toward hate as I am toward love. There is a constant barrage of depersonalization or ‘otherness’. A profound dividing of our people against each other. It is clear to me that the United States political process does not represent a discussion about the future of the nation. 

I’m sorry to be cynical, but it seems that the majority of the political discourse revolves around:

  1. Finding ways to discredit or make the populace dislike your opponent.
  2. Finding a mixture of primary social issues that the populace are angry or indignant about.
  3. Gather a whole lot of money (or free media attention) to say it repeatedly and loudly until it becomes fact.

Other than winning the election, there does not seem to be any codifying theme either. It is as if the candidates group people by greatest fear or primary hate, and then try to sweep the perfect mixture of piles to fill their pail. This feels like an over-simplification, but I feel like an appropriate level of complexity is long lost.

My mother was a kindergarten teacher, and she held her own election during each cycle. A serious election where children were forced to choose between M&M’s (not peanut) and Skittles. Every child in the class received an equal portion of the elected treat, and she used it as a teaching opportunity. When the children who lost would say “but I want skittles” (because chocolate always wins), she was able to explain that no matter what every one wanted, after the election we all come together again.

But that does not happen anymore, we were not together before and we never come back together. Yes, the lesson has some holes in it, it was designed for kindergarteners - but I still think many could learn from it. 

If only we Americans could rally behind love the way we do anger, fear, and hate. I do not think it is so far fetched, but I also do not remember a moment when someone really tried. The last time I felt hope and love was in 2008, when President Obama was elected. I had hope for positive change that was going to improve the lives of so many, and I was encouraged by the fact that our nation had proven we can overcome bigotry and hate to elect an African American President. I thought this was one of the most important social issues of our time - I still believe it.

Sadly, that election opened my eyes to the more subtle and covert ways that bias and prejudice are woven into our society, culture, and politics. However, even that eye-opening is just another opportunity to take a step forward.

This problem of ‘otherness’ is worsening as technology enables us to operate within our preferred circles of reinforcing thought. One of the most important lessons I have learned in coming to Thailand so far, is that there is a human ‘oneness’. No matter how different 2 cultures are, I believe we share more in common than not. 

One way to recognize this is to: go out and find someone very different than you, talk to them, hear their story, share their human experience, and start to see the world from their perspective.You could even try this with a friend or acquaintance you feel is the least like you. If you walk into to the conversation with open eyes, open ears, and an open heart, you will learn something (not that I have any idea what that will be. For me, it has been really helpful to try not to enter or leave a conversation without verifying understanding; too often I assume I heard the correct meaning behind what was said.

A related ‘otherness’ and the last I will mention today is the tendency to rush to judgment, and broadcast a rebuttal to what we ‘heard’. I do not want to get too polarizing here, but the best example that comes to mind is the “Black Lives Matter” movement. Without arguing the merits of the movement, I agree with the motto “Black Lives Matter’ because I believe all lives matter. I also agree with the counter protest’s statement of “police lives matter” because again, all lives matter. But I worry the latter’s genesis lay in a group of people not hearing the actual professing that ‘black lives matter’ but instead hearing “police lives do not matter”. 

26-March 2016 - Susan shared an excellent article that improves on my thoughts and discussions. Among the many wonderful thoughts, it explains the important point that bringing in "all lives matter" is irrelevant. I still have a lot of learning to do - Read It Here.

Susan and I were taught about this miscommunication phenomena during our marriage preparation. Even with two pretty like-minded people misunderstandings happen regularly. When we have a heated disagreement we have a tool. During an onerous discourse, one of us will often pause after the other stops speaking and say “What I am hearing you say is .....”. The statement seems to open both our eyes to the objections and misunderstandings we are having, and flips a switch from something we are each trying to win to something we are trying to understand, and then we both win. Well... sometimes we don’t win, but at least we both feel like we were heard.

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