By Alfredo A. Weeks VI
You know the term ignorance is bliss? Well not this time. As much technology and social justice causes out there today, it seems like sides from north, east, south and west aren’t getting the point. We hear people everyday complaining about how many misinterpret their culture, but fail to actively find and approach people they don’t understand.
Honestly, ask yourself when was the last time you felt uneasy about a particular culture, person, moral, or religion and decided to get it straight from the horse’s mouth? I think we need to do something as individuals to engage with those we disagree with to find clarity.
Trust me, by no means am I saying just go and talk to someone who clearly hates you and somehow you’re going to magically sing kumbaya. Because some people you simply won’t get through to, no matter how much singing you do. With all of the planes I’ve hoped on and off of throughout my years, nothing gives more satisfaction than when I’m right at home trying to understand someone who shares the same country as I do.
There are cultures right here in America we can experience and explore without spending a dime. I mean you see people travel half way around the world just to have bragging rights, then land in a foreign country and become the worst kind of tourists. All the while they come home and shy away from someone who has a heavy foreign accent because they feel “weird” or “awkward.” In America we have the whole world right here in our own backyards. People are quick to say “I love hummus” then realize when they are talking to an Arab they look the other way when a racist comment is made. I like going to new places too, but I want to know my neighbors’ culture and what their life experiences are.
Trust me, by no means am I saying just go and talk to someone who clearly hates you and somehow you’re going to magically sing kumbaya. Because some people you simply won’t get through to, no matter how much singing you do.
I’ve tried a couple of times to cross the barriers in the cultural divide and I gotta tell you, its not easy. A while back I came across a Trump voter and we had known each other for some time by then. The question came about “where we thought America is heading,” clearly we had some serious disagreements. Although we disagreed on many things, we were both able to clearly voice our opinions. The crazy part is how this guy mentioned many times how he thinks of me as a friend. He brought me stew, helped fix my car and on top of that he didn’t take any money for it. He mentioned how the only way he would be able to provide for his family and take care of his grandkids is to vote against Obamacare. This had me realize there are those who can be the nicest people you know until it hurts their pockets. It still turns my stomach. This guy did have a point though. It was hard for him to make ends meet ever since Obamacare came about and he said “voting for Trump was the only way out.” In a Chris Rock voice, “I don’t agree, but I understand.”
I’ve seen people like Van Jones from CNN reach out to those who clearly don’t share the same political views he does, yet, he was there to listen. When technology comes to play, I’m beginning to realize how much I’m spoonfed articles that I’m most likely going to read and agree with. Someone needs to reset the algorithm because I want to read the stories and watch the clips straight from the people I may disagree with so I can see how solid my own beliefs really are.
Save that plane ticket, because the information you may be missing out on might be sitting right in your own backyard.
The question is how do we find the people we don’t understand and try to bring some kind of civil discourse? There are so many people who are creating these narratives about one another that aren’t true. Don’t get me started about “fake news” because thats a whole other black hole in it’s self. List any two groups of people who have opposing points of views. Male, female, gay, straight, Muslim or Jew. I have had first hand accounts where I’ve witnessed people push their own ignorance further only due to lack of engagement with the opposing side.
Times are changing and we have the power to spread the truth. Everyday we have opportunities to engage with and try to understand one another. After all of the listening, screaming matches, and hurt feelings what are we to do after we discover our own truths. Hopefully, disagreements will perpetuate tolerance, while we become the voice of the oppressed. Let our curiosity become the compass to spark engaging conversations in order to understand one another.
Please remember, you may not have to go far to find something intriguing or different. Save that plane ticket, because the information you may be missing out on might be sitting right in your own backyard.