Thought I’d share a bit of a story, and how I’ve felt about the experience as the years have gone by.
The sheer anger folks sometimes respond with to what are truly reprehensible views disturbs me almost as much as those reprehensible views, and oft times seems counterproductive. I ‘get it’. I mean, I can’t believe in this brave new millennium where the world’s information is available in ways never previously dreamed of, where people from all walks can communicate in an instant, that we really still do have to deal with the seemingly foolish things that divide us against one another, still have to do deal with ingrained generational falsehoods, and on and on.
How do we break this cycle? I think it’s important to have empathy for one another’s humanity even in the face of such things. And it’s not easy.
Well, it’s not a happy story. But it’s one that reminds me of why love is so damn important. It’s something that is so easy to forget in times of madness. We want to lash out in the face of evil. It becomes too easy to forget about love in the face of such raw anger and in turn become what we hate.
It was over thirty years ago, just a few weeks before I left for the service. A friend and I drove down to Florida for a bit of a getaway. This was the first time I’d traveled the south, and of course, as we drove through some of the metropolitan areas on the way down, we were a bit taken aback at how ‘in your face’ those confederate statues were.
Anyway, one of our destinations was Disneyworld, and neither of us had been there. It was the off season, so the place wasn’t mobbed. Still, even with shorter lines, there were long lines for the popular rides and after a time, I was tired of waiting in lines. I convinced him to go in with me to the Hall of Presidents attraction. Ever been? It is animatronic versions of the presidents who each step forward in turn and robotically speak about their administration, with larger than life screens behind them showing images of the their day. The place was practically empty. We sat in the front row. In the row behind us came a weary mother with a VERY small daughter. I remember she explained to her daughter that the stitching on her brand new micky ears was her name and the thick Georgian drawl was unmistakable. It was a warm sound to my ears, and a little foreign, having lived my life in NJ.
So the show started and Washington, then Adams, then Jefferson et. al. each spoke with full color images on the screens behind them. Changing with the times and passing presidents. Then Lincoln stepped forward. Many images from the civil war flashed on the screen as he spoke.
The little girl, in her thick southern accent with full incredulity said to her mother: “Mawma? Was the north the ‘good guys’???” Mawma replied with a bit of frustrated venom in her voice at what her daughter was asking “Well … sorta!”
That two sentence conversation stuck with me. I recall the sound of it today as fresh as over three decades ago. I imagined a world where the north were not the good guys. I knew Mawma loved her daughter very much, and daughter loved her. I also mused over the kinds of things she was being taught at home. But here’s the thing. From the youngest age she was being taught these things from people that love her. People that she loves and trusts. And why not? These were things that her mawma was likely taught since long before the time of her own grandmother, probably back through the generations to about a hundred and thirty years earlier or so.
So as the times have gone forward. I wonder this. As this little girl went forth into the world, she no doubt must’ve encountered people along the way who were not taught these things. When she began to speak on these things in the company of strangers, these unshakable beliefs, how did those people react? Did they shout? Did they point and laugh? I feel pretty sure that they may not have acted with love. I’m pretty sure they might have responded angrily. Cruelly. If one or three among them did react with true love and empathy and the patience while trying to explain why their views were different … how well did that balance out the myriad of voices speaking in anger? How well did that overcome the generations of voices that taught her those things with love? Which voices would she choose to believe?
I wonder where she is now. She’s probably this side or that of thirty five years old, possibly a mother herself. Who will she hire or not? Who will she allow her children to associate with or not? How will she teach them as they grow? And how long will this cycle last?
I have to love. I can’t agree with some of these long held beliefs, but I have to love. It’s just all too important.