Going high

In her DNC convention speech this summer, Michelle Obama said "when they go low, we go high".  Many liberals have echoed this saying, and many have given their interpretation of what it means or have stated examples of how they wish to do follow the advice.  In its own rite, I believe it to be good advice.  And I wish to take this opportunity to talk about something that has been grating on me slowly over time but more increasingly during the last few days.

First, to exemplify the saying itself on an unrelated topic (but one where the example is far more dramatic), I would like to talk about foreign policy.  Many people (conservatives and liberals alike) will say things like "bomb the hell out of ISIS".  I understand that it is natural to want to retaliate.  It is human nature to want revenge.  When someone attacks us, we want to attack back.  But I also know that what Theodore Geisel wanted to teach us in his book The Butter Battle Book is true--that escalation only results in more alienation, more confrontation, more violence.  They kill 10 of us, we kill 1,000 of them, they kill 5,000 of us.  It can escalate and escalate.  But if we try a more diplomatic, mature approach it may end with fewer casualties.  The answer to violence is not always more violence.

Now, to the topic at hand.  I have seen many of my gay friends post about the bumper sticker picturing two humanoid figures--one with the pattern of the confederate flag kicking one with the rainbow pattern.  This sticker was placed on the back of a truck above a Trump 2016 sticker.  The sentiment is quite clear--beat up the gays.  This isn't a new idea.  It's been around for ages.  It was common place for even police officers to bully gay people (indeed, they would raid gay clubs just for this purpose).  I am sad to see that there still are people who feel like they need to do that.  And when I ask myself why it's sad my inevitable answer is that it is because someone has so much ugliness in his heart he feels a need to be physically violent toward someone he doesn't even know.  All that hatred built up is not healthy.  It is bad for one's emotional health.  It is bad for one's physical health, and it is certainly bad for the physical and emotional well-being of those on whom the anger is being taken out.

I saw several responses to this sticker.  I saw one with the image of Chun-li with the rainbow design kicking a figure in the confederate design.  I saw one of the rainbow person defecating on the confederate figure.  I have seen many of my friends post how upset they are about the original sticker, and showing lots of anger and hatred in response.  I admit I found some of the images humorous.  But the sentiment saddens me.  For the same reason as the original sticker.  I see some of my friends harbor such strong negative emotion--hatred--toward people they don't even know.  (As an aside, I admit in many cases it is people that they do know.)  It is not healthy.  It is not good.  And it doesn't solve any problems.  Hating someone who hates you doesn't make them stop hating you.  It makes them hate you more, and in return you hate them even more.  It only ends in ugliness.  Cruelty begets cruelty.

Then I saw this image.  In it, the rainbow figure is hugging the confederate figure.  The caption reads "forgiveness".  I shared this image on my Facebook page.  No one directly commented on this post, but I did see some of my friends posting responses to this particular image.  These are angry responses.  They say things which I don't disagree with--such as, we don't need to enable our oppressors.  We don't need to acquiesce and allow the oppression to continue.  We don't need to apologize to those who would hurt us intentionally.  And all of that is true.  I would hope that we don't do those things.  However, I see the value of letting go of the hatred.

To harbor ill will toward an ambiguous group of people is not good, regardless of the reason.  I would hope that gay people would not be judged because of the actions of a handful of gay people, so I believe I should not judge Southerners because of the actions of a handful of Southerners (etc).  I don't associate with anyone in my day to day life that is hostile toward me for being gay.  This may be because I have an insulated circle of friends.  It may be because I never talk about sexuality with some people.  It may be because they don't know I'm gay or I don't know they're homophobic.  Who knows.  All I know is if there were someone in my life who was chronically hostile toward me for being gay, I would distance myself from that person and likely cut them out of my life entirely.  (I had to do that with some of my extended family members in the wake of coming out of the closet.)

But I don't want to feel hatred toward people I've never met.  I don't want to hate someone who hates gay people simply because he hates gay people.  To me that is illogical and unhealthy.  I will do what I can to stand up for my own rights--for the rights of any oppressed people--but I do not need to hate anyone in order to do that.  I don't have to befriend people who literally want to kick gay men in the balls.  But perhaps if I befriend some people who have been raised homophobic, I can show them that their upbringing was flawed in this way.

I do not need to focus on the hurt in my heart in order to push for a more egalitarian future.  I don't need to be angry at people I don't know because they disagree with me (or even go so far as to assert that I have no place in their society).  I don't need to hate anyone to teach the message that I believe all people should be treated with dignity and equality.