It's been a while. I've been holed up trying to come up with an intro to put at the beginning of "A Long Journey," and after 8 months, I have finally found the perfect one. The one in this blog is the draft before it. I was really proud of it, and it really explains a lot of my humor and reveals my personal experiences... but it's more than 1,000 words. I had to cut. Therefore, I'm putting it in this blog for posterity. I did not edit it in the slightest, so there could be errors out the door, but like I said, I'm not even using this intro. Why put in the time to polish it?
Original-Extended Cut Intro
Before we begin, let me tell you a story so that you know what kind of dialogue to expect.
Originally, this small story was going to be about the current geopolitical state of Venezuela in 2016.
Well, after an episode on posting about a crisis happening in the world on social media, I’ve found that anything along the lines of ‘Venezuelans live…’ or ‘Most Venezuelans…’ you will quickly get at least one angry response saying you are racist, even if what you actually said was ‘Most Venezuelans live in Venezuela.’ Already, someone is frantically typing up a comment condemning my actions. Let me save you the time and energy: just walk away. I guaruntee you will not enjoy this game.
Before 2017, I had no idea what the conservatives and republicans were talking about with being too much political correctness in the world. From the liberal side, you mostly hear stories of how a crowd of middle school chants ‘build a wall,’ and frightens the kids who would be very hurt by those actions.
Now I’m not saying that examples like the one I have given do not show a real life of the negative effects of racism. What I’m saying is, is that there is an extreme opposite side to that story as well. In trying to discuss something, people are hyper-focused on racism, and in shouting at the person for it, that all discussion of the actual topic is completely thrown out the window. You didn’t mean to be racist, you don't even understand how it is racist (you even question if the other person knows what racism actually is) yet here you are, being shunned from conversation because you were perceived as such.
What kind of discourse is this? I’m actually a Muslim born and raised my entire life in America. 9/11 happened when I was 5 years old, and yes, living in a small town of 3,000 in the permanent red state of Nebraska. We were literally the only Muslim family in town was at times difficult. After the horrific tragedy that befell our nation, people were scared. Scared of things they didn’t understand, didn’t know, except from what the media presented to them.
Fear has a way of overriding logic and knowledge if you let it, and all my friends who knew me now, distanced themselves. Some of my teachers loathed me. I recall, my best friend at one point said she didn’t want to hang out or be seen together during school. I said all right, and that was that. I suppressed the feelings of sadness, but I also knew that lots of people were upset and angry. When someone said something rude to me, I knew that the anger wasn’t because of something I did, but they needed to vent. They needed justice.
Yes, I did face double standards from few people. However, I did have teachers who treated me like all the other kids. I did have friends who didn’t care what I was and still cared for me. I spent plenty of time to do arts and crafts.
When you focus on positivity and personal growth, external dillemas become very bearable if not trivial. Some people call that inner strength… inner peace?
Whatever it was called, it gave me the power to have conversations with people that some ultra-liberals would denounce as ‘racist scum,’ when in reality, they aren’t (however, it didn't make the experiences any less painful).
These folks were learning about me and heritage as I was learning about them and their traditions. Most importantly, we learned to empathize with each other. Even my best friend who told me she didn’t want to hang out at school before even changed her mind, and we hung out almost every single day. She even invited me over to her house for Christmas.
Open-mindedness, forgiveness for small human errors, two-way conversation - I’m certain that without these three values, I would not have been able to find as many friends as I have, and I am grateful for every person I’ve met along the way, pleasant or unpleasant.
But returning to the present, I’m starting to hear a lot of same conversations I had before. The biggest difference between then and now is that I have seen since that time is that both sides are actually refusing to sit down and talk to each other. Especially the half-informed (the ones who understand part of the sentence but do not understand the context, thus, choose to ignore it). It usually boils down to snarky comments and personal attacks. No one is trying to understand the other… what kind of discourse is this?
To speak quite frankly, it almost seems as if the ultra-liberals are filled with an equal amount of, or more, hate and negativity than the extreme conservatives which makes me really upset, because the liberals main goal was to make the world a better place for everybody. When in common conversation, an ultra-liberal starts attacking and blasting for something that if you look at the grand scale of things, is rather inconsequential and their first amendment right for free speech.
In real life, you don’t make friends by beating each other up. You make friends through listening and respect. Saying that all racism is as heinous as the people who kill each other over the color of their skin, is like saying all crimes deserve capitol punishment. There are gradations, and a minor offense demands an appropriate response. My advice: save your energy for things that demand your action, such as your basic human rights. You have a finite source of energy.
But hey! - I’m not letting the extreme conservatives off the hook either. Let’s say you are in charge of hiring talent. You have found a very talented artist who is highly qualified for the job and passes every skills test easily. But he is a specific race, so you ignore him. No one can choose what race they are, but what one can do is control their actions. Hard work, talent, passion - these are things that a person has to choose to do in order to be successful.
I’m not saying I haven’t gone on the offensive a couple of times. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here telling you about my mistake and where it could have led, because along this journey I found people who have made it a significant past time, if not a full-time job, just looking for people to put down instead of having healthy debate. This behavior is coming from both the extreme conservatives and the ultra liberals. The people who suffer the most, are actually the ones that have made this their full time job.
Here’s my last story, and I swear it’s worth your time. Just the shear level of irony that fate throws at us… Either way, I took away the skip button.
The day I started college in Michigan, they invited a speaker to talk to us as is expected of any college start ceremony. I sat at the very back amongst some new friends I had started making. It was a pretty good ceremony so far, and everyone was in good spirits.
Then the speaker started. He stated he was from Virginia, and (I think) he worked as a contractor overseas in a country in the middle east. That day a car bomb had exploded down the street from where they were having a business discussion.
At this point I was like, ‘I know where this is going. I wonder how PC he’ll be? It can’t be that bad.’
He stated, ‘It was an act of terrorism done by the radical, islamic jihadists…’
I was like, ‘Yikes! He’s not going to back off from that rhetoric, is he? Well, he can’t get that worse.’
He continued, ‘this car bomb was by a female, muslim extremist who wore a scarf around her head…’
At this point I looking around nervously, to make sure no one thought the person he was describing and I were somehow connected (‘cause this was a common behavior in rural Nebraska. I wasn’t sure how urban Michigan culture reacted to rhetoric like this.)
He was done speaking and then the provost with some inspiring words, dismissed everyone. People started to either head home or head to the dorms. I wanted to talk to this provost. However, as I said before, fate can be a creature of pure irony. I ended up having someone introduce me to that speaker and we talked one on one. I could feel the uncomfortable vibes radiating from him. The feeling was mutual.
As I’ve learned from my childhood in Nebraska, smiling and doubling the effort to be pleasant helps keep the conversation in a better place, and this was no exception. We spoke on things that were common between us, and he cordially asked me what program are you in at this college. It was a kind and pleasant conversation.
What I got out of the conversation is that he didn’t mean all Muslims are terrorists. He was simply relaying the story of his horrific experience. At the same time, he was guarded at first at what my reaction could have been and knew people could have taken it as a racist comment and chew him out.
From my perspective, I was not at all made uncomfortable in the audience. His words did not inspire hateful actions to this college going crowd. So my fear that he could have inspired hateful actions did not become a reality.
It leads me to the conclusion that it’s not racism itself that is the issue: but critical thinking skills and education. You see, an critical thinker can discern the context and the actual meaning for themselves without having to rely on someone else to tell them what to think. The non-critical thinkers are told what is good and what is bad, so when something ‘bad’ happens, they react very strongly to it.
I, personally, am flustered by the severe polarization in the world is an understatement. Civility is just as important as critical thinking in fostering constructive debates.
Anyways, this is a good enough disclaimer for the type of story to expect. If you're easily offended, just walk away. Now onto the actual game.