Why We Fear, and How We're Part of the Problem

Monday, November 14th.
Last week, I publicly wondered on Facebook how people were so afraid of the world in the wake of a Trump election. The day after the election, I saw comments from people I know, people whom I knew to be intelligent, basically erupting in what I saw to be illogical rants and backhanded memes. Some were saying they had to go home because they just couldn't bring themselves to concentrate on work the day after the election. But a day later, a friend of mine posted a similar question to the one I had, asking why there was so much fear in the hearts of people. Many who responded to him also seemed to have no clue why the fear was there. Some tried to explain it away, even in belittling terms, but none of them connected. And the disconnect bothered me.

People made grand, hyperbolic predictions that Trump would bring in the end of the world, and send us socially back to the 1950s or before. That gay rights would be abolished. That women's rights would be removed. That racism would become the order of the day again. I even saw some people say they were afraid for their families. And while I always try to do the best I can to understand other peoples' points of view, I didn't get it. Then, within 24 hours, I began to see stories of people being taunted, intimidated, and attacked by people who were glad Trump won, and took it upon themselves to act like thugs. Idiots posted pictures of themselves in blackface in front of a Confederate flag (by the way, I do everything I can to keep from calling people "idiots" on the internet, but in this case, it fits). Graffiti, TONS of graffiti full of anti-gay and racial epithets. For whatever reason, these lowlifes felt empowered, and thought it would be a good idea to invoke the name of Trump in their work. Like he would condone it. And I didn't get that, either. Even though I had asked the same question, the previous day had brought examples of some reasons why people were afraid. As a Christian, I know that the Lord hasn't given me a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind. But while I had no reason to fear, not everyone did. One of the things I know about fear is that many times, it's based in conjecture, confusion, and the unknown. Fear can come from things that are real, but also from things that are not real. Irrational things. Illogical things. Still . . . someone in fear is reacting to something, and I tried to unfold what that something was. So here was the response I offered to my friend's question, after having thought about it for 24 hours:
People jumped on the idea that Trump was a racist because he said he wanted to build a border wall, and stop illegal immigration. What he actually wants is to end the crime that comes with some of the illegal immigrants that come into our country. They commit crimes as illegals because it's easier to circumvent a system they're not entered into. But all they heard was 'Trump hates Mexicans', therefore he's racist. People jumped on the idea that he wanted to temporarily cease entrants of all Muslims into the U.S. until we could come up with a way to safely vet all refugees seeking asylum, so as to rule out any potential terrorist threats. A sane choice, given that some of the sanctuary cities have had reports of violence and terrorism by some professed Muslims. But all they heard was 'Trump hates Muslims', therefore he's a bigot. Trump has said that he supports the idea of traditional marriage, therefore the LGBT community thinks he is attacking them directly. Forget the fact that he actually is a strong proponent of gay rights. The marriage equality thing is one on which they don't agree, but to the LGBT community, that's like Holy Grail. It's the one thing that makes them equal to the rest of the population. He made crude comments about what amounts to sexually assaulting women several years ago. Inexcusable, yes, but some people think this will boost the narrative of fostering rape culture if he takes office. The media has painted a narrative (actually, it's more the bloggers, the opinionators, and the people who won't actually do their research) of Trump as a misogynist, a racist, a homophobe, a religious bigot, and a nationalist. Two groups have clung to this narrative -- his detractors, and idiots who actually are using that same inaccurate narrative as license to begin harassing people of color, non-Christian religions, and the gay community. It's that latter group of hooligans that the first group is afraid of. And if the stories that have been popping up over the last 48 hours are genuine, then we need to have a sympathetic ear. Because even though it's not Trump that's condoning this kind of activity, it's still happening. And it still needs to be stopped. Their fear may be based on a lie, but perpetrators of evil are believing the same lie . . . and that's reason for all of us to be concerned.
I firmly believe that if you have a discriminatory problem with a large group of people -- a certain race, a religion (or denomination), atheists, gay people, straight people, even people of a particular generation -- then the problem you have more than likely stems from your interactions with a very few people from that group. That at some point in your life, something happened that caused you to view ALL people in that group the way you viewed one or a few from that group. Maybe they did something to you. Maybe you've heard news stories about people from a particular group doing evil against someone else. Whatever the case, it's very likely your sample size was tremendously small. Which means your viewpoint is skewed somewhat. Now, this happens to all of us, but some of y'all need to admit it. For instance, I had a friend in college who refused to give to The Salvation Army because they were affiliated with the Methodist church. This stemmed from an encounter she'd had a few years before where she attended a service at a Methodist church, and the minister, who knew she was Catholic, began to say harsh, mean, and very hateful things from the pulpit about those who practice Catholicism, all while looking in her direction. She felt belittled, betrayed (the man had never treated her badly before), and embarassed. And from that day on, she decided she would rather stop giving to a charitable foundation whose goals including feeding, clothing, and sheltering our homeless population, among other things. So he was wrong in his actions towards her. But she was just as wrong in her response.

To my friends and family that haven't had to deal with people taunting you, or threatening your life, or the lives of your friends or family, if you've never had to defend yourself from an attacker who hated you because of the sexuality you claim, or the race you were born with, or the religion you practice, then you don't know the fear that many of these people talk about. And until you become the target of an attack, like some of these people actually have, then you likely won't know that fear, either. I'd like to say that I've been through my share of "persecution" as a Christian, as I've been put through the wringer by many people because they didn't agree with my faith or thought I was weird for being a Jesus freak. But the truth is that I've never had to defend myself against violence because of what I believe. So I'm very fortunate in that regard. And while I can't understand through experience the fear that some of these people are feeling, I can't disregard it, either. To my liberal friends who have ever used the words "bigot", "fascist", "homophobe", "racist", "xenophobic", and "misogynist" when talking about Trump supporters, or people that simply disagree with you certain social issues, please listen up. You're wrong to use those terms against a blanket group of people. Okay? You're simply wrong when you do that. Own that. The vast majority -- the VAST majority -- of people who voted for Trump don't match the definition of those words, AND YOU KNOW THAT. Yet you spew them at us in an effort to try and justify to yourselves why we would possibly think differently than you. If we become villainized to you, it's easier for you to write us off as lunatics. Now, you might be thinking about how right you are, and in your state of rightness, you don't want that level of understanding. You don't want to try and understand someone that doesn't believe what you believe. Fine, that's your right. But if that's the case, shut your mouth. Stop engaging them. Surround yourself only with people that are exactly like you and agree with everything you believe, all the time. That's the only way you're ever going to be at peace with the things people say and do. And even as you're reading this, you see the fallibility of that suggestion, that there's no possible way you can do that without alienating people you love, work with, and buy goods and services from. Which means that if you do continue to engage people in the way that you have been, the only thing it will accomplish is to show others how immature you've been. To everyone, we all need to try and have some understanding. You don't know everything that others around you have been through. You don't know if that gay man got attacked by some random dude just because he was holding his boyfriend's hand in public. You don't know if that black family you seem to know so well has ever had problems with being harassed by neighbors, or law enforcement, or total strangers because of their race. You don't know, so you can't experience their pain and frustration first hand. So before you litter Facebook with your memes, rants, or vilifying tirades about anything relating to a position you disagree with, STOP. THINK. Wonder what life would be like if any of those things had happened to you or someone you love. How angry would you be if a good friend got raped? How terrified would you feel if someone defaced your home? How much would you want to step out and face the world if the majority of the people around you thought you might be a terrorist because of your skin color or religion? In full disclosure, I must be responsible for my own actions. There have been times that I've made horrible blanket statements before about certain groups of people, and not everything I've said has been wise. I've apologized for those times, and I apologize for them again. But I will never apologize for what I believe. And I will never mock or ridicule you for what you believe. Here's an example of why I take that stance. A few months ago, I had to drop a friendship with someone whom I had previously respected a great deal. I hated that I had to do it. As a member of a minority group, he had spent a significant chunk of his life fighting against bullies. He had been attacked at an earlier age, and that was just one example of the injustice he faced. But over time, he had let his anger grow so much that he actually began to get antagonistic with people who disagreed with him. He actually told me during one conversation that he didn't want to try and understand where I and other people were coming from. He used words like "bigot", "fascist", "crazy", "insane", "mentally ill", and others to describe me and others like me. He didn't do this peripherally, he did this in direct conversations with me. I was so sad for him, because he had officially become a bully, the very thing that he'd spent so much time railing against. He saw me as an enemy now, even though I loved him like a brother.
So I was disappointed, but I still had hope. After all, bullies I can deal with. Bullies can change. And then, one day, he took something I told him and something that someone else close to me had said and posted those things to his timeline as examples of people to avoid. That went beyond bullying, beyond insult. That was a betrayal of trust. Done. Friendship over. Immediately. Clean break. I still pray for him. I still wonder how he's doing. But I can't engage him anymore. His heart and mind may change in the future, and I believe people deserve second chances. But he doesn't need my friendship to live his life, nor do I need him in mine. Our absence from each other's lives won't affect either one of us all that much. And I firmly believe that not everyone is beyond hope, but even the Scripture says that with some people, you have to wipe the dust from your feet, and you move on to the next town, move on to others that will receive you and what you have to say. Here's my point: we need to realize that whatever issues we face, we have to face them together. If we continue to act like the village is dead, like what's yours is yours and what's mine is mine and if you're in trouble you're out of luck, then we're only going to wind up worse off than we are now. The world we live in? WE are the ones responsible for creating it. WE allowed our society to get to this point. And WE have the responsibility to come together before we tear each other apart. So go and act in love. Have that conversation over coffee. Break bread with them. Hell, play a board game with them. You'd be amazed how something as simple as friendly, fun competition can open doors. Ignore the incendiary and inflammatory comments from detractors, or respond in a private message rather than a public forum. Find out WHY someone believes the way they do. Get to know the person rather than their ideology, because a person is more than their ideology. They always are. Don't react. Respond. There Is No Box.