We, as a people, have used fear and anger to drive our existence for thousands of years. What we have to show for it is a dotted history of violence, genocide, war and generations of conflict. Are we not better than that at this point in our short history on this planet? What makes a person wearing a hijab any different from someone wearing a shirt and tie? They both breathe the same air, both walk with legs, have similar composition of blood pumping through their bodies. Our world culture has created a system where people are classed based on wealth, religion and nationality and made judging others a normal part of life. What right do we have to judge another person, that we don’t know, merely based on their appearance? What visual references do we draw upon that tells us, without impunity, that someone is a terrorist vs. a U.S. citizen?
So muslims wear a hijab, that doesn’t make them terrorists. Catholic priests wear a white collar and a black suit, we don’t see them as terrorists yet the Catholic church has a horribly violent past with wars fought over religious beliefs. It wasn’t that long ago that Protestants were viewed as devil worshippers, and publically hanged, merely because they rejected the Vatican and Catholicism. Christians are persecuted in countries primarily dominated by Islam in much the same way that Protestants were persecuted by Catholics (1300’s)and Jews were persecuted by the Germans (1900’s). It’s sad that we’re a violent species that terrorizes others based on perceptions of inferiority, to the extent that Americans do this to other Americans. The Civil War for example over the issue of slavery. Even after African-Americans being freed in 1865, flash forward 150 years and there are compelling arguments that African-Americans *still* aren’t free in the United States.
Call me an idiot for not fearing others that are different from me, I’ve heard it all in the last few years as my ideology has slowly shifted to what I’ve heard referred to as being a humanist. I see people for what they are, fellow humans, and attempt still with some difficulty to not judge based on appearance. It’s hard to break a habit that has been slammed into my brain for over three decades from mainstream media, educational systems and other powerful figures. We have a 10,000 year old instinctive response of fight or flight when presented with a situation we perceive as a threat to our lives that has been reinforced over the last thousand or so years to include everything from a charging bear to someone walking down the street wearing a hijab or a someone wearing a long trench coat in the middle of summer. I get it, we’re hardwired to act on our instincts, but I am arguing that we’re ignoring vital information that we sacrifice with our laser focus on only the perceived “bad” thing in front of our eyes.
I don’t believe that *every* Muslim in the U.S. is a terrorist much like I don’t believe that *every* African-American is a drug dealer or *every* Hispanic is someone’s maid or butler (which really are stupid stereotypes if you think about it). My grandparents had a dislike for everyone that wasn’t a white Catholic; a fact I found disturbing and an indicator of their learned, backwards thinking from their parents. I really could keep going, the common theme of all this is a common hatred of anyone that isn’t in *your* arbitrarily labeled group. We’re all flipping human beings, we’re *all* in the same group.
I consider myself lucky being an introvert in the age of the Internet. I’ve had the amazing opportunity to engage in deep conversations with others that wasn’t predicated on their appearance. I was able to interact with them on a human level, brain to brain, not caring about their religion, station, wealth or physical appearance. I’ve been like this for years, much longer than my awareness of the fact that we subliminally treat others different based on physical traits. My drive to take this into physical life, instead of virtually, is a rather large and difficult hurdle that I’m still struggling with on a daily basis. I ask stupid questions out of naivety, that I find is usually dismissed as I’m genuine about my curiosity. The answer is something that I absorb like a sponge, stored for later when I have the time to process through the interaction.
My outward interactions with the world, how others perceive me, has changed significantly in a dramatic and profound way. My view of the world has grown so much, in such a fantastic way, it’s hard for me to put into words even after thinking about this for several days. My interactions with others are getting easier because I’m no longer drawing on outdated prejudices or life lessons that feel as outdated as my grandparents’ views did years ago. This is something that I’ve had to work at, constantly remind myself to not judge based on appearance, force myself to look beyond the surface. Looking (and interacting) with what’s inside all of us takes time, effort and practice…. lots of practice. To put it another way, I’ve learned to love the taste of my foot 🙂
Enlightenment starts with the self, then becomes contagious to those around. This is one pandemic that I think would benefit the human race. Call me crazy to believe that we can do better than we have in the past, we certainly have a lot of history showing us what not to do going forward into the future. Why not start small, a little change that could have a large impact: resist the rhetoric and draw your own conclusions.