The Divided States Of America
The best position to be in, in order to have your finger on the pulse of the country is that of a police officer. Officers know what is fueling people’s tension, anger, and frustration after responding to all the disturbances within a community on a daily basis.
As a retired sergeant, I’m concerned for this country. I’m concerned about the hate, intolerance, bickering, finger pointing, name calling, and general disdain for one another. I’ve seen election choices end friendships, end relationships, and estrange family members. While watching the polls report during the last election, I heard a person remark that anyone who voted for the candidate he did not support should be “shot in the face.”
I’m saddened that anytime there’s a large controversy (in the media), people are taking to the streets, gathering unlawfully, looting, blocking traffic, breaking windows, and vandalizing cities. I’m horrified that white supremacist rallies promoting hate are not only growing, but are also now ending in death and injuries.
And, as if there aren’t already enemies like ISIS, North Korea, Iran, and domestic terrorists that should be consuming our attention, we are over here bickering like spoiled children about everything. “Mommy, it’s not fair!” “This is all President Obama’s fault.” “This is all President Trumps fault!” “This is all because of tax cuts for the rich!” “This is all because of subsidies for the poor!”
We have taken for granted just how good we have it here in this country. America is still the best place on Earth to live. This is still the land of opportunity. Anything is possible here— for anyone. People from all over the world came together here because of what we represent. America is a melting pot of diversity, combined with strength, love, compassion, opportunity and beauty.
You can earn a living playing sports, singing, making music or television. You can start a business, make an app, write a book, travel, eat food or watch movies then write reviews for a job, or design houses. Don’t like business? You can start a non-profit, live in a church or monastery, even join organizations where you travel all around the world and help others in need.
So just how do we evoke change? Do we get in everyone’s face with a pointed finger and demand they say, do, act and believe as we do, or else be cast away? That doesn’t seem to be working.
How about allowing people to have differing thoughts and opinions? How about not making fun of each other? How about treating everyone, from every race, religion, sexual orientation, background or neighborhood with respect?
And how about instead of going out and telling everyone they need to do this, we model it instead?
Have you ever been at a Starbucks when someone buys the person behind them in line a drink and it sparks a whole line of people to do the same? Would the same thing happen if a person were to stand at the front of the line yelling and demanding a person buy the customer behind them a drink? There’s not much debate that kindness, love, compassion, and selflessness are contagious.
Unfortunately, hate, intolerance, anger, and fear are also contagious. We will never convince white supremacists to be accepting of others by screaming in their faces, calling them names and trying to beat them up when one of them gets close enough. We will only strengthen their resolve, embolden them, and hand them more power. I am also not foolish enough to believe we can convince them to change with a hug.
I believe any group can assemble and express their views as long as they have the proper permits and permissions, and don’t break any laws with regards to their assembly, speech or actions. And make no mistake about my position here, if laws are broken and/or people are injured or killed, those who are responsible should and will be held to account swiftly. But what if at a rally for white supremacists where no laws are broken, it ended up they just stood in a corner of a city park for a few hours, said what they came to say, nobody paid them any mind and they went home afterwards?
Since we really are powerless to MAKE another person change their mind, what if we did something we DO have power over (our own free will) and used that opportunity as a reminder to go out and be kind, loving, compassionate, understanding, or selfless to someone in our lives or community?
There’s a church in the Midwest I’m not going to name. They protest at soldiers’ funerals and go around to different places with signs about how God hates gay people and messages containing other kinds of intolerance. I don’t fly to their rallies and yell in their faces. I don’t try to beat them up or destroy their houses. Instead, I pay them no mind. I choose to go wrap my arms around my loving boyfriend and be thankful that I’m in a country where being gay is not a crime. I use any mention of this group as a reminder to go out and spend my day being extra kind, giving, loving, and accepting of another human being.
You see, I believe that we aren’t going to convince anyone to do anything by insisting on it. Instead, we can live in such a way that inspires others to do the same. It’s more fun and rewarding to love than it is to hate. When hateful people see smiles on those of us who live with love in our hearts, when they see our lives enriched by surrounding ourselves with diversity, when they see the joy in our lives because we live in the greatest country on Earth, they will want what we have. It’s time to reunite the UNITED States Of America!
**Steve is a retired Denver Police sergeant and author of From Boy To Blue Becoming One Of America’s Finest. You can find his book, articles, and podcasts at http://www.SteveWarneke.com.