Archive for the ‘behaving badly’ Tag

Don’t they know this is America?   Leave a comment

There’s a poem I think most of us know the last four lines of at least. I’ve been thinking about it lately. It goes:

“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

That’s what I think of when I hear the words “United States of America”.

At least, it was.

You see, I have been here for four and a half years. Not very long, all things considered, but long enough to have encountered a problem with this ideology.
People here – and I do mean here, where I am living right now – seem to feel that huddled masses are all ok… as long as they are white, English speaking, and christian. I hear things all the time. A 50 year old women mimicking Cantonese. The word ‘chinks’ used in polite conversation. ‘Go home’ shouted from a car window as a woman in a turban walks along the street.
This is normal. Somehow the idea that America was founded on the ideology of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness seems to exclude those who conform to a different norm. I hear ‘Don’t they know this is America?’ a lot. I may be an outsider, but from my perspective the problem is that these people who use such casual racism have failed to realise that they are in America. The melting pot. The country founded with colonies and immigrants from the world over. Many places have strong cultural differences that they have kept from the very beginning.

This America is a place built on the ideal of ‘E pluribus unum’ – from many, one. America was founded on many ideals, the principle of which was freedom. A freedom which many Americans seem to feel only appropriate if it is the freedom to speak, look, and believe as they do. This seems so far removed from the America that Americans themselves have been selling for generations that I find it hard to reconcile the ideal with the fact.

Why is it so easy to dismiss those who are different as less? Why is it ok to joke, insult or even harass them? I find it sad. America is supposed to be more. It could be more. It should be more.

I can’t believe you are so angry about…   Leave a comment

So, internet arguing came up. I know, right? Who would have thought it. This is a mini update on that.

Here’s the thing. A lot of the time, arguments really could be real discussions. Real discussions are good. They lead to understanding, and change to be had.

Well, how would one make a real discussion out of an internet argument? The way I see it, there is an invisible ring around my counterpart’s person. Their personality, thoughts and motivations are all inside that ring. That is a private place that only they know (and maybe not even they do). Anything they say they put out of their ‘ring’… Things they do are outside of their ‘ring’. However, no-one is a mind reader. When we begin to speak as though we are, insult and rudeness are the inevitable result.

If they step over my line, that is their bad. I am in control of myself, however, and mirroring that behavior does no-one any good – least of all myself. Acting on aggression reinforces that aggression. It is when we deny our aggression that it becomes easier to control. I do find people far less likely to step within my own boundaries if I don’t tell them what their motivations, thoughts or experiences are. Most of the time when one guesses… one is wrong. I know, another mind blowing concept.
This principle can be expressed as the following: “Read what is said – and no more”. If you put it in to practice, you read what is said by the person you disagree with – but don’t read between he lines. When you start filling in the blanks yourself, it leads to the idea you understand this person. Of course, you really don’t. You are not a mind reader, any more than I. In feeling you know more than you do, however, you have prematurely ended the conversation. Understanding them is now that much harder, because you must first lose your own ideas about them. Helping them understand you is also much harder because you are not in a position to respond to them as they express themselves.
Is this the same as ‘don’t judge me’? Well… no. Judgement is normal. It is natural. What this is is basing your judgement on evidence, and only evidence. Evidence based human interaction, if you will. This is, instead, where the phrase ‘for no reason’ comes from.

Nothing in the history of forever has a single thing occurred ‘for no reason’… but when one does not know what the reason is, one might default to ‘there must not be one’. There is. I promise. If one works until one finds it, one will get better at uncovering reasons. Sometimes one will fail, but one will have further developed one’s empathy in the attempt. One honestly can not lose anything from striving to understand and to convince others through respectful discourse.  If nothing else, on the internet one always has an audience. One may just convince them through better behavior.

I have friends I’ve gained through actually trying to bridge an ideology map. We’re all human. We all have certain things in common. Find them, and you can only benefit.

I’m not perfect. I am writing this because I lost it and broke my own rules. They’re still good rules. If we all tried to stay outside of the personal ring, and read what is said (No more), we would all be better persons for it. . Especially if we apply it outside the internet, too.