Once, in a past long before I was ever born, it seemed like people could live with each other. They could embrace and live with the contradictions among themselves. Yes, they disagreed, but at the end of the day, they could break bread and be friends and family.
Yet this no longer seems to be the case.
We live in a world today where, if you do not follow a person’s beliefs to the letter, they are to be shunned. They are to be treated as the dregs of the Earth, ostracized from common society. It does not matter what good these people do, what joy they bring to other people’s lives. The moment we stray from “socially acceptable” mores, we become…the other. A monster. The sort of being better suited to living under a bridge, terrorizing passersby with our backwardness.
It really is easier to simply believe that the trends of modern society are completely healthy. It is easy to believe that the people who oppose you deserve no seat at the table; that they deserve no voice. It is easy to claim that such people stand for hate and that hate will not be tolerated.
How true is this, though?
Is the the man who observes that only one race is demonized in public a racist? Is the accepted view that this particular race is inherently bad for the sins of centuries past not itself racist? Is it bad to point out the flaws, if not the dangers, in such thinking?
Is the man who worries about un-vetted foreign nationals entering his nation a xenophobe? Is it so wrong for him to observe the stark realities of the sorts of people who present a danger to his nation? Do these honest observations make him a nazi?
What of the man who sees his maleness as nothing to be ashamed of? As something even to be celebrated in its own unique way? Is he a misogynist for believing in the uniqueness of men and women and the necessity of letting those two things be separate?
Does this same man hate if he does not agree with the lifestyles of the LGBT community? Is it necessary that he must feel malice in his heart if he sees the views held by such as unhealthy? Is it a horror for that man to believe that maybe there is another way, a different way to think, a different way to live?
Do any of those opinions fill a man with hate simply by existing? Is there no possible good reason or decent logic for holding opinions such as these? Must it be assumed that there is only malice here and simply not another way?
Because I am that man.
I have friends like me.
But there are plenty of people in all of our lives not like us. People who hold views contrary to everything we hold dear. People who follow lifestyles at which we can only shake our heads mournfully. Yet we do not hate.
Can you say the same of yourselves?
I do not have to agree with the beliefs of my fellows to still have them enrich my life. They do not have to hold the same viewpoints, love the same things, be the same people to be of value to me. Yes, your beliefs may make me cringe, your assumptions of what I believe may make me roll my eyes, but you are not a monster to me for those things. Far from it.
No, you are not a monster, but do you think the same of me?
Because all I ever see from those who differ from me is an endless campaign of ostracism. Ceaseless attempts to demonize. No serious attempts at understanding or sharing, no real parley or discussion. There is no real need to discuss topics with racists, bigots, Nazis, or whatever else people of certain persuasions might be called today.
But I am not here to lay blame, tempting though that may be. No, rather I wonder how we have become the sort of people who only ever lay blame. Who only ever look for wrong-doing. Who only ever try to tear people down as villains, no matter their offenses. Why are we the sort of people who never listen? The sort of people who regard ourselves so highly that we can brook no disagreement without personal insult?
Will this piece make me a pariah among my peers? Am I to be cast as a monster too? Or perhaps belittled or condescended to?
I do not know. That is the scariest part of the world in which we live, for the very basic social fabric itself is always in question, always in doubt. Will we hold the same standing the day we did before, not for a crime or any sort of real wrong-doing at all, but for simply holding a thought, a view, an opinion? If we carry this course to its end, what will our culture look like on the far side?