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Think Before Responding

As we head toward the holiday season and the end of 2020, I've been thinking about the year. It has been a rough year for our world; I don't know anyone who hasn't been impacted somehow. Some have experienced devastating losses after losing loved-ones to the virus. Many of us have lost long-term careers, which can't be compared to losing a loved one, but it is still devastating for those looking toward an uncertain future. That's not to say that all is lost if we stop competing for the victim of the year award. Not all folks do so - thank heavens - but it seems to have become a way of life for many.

Let me be very clear that this is not about politics or belief systems, but about how people treat one another. My mother was a genuinely kind person who didn't have a bigoted or racist bone in her body. She raised her children to accept people based on who they were as people. Pat, my mother, showed us through her actions that bigotry and racism in any form were unacceptable.

After my biological father jumped ship, Mom was left with a child who had health problems and me, a rambunctious, hyperactive girl. During those years, we weren't poor; we were truly impoverished. Mom put her pride aside and took the bus ride to downtown Baltimore to apply for government assistance. We were on welfare for a period until she found work to provide for her children. Mom hated going to the bank with that welfare check, and unlike the covert little debit cards people use today, Food Stamps were actual coupons in a small booklet. The booklets were different colors and stamped with "Food Coupon" on the booklet's front, and each coupon housed inside. When you used them to pay for food - they were good for food only - you handed the booklet to the cashier, who removed each coupon. All of the people in the queues saw you using them, and people who had enough money immediately judged the white lady who pulled out the coupon booklet.

They never seemed to notice the threadbare clothing she was wearing, the coat that was barely more than a sweater, and open-toed plastic and canvas sandals that she wore the entire year because they were so cheap. I vividly remember that ugly wide plastic band and canvas sole, leaving her toes and the whole backs of her feet exposed. When the shoes would start to fall apart, Mom would insert cardboard into the sole to get longer wear out of them. Nope, nobody noticed Mom was a poor woman; they just saw those food stamps and looked down their noses at her.

None of them knew she was smart and would help any human or animal that needed help. They didn't know she was funny as hell and opened her arms to anyone who needed comfort. Oh, and mom was a republican until the day she died. Yes, my kind, funny, open-hearted mother was a republican. She didn't agree with all of the policies and vehemently disagreed with many, but she was a republican.

As an adult, one of my nearest and dearest is a true liberal. He believes in social responsibility, free healthcare for all, and he'll open his arms to any human or animal that needs help. He doesn't carry a bigoted or racist bone in his body. Oh, and if you want his guns, you're going to have to pry them from his cold dead hands, to turn a phrase.

You see, this rant isn't about politics, but how people are judging people by one aspect of their personality. I can't entirely agree with almost anyone about politics because I have very strong and unique beliefs. This would be too long of a rant to say everything, so I'll say that every human being has the right to live without fear. If any person needs healthcare, that person should have healthcare without saying, "I can't afford it." Not a person on this planet should be judged for loving another human being or wanting to be the human being they feel in their soul.

In my opinion, there are no politicians truly working for the American people any longer. They're working for their careers. Worse, they're fighting like children and are more interested in winning their argument than taking care of the people they are supposed to represent. When I do deep-dive research on these people, I see hypocrisy from all of them, not just one party. Some may judge me for what I just said; however, it is my right as an American to speak my peace. But, is it?

Daily, our right to free speech is being stolen from us, and we're allowing it to happen. Every single time someone screams for repercussions for a person stating their opinion, they rob them of their free speech. I hear vile, despicable things that make me sick and enrage me. I have also exercised my right to free speech to believe those people to be racist and homophobic pigs. Emotionally, I want every single one of them punished. Intellectually, I would never call for ramifications because I cherish our right to free speech. I'll bet many would bellow, "You have no right to steal my first amendment rights." What they really mean is, "I don't give a damn about your rights if you disagree with me!"

Is it social media that has created this emotionally reactive culture where we currently live? Folks seem to react first and never stop to think about their reactions. People have always disagreed politically, but it's only of late that disagreeing has resulted in such vitriolic hate. It doesn't matter which side of the aisle you sit on. If you belittle, degrade, or demean other people in a public forum, you are a bully. Let me clarify what I mean by my words.

When you lower yourself to behave in the same manner as the bullies, you are one of the bullies. There is a way to disagree while maintaining your integrity as a human being. We're never going to eradicate hate-speech, but that doesn't mean you have to participate.

I have a particular hatred for racism and homophobia, and in all honesty, I want to rip those people to shreds when I hear or see those behaviors. I want to stand on my hill and call for their heads because I don't particularly appreciate breathing the same air as those vile creatures.

The wonderful part of our country is the freedom to say what we feel, and if I call for their heads, I'm giving up my freedom, as well, or I'm a bloody hypocrite.

Instead of bowing to their level, I speak freely and openly that I stand with all people who don't harm other humans or animals. The next time you read something and want to respond in a juvenile manner-because all of that speech is adolescent behavior- remember that you probably don't know everything that person believes, particularly if you're on a social media site and really don't know the person.

That republican could have a lot of liberal beliefs, as my mother did. Conversely, that gay democrat could have more conservative ideas than you would expect. I've been shocked to find this is more common than you would believe on both sides.

We're moving into a challenging holiday season. Take a moment to think before you speak or type. Ask yourself how it makes you feel to be belittled for your beliefs. Then, before responding in the same manner, ask yourself what makes you different from that other person when you behave the same way. It's not about politics but how we're treating one another.

Rather than descending into, "I know you are, but what am I?" Read those threads and tell me it's not the same behavior as arguing children. Consider how much we miss when we're preoccupied with getting the best of another person with a nasty comment. Couldn't we use that time more productively to support what we believe in a way that could actually change another person's opinion?

If you're reacting cynically to that sentence, let me ask you to pause. Your cynicism doesn't make it true that people can't change. When one feels attacked or feels a threat to their belief system, they become frightened, and that fear becomes anger. Once the fear becomes anger, those derogatory comments start to fly, and the chain of anger strengthens rather than weakens.

We're never changing everyone, and sadly, there are simply some truly foul people in this world. That doesn't mean we can't think before we speak about topics where we have the chance to try and educate people toward positive change.

As I stop ranting, the best thing is that you can disagree with everything I just wrote. We have the right to disagree, and providing you respect my right to my opinions, even if you disagree, I'm cool. I appreciate your right to differ as much I cherish my freedom to my feelings and beliefs.

Take care of yourselves and each other, and take that brief pause to think before you speak. I know it helps me because I'm close to filterless, and if I verbally expressed every time I disagreed, I'd be known as the most disagreeable woman on the planet.


Sending love and virtual hugs,


Anola

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