I’m in the midst of my second to last finals week of college. Unfortunately, my papers and tests are the farthest thing from my mind. As I foolishly check Facebook, or turn on the news, or read the newspaper, or even listen to the radio, I can’t help but think what I’m doing is esoteric and pointless. There seem to be so many better things I could be doing with my time that make me feel far less empty than working for a piece of paper that isn’t guaranteed to be a means to security and happiness.
Like everyone else, I’ve been hearing tale after tale of violence and injustice against various marginalized groups. I’ve been bludgeoned with tales of sickness and rape and homelessness and poverty for longer than I care to think about. They make my heart hurt and my head angry. But the reactions people have to all these things hurt and anger me more than the fact that these things happen. The reactions are ignorant, pessimistic, destructive, close-minded, negative, and heavily biased.
Racism, sexism, ageism, ableism, religious discrimination, gender and sexual orientation discrimination, discrimination based on socioeconomic status, sickness, homelessness, and everything else we come into contact with on a daily basis certainly aren’t new. They’ve been around for at least the whole of human history– most likely even since human prehistory. I don’t find it surprising that these things still exist. But I do find it infuriating.
I suppose you could call me a romantic, or an optimist, or an idealist. I want the world to be the inclusive, beautiful, caring place I know it could be. And there are plenty of people right there with me. What keeps this idyllic, semi-utopian vision from happening isn’t all the crappy stuff. It’s the number of people who think that the world is defined by the crappy stuff. The people who simply accept the dark parts of life as the whole of reality are really the barrier to fixing the world. Those negative reactions block constructive discussion, which does nothing to break the infinite loop of more crappy things happening. It keeps my fairy tale just fairy tale instead of making it a reachable reality.
I guess what I’m saying is that it doesn’t have to be this way. The world will never be perfect– I’m not so naive to believe that can happen. But the world can be better. We can make more good things happen, and we can lessen the bad things that happen. I’m not a saint by any stretch of the imagination. I have some of the same gut reactions that even the most cynical, jaded, biased a**hole does when I watch the news. But I try to move beyond my (often learned) negative emotional responses to get to the more balanced intellectual and useful response, which isn’t, “They deserved it, f*** them, that’s just the way it is, get over it,” or any variation of it, but instead is, “That’s awful, what can I do to help, what do we need to do to address this issue and fix it once and for all?”
Maybe we could stop focusing on and even promoting everything that’s really shitty in the world and start thinking and talking about ways to make it better.