By Deb Avery
It has been a difficult past few days for many of us.
The compassionate, empathic collection of cells that I am has been on a roller coaster ride of emotions.
With the realization that Donald Trump, a man who has wheeled and dealed his way through life, using racial slurs, misogyny and intolerance as a platform for his campaign, I find myself very concerned for this country and the people of the United States.
Am I the only one? No, of course not. Not only am I not the only one, but I think most of those who voted for Trump are pretty scared themselves. Otherwise, why would this type of leader attract them? But I will admit, I have had times during the past few days when it has been difficult to remember that all this hateful, judgmental rhetoric masks a whole country full of fearful Americans.
Fear makes us do strange things.
It causes many symptoms just as hate, greed, racism, misogyny, and violence. One of the by-products of all these symptoms is virtual blinders.
Virtual blinders appear when we fail to view life in it’s 3-D, panoramic, 360 degree view. What is this view I speak of? I think of it as viewing the world as the astronauts in the space station do, you know, the beautiful blue marble floating in the dark, velvety blackness of space kind of view.
When you view the world this way, there are no borders, politics, money or religions separating us. We all appear as one—a unified collections of atoms, cells and microbes—floating along in space and time.
But just as a microscope, when we zoom in on this beautiful image, all sorts of things begin to take shape. The destruction we’ve wrought on the planet becomes visible. And as we focus more, the ugly little microscopic parasites, diseases and other destructive things come into to focus.
The more we focus, the more we become engaged in all the ugliness that we see before us and the more we become convinced that the world is an ugly place. We get so caught up in the microscopic version that we see with highly focused view that soon, these virtual blinders appear that blocks the image we saw before we brought our focus so far inward.
We are now so fascinated, repulsed and distraught over the images we see in front of us that we forget the beautiful image of a calm, blue marble floating and spinning in the velvety regions of space. Our virtual blinders have become stationary. But, it’s not terminal.
All we have to do, all that is required to once more see the whole picture of our beautiful Earth, is to back out of focus once more until the blinders recede.
I know this is an oversimplification of some complex issues, but think about this for a moment:
When we watch TV or use Facebook for all our news and information, the internet or any other source of media, it does not show the whole picture—the 360 degree view. No matter where you get your information from it will—to some extent—be focused on one particular view or zoomed in so close that it causes distortion.
There is sometimes so much distortion that what we see does not even resemble the image that is truly there. So we use our judgment, or beliefs and our values to tell us what’s going on.
What if instead, we took a few steps back, re-examined the image and information, and tried to see what was really happening instead of relying on all these judgments, beliefs and values? What if we readjust the focus or readjust our virtual blinders a bit, and took another look without all the distortions. What do you think we would we see?
In my very humble opinion, we would see a world coming to terms with their fears and years and years of social and religious indoctrination. We would see that there’s a bit more to the picture than we thought. We would find out that some of those things that looked so gross and ugly when zoomed in on, now is beginning to look more and more like us—a simple human being.
Here’s an example: We see a clip from a protest showing someone being beaten. If that person is on our side, we often (though not always) begin looking for excuses or reasons as to why this person is doing this. We try to explain away the behavior with circumstances. However, if the person happens to be on the other side, we immediately begin to place blame, judge and zoom in on all the bad things we see before us.
If we practice stepping back, adjusting our focus or simply removing our blinders, we will see that there is always so much more to the picture.
Such is the case of the woman caught in a photo that was plastered all over the media this morning. The photo showed one thing, but actually, the truth—the whole 360 degree view—tells a much different story.
In the picture it appears that she has brought her young child to the protest and is very angry and yelling at the policeman standing in front of her. She was immediately labeled a “bad mother” and an angry/aggressive protestor.
The truth is, she and her son were on a bus going home after a long day. Because of the protesters, the bus had to stop and let everyone out in the middle of the protest itself to find their ways home. While trying to cross the street in all the noise, crowd and commotion, she saw a man who had also simply been trying to get across the street, get knocked down and retained by law enforcement. She began trying to tell them that he was just crossing the street and to let him go. They continued to accost him. She yelled louder and became upset when they wouldn’t listen. It was then that the photo was taken.
I hope we will all learn to step back, refocus and remove our virtual blinders before we begin judging or condemning. Hopefully, after seeing the whole view/story, we will no longer feel the need to judge or condemn in the first place.
It is much easier to feel empathy and compassion when we see the whole picture instead of automatically labeling or jumping to conclusions. Both of which raise our anxiety and fears to a whole new level.
May we all learn to step back and remove our blinders. And may we let empathy and compassion be our guide during the difficult days ahead.
Editor: Dana Gornall