By J.G. Lewis
In all the scintillating sentences, salacious sound bites, news and views published, broadcast and available 24/7, there is a lot of nonsense about who belongs where.
Much of the talk originally (though not original) comes top-down from political leaders as they stand tall to proclaim rights and responsibilities that clearly go against the way this planet has been evolving. In this ever-hungry news cycle, the comments make headlines— grabbing the first seconds of the newscast—and the views proliferate and become coffee-shop talk and idle banter. Those people stuck in the past herald these tired, old bigoted views and the velocity of these harmful ideals accelerate.
“Intolerance” has become the catchall word towards any of the isms, but the inclusionary aspect of about the word is its ability to dress down a huge swath of the population in one swift breath. It is hatred, pure and simple, occasionally wrapped in imprudent puffery or packaged in some sort of theme-based oratory proffering intelligence.
I’m growing intolerant of intolerance.
Lately it is all you hear about, whether gender-based, nationality, faith, or sexual orientation. The ‘anti’ talk comes from many sources, but right now there is one particular politician trumping out divisive language devised to prop up beliefs that one race, one religion (one country) is superior to all others.
It’s posturing, yes, but it goes far deeper. It pits people against one another—even those within the same nation.
Now I wholeheartedly believe in free speech; it is what keeps us growing intellectually and allows cultures to flourish. Part of that freedom comes with the responsibility of listening, learning, and even accepting or acknowledging the viewpoints of others. Freedom of speech does involve speaking one’s mind, but the words, phrases and diatribes need to be mindful. Even when hurtful, thoughts spoken should be founded in research and reason and not simply used to perpetuate stereotypes.
Where free speech is concerned, a well-formed argument is acceptable, even applauded. But there is little room for acceptance in any form of intolerance. Free speech comes from open minds. All the hate speech currently being bandied about promotes violence, elitism, and a shameful ideal that denigrates entire nations at a time when borders between countries are being eliminated (at least where trade and commerce is concerned).
Yes, sadly, history contains many, many examples of how opposing beings are, and have been, responsible for epic conflicts. There are currently evil powers at work in this world focused on mass destruction and devastation. But if we are to be hopeful we must look beyond these vengeful and revengeful acts and try to salvage our humanity. The trade between nations must be more than monetary.
If we allow this unruly and uncaring behavior to repeat itself—if we allow this ever-enlarging global community to be ruled by closed minds—we are certain to not only repeat history’s past mistakes, but also deal with consequences we cannot even fathom.
Now I may be a dreamer, yes, but if people put as much effort into understanding as they do into standing their ground we may find ourselves in a position of truly being able to work out age-old conflicts.
Yes, I dream big, but life is too short, and the planet too small to categorize and sub-divide the population in an effort to keep out anyone who does not look, sound, or hold the same beliefs we hold.
We live in an era of multiculturalism and mixed race. North America was, and continues to be, built on immigration. As we grow physically in size and spiritually by understanding, and as the population expands, as cultures blend and races and religions cohabitate, we must look favorably on this opportunity to grow as human beings.
We cannot paint everybody with the same brush; we can’t systematically decide who is right, or moral, or worthy, based on the hue of the skin, gender, sexual preference, language spoken, country of origin, or beliefs believed. By blindly discounting a certain population you are overlooking the opportunity to become involved with, influenced and inspired by, and more knowledgeable in the process. It is unreal, unconscionable, and unacceptable to allow intolerance and this type of deterioration to continue.
This is not about race. This is about disgrace.
Author’s note: I wrote this more than a year ago, out of frustration over what and who was dominating the news. Somehow I thought (or hoped, or dreamed) that we, as a society or global community, would come to our senses. The events of the past week show we are moving in the opposite direction. The situation has not changed, and neither has my hope that it will.
J.G. Lewis is a writer and photographer, a dreamer and wanderer, father and brother (an orphan of sorts), living in Toronto area. Formerly an award-winning journalist, he now writes mainly fiction and poetry. He practices Bikram Yoga, doesn’t take the camera out enough, and enjoys the snap, crackle and pop of music on vinyl. You can read more of J.G. on his website, www.mythosandmarginalia.com. Follow him on Facebook, catch his daily breath on Twitter at @sayit4word.
Editor: Dana Gornall