When it comes to politics I usually play the role of observer and pay attention to people’s experiences, suggestions, expectations, and overall feelings towards a situation. All over social media, individuals with opposite and alike stances share their opinions and proudly voice their outlook. I’m lucky enough to be acquainted with people that think like me, but also differently than me. It allows me to see a full spectrum of where these expectations are rooted and why people feel the way they do.
Aside from the videos in my favorites section of Twitter, I seldom share my views on politics and social justice mostly because my take on it -in my opinion- is not a popular one. All I see is a divide among my peers that could never be filled. I haven’t spoken on these societal conflicts because I don’t agree with the rigid dichotomy often seen in society of good and evil, of left and right, of old and young of us and them.
My current journey on the path of spirituality has taught me to contemplate everything around me with an open-heart rather than confusion, and with understanding rather than frustration. There are philosophies I have learned through books written by the enlightened which I see in everyday life and are shared by role models that I respect and am inspired by. Our 44th president Barack Obama is the most befitting example in our current social zeitgeist. Obama has a compassionate and kind model for dealing with these issues and he expressed that in his farewell address on January 10th.
Obama said, “Hearts must change. If our democracy is to work the way it should in this increasingly diverse nation, then each one of us need to try to heed the advice of a great character in American fiction, Atticus Finch who said, ‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.’
For minority groups that means tying our own very real struggles for justice to the challenges that a lot of people in this country face. Not only the refugee, or the immigrant, or the rural poor or the transgender American, but also the middle-aged white guy who from the outside may seem like he’s got all the advantages, but has seen his world upended by economic, and cultural, and technological change.
We have to pay attention and listen.
Obama pointed out that for White Americans this means they should consider that minorities voicing discontent does not beg for special attention, rather it demands fair treatment that every human is promised. And for the Natives born in America, the immigrant stereotypes being said today were said about the Irish and Italians and Poles that made this nation what it is today because of the unifying embrace of America’s creed. Most importantly, we all have to start with the premise that our fellow citizens’ are just as curious and hopeful and worthy of love as ourselves.
My stance is and will always remain: we must be united and we must make a conscious, mindful effort.
We’ve been taught since we were young that in order to get ahead in life and be successful we must always guard ourselves and look out for ourselves only.
We think in the plane of polarities, which create distance. Baba Ram Dass, author of “Be Here Now” and a realized being, uses the relationship between “hippies” and “police” to demonstrate what these polarities do. He writes that if the hippies only see the police as “them” and the police see the hippies only as “them”, each returns to its headquarters and plans to overcome “them”. These situations create distance because no one wants to be “them”, the outsider. Maslow’s theory of hierarchy of needs states that all human being beings need love and belonging; everyone wants to be “us”.
The conscious alternative isn’t to avoid confrontation or protest but for everyone to become more aware. Be aware that even though you are protesting someone or a group, you realize that behind what separates you two, you are the same. You both hold firm beliefs and you both understand protest as a form of social communication among us. Us includes black and white, young and old, man and woman, American and Russian, rich and poor, saint and rogue.
Dass’ simple rule of conscious participation is:
You may protest if you can love the person you are protesting against as much as you love yourself.
It is all so simple and all so difficult. A conscious protest is meant to reduce the divisive force President Obama addressed regarding race and economic struggle and basic rights. It reduces paranoia and allows each side to hear the other’s concern more clearly. It cuts through fear and anxiety making way for a conscious revolution. Thus the rule of the game is to be open to receiving what “they” are saying so that in turn our opinions are heard as well to meet humans in the center and is the sine qua non of social responsibility.
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