Yesterday seemed to be going moderately well when I hopped on Facebook and stumbled upon, what I feel is, a rather homophobic meme shared by my Trump-loving cousin.
I want to put it out there that I am very concerned about the level of cruelty rising from not only some Trump-supporters and some Republicans but also some Bernie-supporters too. Despite this, my goal is not to stoop to personal attacks but to enlighten and argue my point as logically and eloquently as I can.
I also want to put it out there that I am not against my family or friends who support different political parties than I do. Many of us manage to still care for and love one another despite our political differences, and that’s the way it should be. A good political debate or discussion, even, can be robust and helpful in any democracy, and sometimes your loved ones have thoughts and experiences that mold their political decisions, and by listening to them and engaging them, you can learn something.
Sadly, it is appearing more and more to me like that is not the case with this cousin.
This cousin was one my grandparents always talked about. Their love for this person was always very strong, and, by proxy, I felt that love too. This person lived in another state while I was growing up in Chicago, and I sadly didn’t get much time interacting with them or their family while I was growing up. But what memories I do have are good and strong and positive.
I don’t agree with the brand of politics they support. I will call bullshit on the fake news, the diversions, the poorly researched post shares that are blatantly false or misleading, in the hope that somehow I will be able to steer them to make enlightened (or at least informed) decisions. I seem to give them a pass because they have had a lot of trauma in their lives, and maybe they didn’t do too well at school, and they never gained a higher education that I know of so may not have the research and critical skills we are taught and use in higher learning. These can all impact on a person’s beliefs and their ability to make an informed choice. Again, my love, my hope, and my optimism remain strong that somehow, something I will say will sway them back to some sense of reality and compassion.
But there are real elements to cruelty in some of the things this person posts, that align with their beliefs and their politics, that fly in the face of Christ and his teachings of kindness and compassion and love and looking after your fellow human beings (especially the down-trodden and the suffering), and that concerns me a great deal.
The homophobic meme really hurt me though. It hurt me enough to post a statement asking if that was really how they feel about me, their gay cousin? Part of me feels I’m reading too much into it, and another part of me feels that yes, this is how they feel about me. I believe life has hurt this person so much that the only thing left for them is to spray everyone else in their life with the machine gun fire of their cruelty to create those wounds to bring misery upon everyone else. Is it intentional? I don’t know. The optimist in me hope it’s not.
I can’t behave like that, though. Sure, I’m hurt, but I brush myself off, I take a few deep breaths, and I soldier on in my journey through life. I am kind, I am caring, I am compassionate, and I am forgiving; these are things my parents, my grandparents, other family members, and most importantly, my religious education taught me: follow the main tenets of Christianity, even if you grow distant from the church.
I’ve written about aspects of my childhood before, and I’ve talked about how my Mom has said how compassionate and caring I have always been throughout my life. This is lucky. Being a gay man and experiencing some of the harshness of life could have easily turned me sour, and I have seen this in some of the queer people in my life. It hurts me because this is a sign of them hurting, and somehow I managed to rise above this a lot of the time. How, I don’t know, but I put a lot of it down to having a loving, supportive family early on in life, which continues to this day, and strong core group of friends in high school and college, some of whom I remain close to to this day. A family by birth and a family by choice, if you will.
Kindness. Sometimes, there feels like there’s not a lot of it around these days. Indeed, with the rise of Trumpism and its associated acts, there is an element of cruelty in the policies and actions from Donald J. Trump and people like him. This is not unique to the United States, but other authoritarians and oligarchies have been emboldened by what is happening in America. As humans, we must combat that and rise above that. To care for our fellow human is an important key to the survival of our species.
Kindness. The teachings of Jesus himself surround themselves in acts of care and kindness towards our fellow humans. Feed the poor. Help the needy. Try to heal the ill and wounded. These are all important pillars in Christianity, and even if you aren’t a Christian by religion, you can follow these tenets as a philosophy of your life. Sadly, some people who claim they are Christian by religion are anything but, and we can see this if we merely look at their actions and words. We are not to judge, but pointing out the hypocrisy and steering them back to the right path is important.
Kindness. This is where it gets personal. I am not a perfect person. I have never claimed to be one. But I do try, despite the anger that builds up inside me sometimes, to be a good person. I try not to hit below the belt. I try not to make arguments about politics or religion into something where I start insulting someone’s intelligence, or looks, or body shape, or education. I try my best to put my thoughts and evidence across in a constructive, experience in a knowledge-driven way. And, I think, for the most part, I succeed.
In the last few years especially, I have heard a great chunk of people I know tell me I am kind. This is one of the most common themes I hear about me. And it heartens me, because I feel that kindness is important. The whole world may seem to be falling down around someone’s ears, but being kind and trying to be that (at least one) spark of hope could turn things around for that person.
Yesterday, for example, before the homophobic post: a student who has had a rough time recently, whom I consoled after her grandfather died a few weeks ago, saw me and stopped to say hello, ask me how I was doing, and talk to me. It meant a lot to me. Just by being kind in that moment of pain for her helped her, and she recognised and acknowledged that, and she returned it in kind.
I have been moved by acts of kindness towards me. I struggle sometimes to express the overwhelming joy I feel towards that act. Sometimes I say the right thing. Sometimes I feel like I can’t say the right thing (but the good intentions are there). But the feeling of appreciation is the most important thing. God knows what I hold in my heart and the truth of that feeling.
It costs nothing, kindness. Sure, it can backfire, it can hurt when someone takes advantage, but the most important thing is this: You did the right thing by being kind. That’s the winning part. Karma will judge your kindness, and that person’s response, appropriately.
Kindness. If you find yourself unreservedly hating a group of people for, well, whatever reason — Muslims, liberals, conservatives, Christians, straight people, queer people, white people, brown people, whoever — try a little harder to be understanding and kind. Hate is not inherent in us — it is taught, and it is learned — but caring is something we are born with.
Kindness. If your brand of politics or political leaning doesn’t help the most vulnerable in our society, takes from the poor to give to the rich, makes the gulf between the poorest and the richest wider, disadvantages those in need while emboldens those with the most power, you need to think long and hard about kindness. What is fair? What is right? Why shouldn’t everyone have the right to equally pursue life, liberty, and happiness, especially on an equal, or even fairer, playing field? We all have to make sacrifices, yes, to make sure the most downtrodden of us can get a fair shot. Isn’t that why Christ died on the cross? To save us all? Then why is it so hard to help your fellow humans out to try to make this place more like the heaven-on-Earth Christ envisaged?
I want the world I leave (hopefully later than sooner) to be a kinder place, even having impacted it in a small way. I want to leave a legacy where my surviving friends and family, especially the next generation, and generations beyond, have the opportunity to live in a freer, kinder, more equal world.
Kindness. Give your community, your neighborhood, your city, your state, your country, your world, the best, compassionate, caring you that you can give. Work towards a better tomorrow for humanity in any small way you can. Volunteer. Teach. Help. Grow.
Kindness. Smile at a stranger who looks sad. Talk with someone while standing in line to wait for whatever. Wave at children who are waving furiously at you. Listen to someone’s problem. Laugh at something funny. Tell someone something nice you notice about them.
Kindness. It costs nothing. Expect nothing in return. But being kind will help you be a better person, especially when you show it with no expectations in return.
Kindness. Let’s make the world a better place.