We have more information about more people than ever before. And it seems to me we like those people less than ever before.
If you use FaceBook, and if you have a fairly eclectic group of Facebook “friends,” you might in one day hear from Trump supporters, Trump non-supporters, people from all over the spectrum on abortion, gay marriage, conservative religious beliefs, liberal religious beliefs, irreligious beliefs, Democrats, Republicans, and people who are playing Candy Crush.
The common thread? They all seem to think they’re right, and everyone else is wrong, if not insane.
Some of us go into McDonald’s or Lowe’s and we don’t want to deal with live people. So we use the ordering kiosk, the drive-up window or the automated checkout. Is it any wonder so many checkout people act indifferent or mildly grumpy?
Personally, I love to talk to people. I get it from my mom. It used to drive my sister nuts that mom would stop and talk to anybody and everybody in the Red Owl. I didn’t mind so much, except maybe for the one little old lady who wanted to run her hands through my hair. Mom didn’t like everybody in town, but there wasn’t anybody she wouldn’t talk to.
In my opinion, the one thing people need is to be seen — maybe acknowledged is a better word. Maybe we don’t agree on everything, but if we see each other — acknowledge each other, we have a basis for getting along. Oh, and calling people names or questioning their intelligence is not how to change minds. In fact, it usually serves to harden people’s opinions of the name caller.
You’d think having more knowledge about our fellow humans would lead to more tolerance, wouldn’t you? Not so, it seems. And maybe it never has been so. As evidence, I submit:
The Merry Minuet
Recorded in 1959 by The Kingston Trio. Words and Music by Sheldon Harnick
“There’s rioting in Africa, (whistling, tweedle deedle deedle dee-dle)
There’s starving in Spain, (whistling, twee deedle deedle)
There’s hurricanes in Flo-ri-da, (whistling, tweedle deedle deedle dee-dle)
And Texas needs rain. (Sung off-key)
The whole world is festering with unhappy souls.
The French hate the Germans,
The Germans hate the Poles.
Italians hate Yugoslavs, South Africans hate the Dutch.
AND I DON’T LIKE ANYONE MUCH! (Sung off-key)
But we can be tranquil and thankful and calm,
For this is America, and we’ve got the bomb,
And we know for certain that some lovely day
Someone will push the button,
AND WE WILL ALL BE BLOWN AWAY! (Sung off-key)
There’s rioting in Africa (whistling, tweedle deedle deedle dee-dle)
There’s strife in Iran. (Whistling, twee deedle deedle)
What nature doesn’t do to us
Will be done by our fellow man. (‘man’ sung off-key)”
That song was written in 1959. What’s different today?
One last thought.
America didn’t embrace the indigenous people in this country even after Navajo speakers were specially recruited during World War II by the Marines to encode their communications in the Pacific. Even earlier than that, Cherokee and Choctaw served as code talkers during World War I.
America didn’t embrace black soldiers, even though they fought in every war from the Revolution on. America didn’t embrace Japanese Americans even though 21 of them won the Medal of Honor in WWII.
I, and perhaps all of us, sometimes need to be reminded to not paint people with too broad a brush, if for no other reason than our message may reach fringe minds in ways we don’t really mean.
The quote: “Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.” — John F. Kennedy