It’s been several weeks since I’ve written a column. I’ve been occupied with two daughters getting married within a few months of each other, and life in general. Though I don’t think that is really why I haven’t been writing.

After thinking about it for recently, I realized that I haven’t written my column because each time I sat down to do so, I didn’t have many nice things to say. As a hopeless optimist and a writer, that’s not a good head space to be in.

I’ve been struggling with the level of drama and conflict that arose during the recent Minnetonka School Board election and other events. Each time I sat down at my computer most of what came out was “What is wrong with people?”

What bothered and still bothers me is seeing individuals in our community attacking each other on social media because they disagree with someone’s politics. I’m all for an open and dynamic discussion of different points of view. I’m not in support of one individual taking personal shots at another because they each support a different candidate. It’s truly heartbreaking.

What happened to live and let live? Passion for a cause or a candidate is a good thing. I saw a good amount of that, but I also saw way too many instances of personal attacks on individuals or outright cyber bullying, by adults.

These were grown individuals in our community looking for things on the social media pages of the individuals they had disagreements with, trying to use what they found to intimidate that individual into silence. They abandoned the actual issue or policy being argued and went the route of a personal attack.

I’m seeing too many attempts at separation in our community. We can have different convictions, skin color and beliefs and still be a community. Unfortunately, it tends to be the individuals fueled by hatred who have the loudest voices. Through tactics like fear and intimidation, they attack those with a different beliefs on a personal level.

Where is all this hatred coming from? There are those on social media who want to point the finger at President Trump. This happened recently after media reports of a Muslim DoorDash driver being assaulted by a man who reportedly hit him and yelled at him to go back to where he came from.

Many on social media made this a political issue. This isn’t a political issue. This is about how one human being treated another. If he hit him and yelled at him that he hated the socks he was wearing, it would still be disturbing. If he was Caucasian, it would still be disturbing. What is going on where one adult thinks it is in any way OK to speak to another human being that way, let alone hit him?

The story was shared on The Lake Minnetonka Fan Club page on Facebook. There were people who responded with shock and disgust. Others who responded with demands to take the post down because they felt it was political. Political? Nowhere in the article did I read anything about politics.

The political connection was made because some blame President Trump for the increase in acts of hatred and intolerance. I didn’t vote for Trump, but I don’t hold him responsible for what the man allegedly did. If anything, I would first look to the people who raised this man. I have yet to meet a toddler who is intolerant of other races or religions different from their own.

Right now, my 2-year-old grandson thinks he is Spider-Man. He doesn’t care if another toddler is Black, Asian, Christian or Muslim. He just wants them to be Iron-Man and play superheroes with him. Go to almost any playground with young kids and you will see kids playing with other kids regardless of their race or beliefs, having a great time.

The intolerant adults in the world today weren’t born that way. If someone is racist today, they were racist before Trump came along, and they will be racist and intolerant after he is gone. It’s arguable that some feel empowered in their intolerance because of the example the president sets, but I still don’t remove responsibility from the individual.

Hate and intolerance are learned behaviors based in fear. A fear of someone who looks different. A fear of someone who worships differently. People often attack what they don’t understand. Intolerance is an unwillingness to accept beliefs, views or behavior different from one’s own.

I’m left handed. I’m not running around demanding that everyone who is right handed become left handed because that is who I am, so it must be the correct way to do things. I’m not threatened by you being right handed. It’s not going to suddenly make me right handed.

What is happening in our community won’t suddenly change with an election. It will only change if each of us brings more acceptance, tolerance and basic human decency to each person we encounter. Be kind to your neighbor whether they agree with your politics or not. Be kind to employees at local businesses whether they look like you or not.

Whether it’s being stuck in traffic or having to wait for your food in a local restaurant, don’t add to the problem. Smile at strangers, say hello at the gas pump or when you are in line at the bank. Help a neighbor with their leaves. We will only make a better community through kindness. It is something each of us can do. It costs each of us nothing, but if not done can cost our community everything.

To end intolerance all that is required is that we accept someone as being different from ourselves. No one is asking you to change religion or your sexual preference. Being kind to someone who is gay will not make you gay. Being kind to someone who is Muslim, doesn’t make you a Muslim. These things make you a decent human being.

You can learn more about Natalie Webster and her adventures in the Lake Minnetonka area at WebsterEffect.com.

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