Before peace, must have understanding

“It’s so hard to forget pain, but it’s even harder to remember sweetness. We have no scar to show for happiness.” — Chuck Palahniuk, “Diary”

I am a professional learner.

I get paid to ask questions and research topics until I understand things enough to impart my newfound knowledge to my readers.

I assume nothing. I reach no conclusions until I have the facts, and I don’t have the facts until I’ve talked to people directly involved in whatever I’m writing about.

Throughout my career, I’ve grown to like people I thought I disliked, to dislike people I thought I liked, and to see a lot more shades of gray than I thought existed, all because I have come to understand things I didn’t previously understand.

Oh, but if we could all use that approach in all areas of life.

Social media reveals how little we do.

I scan Facebook from time to time, hoping to see cute pictures of my friends’ kids or to catch up with long-ago acquaintances or to watch the occasional cute cat or dog video.

But I’ve just about given up the whole blasted thing, because I find too much hate interspersed with those cute kid pictures.

Liberals hating conservatives, conservatives hating liberals. Religious people hating the LGBTQ community and the LGBTQ community hating religious people.

It’s gone beyond simple politics. The attacks have become personal, dehumanizing.

The liberals call conservatives hateful fascists. Conservatives call liberals idiot satanists. Religious people call the LGBTQ community monsters and clowns. The LGBTQ community calls the religious backwards homophobes.

All of them claim to want peace while denigrating those they call “the other side.”

But there can be no peace without first understanding the basic humanity of the other side.

And there can be no understanding without learning, no learning without asking questions.

I admit I have not always lived up to my own ideals. I have sometimes judged labels instead of people. I have sometimes disregarded the humanity of those who say things with which I disagree, especially when they spew hate toward people I love.

But I try.

I try to understand liberals and conservatives each want better lives for themselves and the people they love, they just believe different policies will get us there.

I try to understand religious people feel called by God to say what they say, that they love their lord and want to do right by him.

I try to understand members of the LGBTQ community just want to live as themselves unharassed, as we all do.

But to understand requires learning, and learning requires inquiry. I have to talk to people to know them as people.

Thankfully, I have liberals and conservatives in my family. I have ultra-religious people and members of the LGBTQ community (and religious members of the LGBTQ community) in my family.

That means I get to talk to each of them and know them as humans. I get to understand that they each love their families and work hard for the lives they have and for better lives for themselves and the people they love.

Not a one of them is a monster or out to get me or anyone with whom they disagree. They’re just living their lives and hoping for a world where they can live that life fully.

And, quite frankly, not one of them living their lives prevents me from living mine.

I do not agree with or condone everything every one of them says and even find some of their beliefs concerning, for the republic or for other people I love or for my fellow humans. I would like to change some of their minds and pray that some of them will have an awakening.

But I understand them, and that allows me not to hate them.

I am blessed to not have to travel far to find different ideas and ideals.

Not everyone is so blessed, and I try to understand that that might be why some of them hate, because sometimes we hate what we don’t understand.

I would encourage anyone without the blessing of diversity in their immediate circles to seek out that diversity.

When you come across someone on social media who stirs up your worst feelings, rather than posting a hateful screed, reach out to them through direct message and ask them why they feel the way they do. Ask them who they are and where they come from. Ask them what they hope their ideas might accomplish in the world.

You might get laughed at or shoved aside or ignored. You might get hate in return.

That’s OK.

Ask the next person.

Eventually, you might learn something. You might come to understand.

And that might bring you peace.

Justin A. Hinkley can be reached at 989-354-3112 or jhinkley@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinHinkley.


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