Can’t We All Just Get Along…? Probably Not

The hot word of the last few months has been ‘divisive’. It gets dropped into so many conversations about so many things. It’s the year 2016 in the 21st Century and we still haven’t figured out how to coexist civilly, much less happily. Social media is awash with behaviour so appalling it regularly reduces people to tears. The U.S. general elections have been providing the world with an unprecedented display of misogyny and buffoonery. The terror attacks have occurred so frequently that we’re hit with news of another one while we’re still cleaning up the emotional and physical damage of the last one. The #BlackLivesMatter movement in America is bringing to light the horrendous levels of racism that still exists in that country hundreds of years after slaves were freed and decades after the Civil Rights Movement (should have) brought some equality for African-Americans. Violence against women has reached alarming levels and the emerging statistics related to the abuse and assault of women are terrifying to say the least. Religious rhetoric has become increasingly vitriolic and God has been commercialized.

So what gives? How can we possibly still be living like this after so many millennia of interaction? Could it be that this is the rule and not the exception? Should minorities simply resign themselves to subjugation, exploitation and discrimination? Should women accept that we will always be in physical peril simply by existing?  Should religious groups continue to fight to the death to try to prove whose god is the best?

Or is this the time for change? Statistically, these things have been happening since the beginning of time. All of it. The adage ‘There is nothing new under the sun’ is not an exaggeration. History repeats itself. The only difference I see now is that more people know. Have you ever taken stock of how many people are surprised about the devastation that has preceded this generation? The Crusades, The Plague, The French Revolution (and all the European wars), The Holocaust, The World Wars to name a few. The endless list of tragedies that have taken tens of millions of lives. How many people are surprised to hear how recently women have been granted basic rights such as the right to vote and the right to own property (um… in case you don’t know, those things happened in the western world in the 1970s and still have not come to pass in some eastern countries). We thought that homosexuality was a recent deviation (er… check the Old Testament) and that ‘taboo’ sex acts are a result of access to pornography and a few ‘dirty’ minds.

So is history really doomed to repeat itself? Should we accept racism, misogyny, religious fanaticism and political corruption as a matter of course and just keep our heads down and live our own lives? Should we band together and protest and revolt and fight to the death for the rights we believe ourselves entitled to? Should we use our newfound awareness as a catalyst for real change? Can we? Is there a possible middle ground?

I sometimes have occasion to start my day with a very familiar prayer/incantation:

God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change

The Courage to change the things I cannot accept

And the Wisdom to know the difference

Surprisingly, it helps. There are some things that we will never be able to change, not as individuals, not as groups. There are some battles that will never be worth fighting. What we do have control over is ourselves. We can choose the manner in which we approach this life, the manner in which we treat all the people we come across, ALL OF THEM.  I’ve learned to shine from my own corner; to live my life the best way possible; to be a person I would feel blessed to interact with. I’ve learned to deal fairly and honestly and decently with everyone and to be one less asshole in the world. I’ve committed to trying my very best, at all times, to get along with everyone I cross paths with. I don’t always succeed, but everyday I try and sometimes, that’s all we can really do.

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