This is an article I just posted on my blog I thought would be a good fit here....
I have been writing this blog for over a two years now. I started because I wanted a way to speak out against the radio show called, “Straight Talk Radio” with hosts Irene and Stephen Bennett. I had heard their misrepresentations of GLBT folks and realized for myself that someone needed to speak out against the enemy images painted by these folks. I continued to speak out for some time because I wanted the enemy images to stop. I would soon learn I was fighting Irene and Stephen with the same enemy images that I wanted to stop. I was fighting fire with fire, an eye for an eye.
A great man (Gandhi) once said, “An eye for and eye makes the whole world blind.” Another stated, “If we fight fire with fire, entire cities will burn”. Such tactics don’t work, but we seem to be addicted to them as a society. We are programed into the retributive system and have trouble changing because these are the options we know. We need to learn there are other choices to make. There are better ways, we just need to learn them.
I am learning more and more about nonviolence, nonviolent communication (NVC), and conflict resolution. I have spent the past year of my life reading nothing but books about these subjects. I have read all of the works of Gandhi, all of the works of King, short stories from Tolstoy, the writings of Thich Nhat Hahn and a few books from Marshall Rosenberg. I have gone to trainings, workshops and online seminars about mediation, peace making, cultural competency and nonviolence. It is the messages in this that have caused me to rethink my approach to people like Stacy Harp, Peter LaBarbera, Alan Chambers and the hosts of Straight Talk Radio.
I have spent much of my time learning newer and better ways to see those people with whom I disagree. It is not easy to see those who are telling the world you are evil, influenced by Satan, diseased and other colorful things, as human beings. It is much easier and what we have been programed to do, to see them as the opposite side of the war. To see them as they see us, as the enemy. I have to say, even in my own mind, when I catch myself seeing others in this way, I am sad. I have to stop and give some self-empathy. I have remind myself that I am not perfect, just on a journey to rise above the program and be the change for a less violent society.
This is what I hope of others, to stop the enemy images on all sides. I hope others will stop and just think for a moment about why they believe what they believe about other people. What is the evidence? What is the cause of what I believe? Is it based in facts or stereotypes?
Peace will never come in this world if we are not willing to see other people as brothers in conflict rather than divided enemies. It is the enemy images we paint of others that are at the root of violence in the world. We painted people with labels and then decided for ourselves what those labels “deserve.” Are we good, bad, right, wrong, black or white, straight or gay? We have programing on on televisions to help us make choices about who is right or wrong and good or bad. We are taught from a young age that bad guys deserve punishment and good guys deserve reward. We then spend years of our lives trying to avoid punishment and gain rewards, sometimes at the expense of others. Most of the time at the expense of ourselves.
Tonight, I sat and watched the Movie, “Hotel Rwanda”. I had wanted to watch this film for years but avoided it. I wasn’t sure I could handle watching such a blatant display of inhumanity. People divided by labels like “Hutu” and “Tutsi.” These labels were presented to these people by the size of their nose and their height. People did what they were told and killed who they were suppose to kill because they believed in the enemy images the were programed to believe. They did so to avoid punishment or gain reward. In some cases that reward was staying alive. Hutu’s referred to the Tutsi as “Cockroaches.” A simple way of painting them as enemies. It is easier for people to kill someone in cold blood if they see them not as a person, but the enemy.
It is those same enemy images of others that drive so many of our thoughts, actions and beliefs about other people. We see a homeless person and we see a label that triggers in us a set of beliefs, regardless if they are true. Rather than responding to that person as a person with needs and feelings, we see them as a label. Fact is they may not even be homeless at all, but we see people as labels rather than people so anyone dressed poorly and looking dirty must be homeless rather than man who just got off work or a man playing Walt Whitman in a play. We don’t really know the facts, but our mind fills them in anyway.
When I think about why we have enemy images of each other, I can’t help but look at the anti-gay industry and the constant barrage of rhetoric about gay folks. The messages, the false science and the mythological links to evil beings. I think that many of these folks need these enemy images of gay folks to feel better in their fear of god. A need to speak out against “sin” because not speaking out would jeopardize their own salvation. Again, they are stuck in this idea of reward and punishment. Good people are rewarded by god while bad people burn in hell. Many people live in this fear of god, but call it “god’s love”. I am not sure what kind of a god created beings just to scare the shit out of them for their lives, but it appears others are clear on this. Perhaps someday, someone will have it makes sense to me, but I have my doubts.
I suppose my conclusion is to ask you to think about those who disagree with you on any side of an issue and then ask yourself these questions:
1) What is there to gain from this and at whose expense?
2) Am I enriching life for anyone or just adding more negative, enemy images?
3) Have I just fought fire with fire and how will I escape the smoke and flames when the whole city burns.