Not too long ago I asked Stephanie Smith to write a followup to Is Tolerance Always A Virtue? When you read the post, you’ll see why. Stephanie has quickly become one of my favorite people. She didn’t disappoint with this article. And she has an awesome motorcycle.
What is it that causes the vast perception differences in our culture? Perception is basically knowledge we gain through our life experiences, i.e. prior exposure to certain conditions, patterns and stereotypes. Thus it would follow that the more exposure a person has to a variety of experiences and people, the more tolerance would be developed.
Benjamin Disraeli stated:“Travel teaches tolerance” and I have found that to be so true. Since my father was career Air Force, I spent much of my youth overseas and it not only broadened my horizons, it did indeed teach me tolerance as well as acceptance of people who were different than me.
I will give you a prime example: myself. If you met me while I was working as a nurse, you would probably have the perception that I was a caring, passionate, clean cut looking woman. If, on the other hand, you met me as I got off my Harley, wearing biker attire, showing some of my tattoos, you might have the perception of a tough chick, who doesn’t take flak from anyone and who carries a variety of weapons on her person (knives, stun gun, baton, to name a few).
Now picture me sitting in my husband’s ICU waiting room, never leaving the hospital , as he is in a coma fighting for his life because some woman tried to make an illegal U turn from the fast lane of an Interstate.
What if I told you that the Harley chick also goes to church every Sunday and personally organizes and hosts a charity event annually, that raises over $8000.00 for the local humane shelter? Would that information change your mind? Perhaps. By no means am I a paragon – I have many faults, as do we all. I am simply trying to demonstrate that what you see is not always what you get.
Perceptions are faulty at best and the biker subculture reaps many false perceptions from people because they do not have enough experience with that lifestyle to formulate a remotely accurate perception, much less develop a tolerance for it.
Watching “Sons of Anarchy” does NOT mean you know ANYTHING about the motorcycle subculture. It IS a subculture, with its own set of values and protocols, something most people never learn about. Most bikers have more honor and respect than they ever get credit for. The general public has no idea that bikers raise more money for charity every year than the average family or individual. We do runs for everything from Toys for Tots, March of Dimes, Humane Shelters, Veterans …the list is long.
But … “motorcycles are dangerous”, they say. Really? Most motorcycle accident statistics show that CAR DRIVERS are MOST often RESPONSIBLE for the crashes. “I just didn’t see the bike, officer.” Well, wake up and pay attention!
I have been riding a motorcycle of one type or another since I was 13 and the only wrecks I have ever had were in my car! Not my fault either –but that’s another story.
Can you see where I am going with this? Until we as a people, can learn to not judge a book by its cover, so to speak, tolerance will not grow. Changing people’s perceptions requires that they broaden their horizons.
I spent many years defending my mother to other kids’ parents who only saw her high heels and tattoos. They didn’t see the cancer survivor, the kind hearted animal lover, the woman who would do anything to help someone in need. That taught me to not judge others simply by what I see. A very good friend once told me: “Time tells all.” – how true is that?!
Now, as a woman who has made many choices of her own, I am not bothered by the stares or occasional snide remarks. Why? Because if someone is that quick to judge me, when they do not know me, then the shame is theirs. My decisions do not reflect on them.
Perception is a mirror not a fact.
Look past the motorcycle or the tattoos and SEE THE PERSON. You might just be surprised.
About The Author: Stephanie Smith is the author of the blogm, Half the battle is believing . Other than the Harley and nursing, she likes to dance and generally be an excellent person.