Racism and bigotry are poison.
There’s no other way to say it. There is no problem harder to overcome than bridging the gap between yourself and someone who already thinks they know everything about you because of your color, gender, height, weight, attractiveness, sexual orientation, et cetera.
I think that most of the time, I do a pretty good job of being fair and level-headed.
But always? No. There is some darkness in us all, including me. I am human. Sometimes I hate. We are prone to weakness, appetites, and judgements that are beneath us. Self-scrutiny is rarely comfortable. When you start turning over the rocks, you always find something you would prefer to ignore.
But other people can and should be a joy. They are not something to cope with, but to celebrate.
What is community?
I am helping to write a technology grant for our library. One of the things we’re trying to do is make the library’s website more of a gathering place. Why? Because that is what a library is. Tax dollars pay for a place where everyone can get together.
Everyone? Please. A physical building can only hold so many bodies. A community is much greater than the maximum occupancy number decreed by the fire code. A community is more than a group of factions sharing a spot on a map.
But there are things that people can’t or won’t get over when they are forced to share physical space. This is why I see various groups enter the library as groups, and exit as such. They do not mingle with other groups. They do not create a larger group or a more useful talent pool.
When we keep to our own, whatever that might mean for each of us, we miss the opportunity to enrich the lives of others, and to be enriched ourselves.
How do we hate? Let me count the ways…
Recently I spoke with a woman who said she could never trust me or be my friend because I am a man. “I hate men,” she said, and she meant it. “I hate my boss,” said someone else that week. “Women can’t lead. She’ll ruin this place.” Maybe they each came by their feelings honestly, but it’s ugly stuff.
The gays. The straights. The whites. The blacks. Men. Women. The weak. The strong. The rich. The impoverished. The obese. The homeless. The Right. The Left. The Christians. The Muslims. The atheists. The elderly. The disabled, ad nauseum.
Take your pick.
Wait! There’s good news!
These distinctions become less important in social media. On Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, or your blog, when you set up a user profile, do you mark your interests as “hating people?” Do you describe yourself as “judgmental weenie?” Do you broadcast your New Year’s resolution of “I will participate in fewer hate crimes this year?”
No, of course not, because 1) they’re exaggerations, and 2) that’s not how we see ourselves, even if or when there is some truth to it. Online, our words can create positive effects that our physical presence might negate.
For instance, what if that woman who hates men saw one of my tweets and found it very inspiring? Let’s say that my avatar was a dancing hot dog and my username gave no indication of my gender–well, maybe the dancing hot dog would give it away, but pretend.
Would she find it less profound once she found out that a man wrote it? Maybe. But what if she never found out? We could have the seed of a breakthrough. Is that too grandiose? Maybe. But I’m seeing it happen in my own life.
I can’t be the only one.
I’ve met people online who have improved my life in very profound, real ways. I can thank a lot of people online with genuine gratitude. Thank you to:
- Kelly Diels, for making me grateful with every blog post. Your writing is the equivalent of a blow to the head with a beautiful sledge hammer of truth.
- Unbreakable Adam T. Glass, for showing me all the potential of the human body and mind.
- Seth Godin, for noticing me. Your email got me a literary agent.
- Danielle Laporte, for walking into my dream and dumping potato chips on my head (it was a good dream, but not that kind of dream). You have also made me a better public speaker, although you don’t know it.
- John Chow, for helping me feel better about wanting money and showing me how to get it.
- Zeenat, for free online counseling and being my fellow Mark Twain addict.
- David Cain for pretending to be a spammer in my comments and encouraging me from the start.
- Chris Guillebeau, for helping me with my travel plans.
- Mike T. Nelson, for fixing all of my injuries by being an affordable genius who gets people out of pain in the blink of an eye.
- James Chartrand, for all the ADD and Tourette’s jokes.
- Chris Brogan, for telling me you started out in a library.
- Lori Franklin, for reaching out to my sister when she was desperate and kicking MS in its ugly teeth.
I could go on forever.
I believe that if we all got together, we could find things to dislike about each other. But so what? We’re not all together. I see the whole social media thingy as one big library without a fire marshal telling us that we’ve exceeded maximum occupancy.
At it’s worst, I see social media as a fun time waster. At its lofty, grandiose best, I see it getting rid of some of the hate in the world. Maybe you couldn’t stand the sight of me if I was in the room with you. But I’m not, and chances are, you’re nodding along with everything I’m saying right now, even though I could be a terrible person.
And if you’re not, well…maybe we can have it both ways.
It’s all just pixels on a screen, right?
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