Friday, October 6, 2017

Shades of Gray

The world is so black and white these days. I'm looking for shades of gray. It used to be, compromise was a wonderful word, and the key for a good relationship. Whether with a friend, coworker, or life partner, one person leaning in a little and the other doing the same somehow can find middle-ground-and get along.

In today's political climate, it seem compromise is considered a dirty word; a sign of weakness. Compromise is gray in a world of black and white.

There's a great deal I don't like about what's going on in my country and I gave up thinking my expressing an opinion on social media or anywhere else would change anyone's mind. But I'm not gonna lie--I have changed my mind on a lot of things over time. I've been black on white on issues I'm now gray on. When faced with conversation from people with a differing view, who present facts I hadn't considered or experiences I have never had opens my mind and softens my position ... I won't be shamed for that. Angry keyboard warriors call a politician who has changed their position a flip-flopper, but if you flip-flopped because you were wrong, and admit it--I think that's a sign of strength not weakness.

Every day on social media I see these keyboard warriors shaming others. The far left and the far right pontificators are the most represented in social ( and all ) media, and in fact, as we learn of paid propaganda ads and fake news from Russia, I'm starting to think social is the problem-not media. All of us and our shades of gray cower...not wanting to offend or get a fight started on our walls. The sane among us are left in the dust.

I did not vote for Donald Trump, and find his brand offensive and destructive to our society. But I want to understand why people hold a different opinion than I do. And I think we need to elect politicians who aren't afraid to do the same. We need bridge builders. I regularly converse with a friend who holds vastly different political views than I.  On the subject of how this president got elected she said-- "we need to understand many did not vote FOR Trump. They voted AGAINST everything our political system has turned into." Proving that it can be done--we always have great discussions. We listen and end up realizing how much we agree on. It's amazing how two women can solve the world's problems on a walk in the park.

The taking a knee protest is another issue that seems as divisive as the election. Like Hillary vs Trump there is no middle ground. No gray. If you agree with a person's right to take a knee you are anti-American, disrespect the flag and the military. If you don't think taking a knee is an appropriate way to protest, you are a close-minded racist. So many see the other's view as not only wrong--but unforgivable.

The most compelling opinions I've heard that have helped form my view on this subject are people who have had experiences I have not had. They are 1) black, or 2) veterans. Every person I know who is offended by black athletes taking a knee is white. While those who accept the protest are of mixed races, creeds and ages.

The veterans that support the protest say it not an assault on the flag, but instead,  an example of the rights they fought for to peacefully protest an injustice that happens in the country our flag represents.

I don't live in black skin. I understand that just by being born white, I simply don't know what it feels like to be teased on the playground because of my color, or my accent. I don't know what it feels like to be a black mom or dad having to explain to my pre-teen why he puts himself in danger if he wears that hoodie outside on the street...why people may cross the street if they see him walking by with a group of his friends. Or why him running around wielding a stick on a playground or park could have different consequences for him than it would a white boy. My black colleague once described his fear of being pulled over, the thoughts that went through his mind seeing blue lights behind him. How to talk, where to place his hands, what would happen to him if he stepped out of the car. Was there a robbery nearby? Does he fit a description? I simply don't know that fear. My experience being pulled over has been that of  a cute white girl talking herself out of a ticket. The learning to drive "tips" I gave my kids are a lot different than the ones my black friends are giving their teens. I have had an advantage--yes "privilege" that I did nothing to earn. I just was born. Not being black, asian, brown or what is now called "other" on the census form, I cannot not know the experience of a person of color.

So now, football, of all things,  has given us an opportunity for dialogue... an opportunity to try to see another view. An opportunity to build a bridge. And a white girl like me saying black athletes shouldn't use a venue where all of America is watching to protest seems...well, to be proving their point.

I believe conservatives and liberals, straights and gays, blacks, browns and whites, and persons of all faiths need to find some gray and not be ashamed to put a listener, a negotiator, one who compromises---a LEADER  in the White House in the next election.