Posts Tagged ‘positivity’

Choosing Joy

Stepped out my front door, and was briefly disgruntled to find that it is raining.

This was quickly followed by the joyful realization that for the first time all winter it’s actually warm enough to rain.

I could choose to be disgruntled that it’s finally warmed up this much and is raining instead, but I won’t. I’ll choose the joy.

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I am proud of my national identity. I am English by birth, and also American by citizenship. I experience the same moment of delirious elation as many others when England’s soccer team scores a goal, the same heartbreak when the team subsequently suffers the ignominy of being eliminated from the World Cup in a penalty shoot-out. I experience immense pride and satisfaction when it is an American who wins a Nobel or a Pulitzer Prize.

But do I believe that England or America is ‘better’ than another nation? Are we morally or culturally or intellectually superior to the Iranians, or the Japanese, or the Congolese?

My answer to this is a resounding “NO!”, for Humanity is not comprised of nations, or of religions. We are people, each and every one of us, none more ‘human’ than another. America can – and often does – make a case for superiority based on its military muscle or its financial strength, but that doesn’t make David Brennan from Little Rock any more an exemplar of the species than Hidetoshi Yamagata from Sapporo or Abdul ibn-Aziz al-Rashid from Riyadh.

I am also white, male and heterosexual. Does this mean that I am more deserving of any form of recognition or respect than someone who might be black, or female, or gay? Again, “NO!”. Not in the slightest. Each of us is a shining jewel to be treasured and cherished, equally able to contribute to the betterment of our species as a whole.

It seems unfathomable to me that any subset of Humanity is considered ‘lesser’ than another in this day and age. In America, women have made immense strides toward equality over the hundred years since being granted rights which men had long taken for granted, and yet are still often perceived as inferior by some. Similarly, black Americans have made significant progress over the last half century, but still feel the sting of the ethnic divide. The LGBT community is even now struggling for many of the same rights for which women and African-Americans fought for so long. How is it possible that in the twenty-first century we are still discriminating between members of our own species?

This is not to say, however, that these differences do not matter. They matter immensely. Your gender, you ethnic and religious identity, your national origin and your sexuality are all parts of the recipe which makes you uniquely you, worthy of being celebrated. These traits may afford you a degree of insight which the prevalent majority may lack. Coupled with your intelligence, your creativity and your education, these all put you in a unique position to contribute something of immeasurable value to all seven billion of us, and I for one will celebrate alongside you as you do it.

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“As a citizen of humanity, you have the right:

To pursue any occupation or field of study, regardless of your gender.
To be considered for any opportunity, regardless of your race.
To quality education and health care, regardless of your income.
To share the whole of life – including marriage – with the person you love, regardless of your sexuality or gender identity.
To worship freely, or not worship at all, regardless of your beliefs.
To feel safe in all of the aspects of yourself described above.

These rights are yours. Should anyone deny them to you, challenge them. Ask them not by what law or power or threat, but by what right they deny you that which they claim for themselves.”


“Do not tell me that we are all the same, do not encourage me to ignore that which makes us different. Tell me instead how we are different, show me all that which makes you uniquely yourself, such that I might celebrate you as fully as I am able, and invite you to celebrate me in turn.”


Though they are my words, those have quotes around them because my hope is that they will in fact be quoted. Not because I want my name on them, but because I want the sentiments to reach as many ears as possible.

Please, if they resonate with you, use them. Pass them along. Type them in front of a stock photo in 18pt font and share them on your Facebook timeline, your Tumblr blog, your Pinterest boards. Let me come to discover these words shared by people I don’t even know.

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Lately I’ve seen a lot of people saying they hate Mitt Romney or Barack Obama, a lot of negative ads from down-ticket candidates, a lot of politics of division.

I’ve also seen a lot of voter fatigue, a lot of Facebook statuses saying “I’ve quit caring who wins” or “I just want the election to be over”, or worst of all “I’m sitting this one out in protest”.

As ever, there’s a third way. Stop being anti-. You can be pro-someone without having to hate everything the opponent stands for. You can prefer beef and still eat chicken. Or if you really want to protest the two-meat system, get out there and vote for tofu instead of sitting out dinner. If you’re sitting out dinner, you don’t get to bitch about the restaurant.

So let’s try something better. I’ll start.

“I’m voting for Barack Obama next week because despite some mis-steps I believe the effect of his presidency on the country has been positive.
I prefer government to be small where possible, but not so small that the ones who need our help fall through the cracks.
I would like to keep my taxes reasonable, but I’m not willing to lose important programs like Social Security to save a couple of bucks a month.
I believe in the importance of alternative energy programs, and in a woman’s right to make her own reproductive choices, and in the right of consenting adults to marry whomever they love, and I believe that our current President better embodies these choices than his opponent.”

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Good People

There is a remarkable phenomenon I’ve been noticing intermittently for much of my adult life – one which is doubtless well known to serious students of sociology and anthropology but still baffles me.
The vast majority of us, I would think, are good people. Give me five minutes to talk with a small group of people whose language I can speak, and I will likely emerge from it having found a great deal of common ground, and quite possibly with a new Facebook friend or two into the bargain. However, all manner of ills appear to come from larger societal institutions.
I think this is why it is often possible for a person to hate on Republicans or Mormons or Texans, but it is much harder to hate a random Republican or Mormon or Texan should you happen to find yourself in conversation with them.
So why does this happen? This isn’t my usual rhetorical question, the opening for an internal Socratic monologue, but an actual plea for deep and considered insight from my readership.
Why is it that we can get swept up into such giddying whorls of baseless hatred, if we’re all good people?

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