My philosophy is applicable in this situation because it is applicable in every situation. To live is to influence and be influenced by the world, while the effects and degrees may change over time, it is an inescapable fact of life.
I think it’s important that I point out again that I never have nor will I ever take up the position that we should tolerate or normalize bigotry, fanaticism, or extremism. However, I do think that we can not use that as an excuse to shut people out of our lives, especially if we’re to have any hope for change. Who has a better chance of kicking heroin? A man who is isolated and alone, a man who allows himself to be in the company of other drug users, or a man who is surrounded by love ones and medical professionals who are patient, understanding, and supportive? Who has a better chance of reintegrating into society after they’re released from prison? A man who is isolated and alone, a man who allows himself to be in the company of other criminals, or a man who is surrounded by people willing to help him find a home, a job, and a sense of normalcy? We cannot solve problems of social ills by cordoning people off and ignoring them. Problems must be faced head on, otherwise they’ll perpetuate themselves in the dark until one day the problems break out into the world again throwing things into disarray.
One of the difficulties many of us have, including me, is the unrealistic desire for swift and complete change in individuals and groups. We want people to realize how destructive their behavior is and sometimes we think and act and speak in hopes that if we just say and do the right things, others will magically realize the error of their ways and aim to do right. It doesn’t work that way though, because there are so many mechanisms that make change slow and gradual, once again, both for individuals as well as groups. But that slow gradual change is often more enduring and more impactful than abrupt changes, for many reasons, some I know and understand, some I don’t. Abrupt, forced change though? It’s pretty fragile and can quickly become undone.
We can take heart though in the fact that as certain situations get worse and worse, more people are able to realize them for what they are and are motivated to address them. As many steps back this country has taken in the course of history, it’s taken many, many more forward, and it will continue to do so as long as enough members of society take a conscious effort to make change.
As for individuals, young and old, even if they’re incapable of changing completely, any small step towards progress is a victory that should be recognized and celebrated. Our behaviors compound on top of each other, for better or for worse. So even the slightest change in a person, whether it’s being a little more accepting, a little more understanding, a little more kind, will ripple out and impact the world in a positive way. Conversely, we need to be more mindful of who we are and where we are, because a little anger, a little insensitivity, a little carelessness, can have similar effects.
Me personally? I’m not perfect. In fact, I’m a pretty big fuck up. But I understand the importance of that concept and I embrace it wholly and I strive to be a little better each day, to change a bit more each day, and I think if you compared me now to who I was five or ten years ago, you’d see a very different person. Hopefully for the better.
I’m afraid of this conversation devolving into circular talk and hair splitting and nit picking. You’ve said your bit and I said mine, so I’ll just leave with this thought. We don’t have to actively seek out racists and lend them a hand, if that’s not what we want to do. We don’t have to actively try and change people’s minds, if that’s not what we want to do. We have our own lives, we have our own limits, we have our own problems. But when people come into our lives, however briefly, we should strive to do our best, because when people interact with us, they take a piece of us with them, so let’s make it wholesome and good.