I don't know about you, but the protesting from the last couple of weeks has really gotten to me. I am distressed that people will speak and act so violently against other people. It seems as if both parties can incite their own and each other.
I wonder if I were part of a protest, would I get carried away? The log is in my own eye because there is a part of me that just wants those with whom I don't agree to just shut the heck up. Hopefully I would never resort to violence to have them be quiet. But are those who protest seemingly reasonable any other time?
I am a firm believer for freedom of speech so I would hope that my desire for that universal freedom would override any "mob" mentality. If I start picking and choosing who may speak, based on my preferences, then I am no better than the dictators or absolute rulers of this world. I hope that I would choose and do the right thing when it comes to dealing with individuals whom I may not agree.
Last week there was a story that exemplified someone who was choosing and doing the right thing. A news reporter, Al Letson was in Berkeley California, reporting on a protest of white supremacists and its counter protest of anti-fascists or antifa. As Mr. Letson was watching things unfold, he saw a white supremacist fall to the ground and an angry group of antifa approach the fallen man with what appeared to the journalist intent to harm or possible kill the fallen white supremist. So the journalist broke the journalist code of "not becoming part of the story" and lay on the man, covering him with his own body so that the left-wing, antifa protesters would stop. The journalist was hoping that the anti-protesters would see him, a black man on the ground and not harm him or the gentleman underneath him.
What a hero and a testament that as humans, we can show compassion, understanding and empathy even if we do not agree.
But, I wonder- would I be as brave as the journalist? Would I stand up for someone even if I did not agree with the other person?
I haven't been part of any protests, nor have I been put in a split second decision to offer my life for someone else, but I have had opportunities to sign petitions or statements for various groups. Most of the requests I would say I agree with the sentiments but there is generally some statement or statements that I cannot completely agree. I find that almost every issue has nuances and is not so cut and dry. Some of the sentiments are quite true but once "on board", I find that there are other sentiments that are not quite in keeping with the intention.
And so I struggle. How do we know what to believe? How do we, as Americans, get out of this negative, all or nothing, vile hatred of other's beliefs and in turn of others? How do we protest without being violent? How do we agree to disagree? How do we get the other side to listen to us? How do we get institutions to revoke policies and practices that are not equal to all Americans? How do we not remain bitter when that happens?
I was thinking that I need to look back. I am wanting to read about forgiveness and grace. How did South Africa turn the tide of apartheid? Certainly there was blood shed and much hardship. But how did Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu work with the same people who imprisoned and hurt them? How do we work, live, play beside the people whom we do not agree? How can reconciliation occur?
What about you? Have you thought about the protests happening in our nation? Have you participated in any? What was the feeling of the crowd? Would you be as quick thinking as the journalist to protect someone whom you disagree?
Have you had the opportunity to do the right thing? Or, by my using the action word, "doing", are you in the process of exploring the right thing?