With another mass shooting, forest fire, flooding, acts of violence, high-profile controversy, along with all the assorted bad news we hear so often and it is easy to conclude the world is spiraling into oblivion.
As for me, one of my trigger points is the news about all the issues in the southern border. When I hear about the separation of families or just the overall hatred and division about, I am often left feeling hopeless and depressed.
There is actually good reason for this. As an immigrant child who was separated from my parents by Castro’s Revolution when I was ten, my heart aches every time I see pictures and videos of the empty and sad faces of people caught up in the middle of this American immigration morass. My personal experience can cloud my reasoning over these news stories because the separation from my family in Cuba that had me start life over in an American orphanage in a country where I didn’t know the language is by far the greatest trauma I have ever survived.
At the time, I was old enough to know Fidel Castro and his minions were heartless, godless and evil people who caused abundant pain to me and to so many Cuban families. But this knowledge makes it is easy for me to shade the people responsible for these events today with the same brush I painted Castro and his forces. I am often stuck in the thought that only heartless and godless people could do such harm to children and families.
More and more, however, I can detect how I have lost all objectivity by projecting my experiences on the current issue of immigration, I allow the fears and passions of those terrible days from my childhood to form my opinion in the present. They also feed my fears that the world is coming apart at the seams.
My point in telling you this story is not to start a discussion about immigration, it is to bring too your attention that you too allow current issues to trigger the bad feelings you experienced in past situations and, like me, they can negatively affect the hope you have for yourself and the world.
The overwhelming majority of people are genuinely good
We are so divided along political beliefs in our country today that it is difficult for us to see reality. Yet, no matter who a person has voted for, this is but one in the millions of actions people take every day.
However, it is important to remember that our political beliefs alone do not define us. Republicans, Democrats, Independents and members of other parties provide for their families and work together with us to build companies and communities. They help the poor, make excellent colleagues, teach our children, serve as first responders, care for the sick and elderly. The overwhelming majority are decent, humble people like us trying to find their way in this world.
Yes, there are evil and hateful acts that happen every day, but the awe-inspiring force from the kind and loving acts performed by 99% of the people on this earth blow those terrible acts away.
The world is not going to hell in a handbasket
We have become infatuated with oddity. The more bizarre and inexplicable the event, the higher the chances for it to be headline news, or to go viral on social media. Just look at TV programing, it is all about murder and intrigue.
“Reality TV” is not reality. That is just an advertising ploy to try to normalize what they are showing you. And we fall for it, for the weirder and more callous the behavior from the stars of these shows, the higher the viewership. While we may consider this entertainment, it is normalizing the extreme comportment of the few exceptions.
There is not a good explanation why our culture got this way, but it is plain to see that our information sources don’t give us another option. However, it is important to remember that, despite this kind of information inundation, these unusual things do not represent the bulk of humanity and we should not allow them to fool us.
Our world will not go to pieces unless we give in to this temporary exhilaration we get from scandals. But it is hard for many not to do this because of the constant drumbeat of negativity that generates impulses of separateness, mistrust and hatred in us. Our societal cost for this is enormous.
What can we do?
Many things in our nation and in the world today may seem irreparable, but we must not give up hope, for only in working together will we repair them. However, we will not find answers to these challenges by battering those with opposing points of view. We cannot open hearts by judging people whom we disagree with as evil, dumb, scary, and hateful.
It is important to remember that we are living in a time of great fear. When people are fearful, they project their experiences into the current situation, and they take action or adopt beliefs based on faulty thinking. Living in this fearful state continually distorts and exaggerates our perceptions so the fear can grow stronger and more menacing from within us.
But I have learned one cannot fight fear with hatred, for hate adds fuel to fear’s destructive flames, causing them to strengthen and expand in the fearful.
We must continue to join forces and advocate for the things we believe will create a greater good. But we cannot fall into the trap of seeing ourselves as good and our opponents as evil.
Remember, the vast majority of us are trying to create a greater world. We can we aware of our differences, but we must always extend a hand to bridge the gap between us.
Humanity has fought world wars, took part in the Holocaust and Japanese Internment camps, engaged in slavery and genocide. We have even come to the brink of ending our existence during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the accident in Chernobyl. But human history has also shown we can successfully overcome these difficult times and continue to thrive. Some of the work of overcoming our challenges is still left to be done, but I have faith that human goodness always triumphs.