Monday, January 18, 2016

Of 'isms, 'ists, & Issues - Paying Respect to Martin Luther King, Jr.

Our opinions shape who we are, and who we want to be. The below blog is an opinion piece meant to celebrate one man's courageous spirit and honest opinion about humanity. Thank you, Martin Luther King, Jr., for teaching me to be a better person.

I was born into privilege. White. Male. Privilege. I don't identify with it, I don't like to say I possess it, and regardless of my choice not to identify with it or exploit it, I still have it. In fact, if you are any given white male in the world today, of any age, guess what?

This is a particularly tough thought process for me because, just like so many other white males who frown upon racism, sexism, and the countless other negative 'isms and 'ists that exists today, I still can't escape this deplorable, unfathomable truth. A more unfortunate truth is that 'isms and 'ists simply shouldn't be truths. And they most certainly shouldn't be issues, yet here we are.

So, today, as I take a moment to honor a man, who fought and died for human progress, Martin Luther King, Jr., I'm stuck asking myself, what makes an issue an issue? And who decides which 'isms and 'ists are arguable issues? 

By and large, the one that impacts every human being is gender. So let's talk about gender issues first. This is particularly salient point when you consider that women make up nearly half of our population. I think it's safe to say that most people think that sexism is wrong. I'm sure you're thinking right now, of course it's wrong. But then why are there are so many someones out there, right now, who think that feminism, the rational advocacy model driving gender equality, is an over-the-top and unnecessarily rash stance to combat sexism? 

Worse yet, we keep letting this particular issue go on, spiraling out of control. It's become so polarized that we let it happen at home on our televisions, we let it happen at school in our history books, and we even let happen at work. We let it happen to each other without even thinking about it. How many times do you write (or taught to write) 'he' before she? How often do you say (or even just hear), 'Hey, you 'guys'? Heck, even our base hu'man'ity suffers. Okay, maybe that's a reach . . . or maybe it's not.

Racism falls victim to this same faulty logic. Too many people tell us to say #AllLivesMatter instead of #BlackLivesMatter. It's a rational thought. All lives do matter. But it's not our reality when so many people of color are profiled, victimized, and killed, every day, world wide. Or, why do so many people take issue with those of us who feel we should no longer say derogatory slang terms like 'Redskin'? Or 'alien' when referring to immigrants? Are they really that different, that far out there?

I think the biggest hurdle is when a per'son' (ok, now I'm really reaching) wants to call something an issue because their personal beliefs say it's a grey area:  'I don't agree with gay marriage or a gay 'lifestyle',' or 'I think it's okay for me to take away a woman's right to decide what she can do with her own body, when she can do it, and how she needs to dress (or cover up) doing it.' There are no grey areas here. It's very simple:  if it's not your body . . . well, you know the rest (and, if you don't, Google it). 

A huge problem with ill-founded issues, 'isms, and 'isms' is the waste. Wasted time, wasted energy, wasted money, all because some people want you to know that their personal opinions (I mean issues) are more important than real issues like, oh, say, homelessness or obesity in a world that also has millions starving.

It's easy to say what you're against. What do you stand for? Therein lies the difference between a conservative mind and a progressive, proactive one. I'm reminded of watching and listening to Obama talk about his thoughts and proactive stances on gun control. I'm not talking about agreeing with his politics, just his thoughts.

We can start with just simple, common sense gun control measures. All opinions aside, the cold, hard (deathly) fact remains that gun control (particularly in the U.S.) is a necessity so long as we have so many massacres of our children and other citizens not expecting to be catching a bullet. I watched Obama's presentation, felt it, finished it and cried. Did you watch this? 

There are so many other negative 'isms and 'ists. Too many for a single blog. Issues found in movies, books, ads, marketing, mass media - everything we see, and our kids see every day, reflects the inequalities of issues. Rich over poor, thin over fat, and in each of these circumstances, one is always expected to aspire to be the presumed 'better' one.

Unfortunately, people don't want to talk about 'issues' in the workplace for fear of what their peers or employer might think or that it just creates a hostile work environment. We can't talk about it on facebook for fear of losing 'friends'. We can't talk about it at the park, the market, or the game because, well, that's not fun. So where can we talk about it?

The takeaway is that we can't let this topic of issues go on any longer and expect to evolve as humanity. World hunger, clean water, climate change, these are our real issues. But if we really want human progress, we have to rid the world of the faulty issues that drive 'isms and 'ists to begin with. Which 'icms and 'ists are top of mind for you?