Is it just too big?

I watched a video online yesterday of Jon Stewart blasting the hypocrisy that is Fox News in a way that only he can. If you haven't seen it, I would encourage you to watch it: Fox News: The New Liberals.

After catching my breath and wiping the tears of hilarity from my eyes, I was, again, struck by how different my view of the world is from the people at Fox News. Essentially, most everything that comes out of the mouths of anyone who is speaking into a microphone on that channel is the exact opposite of what I would say (of course there are some exceptions, but few).

On my best days, I like to try to think that people genuinely believe they have the best intentions and that they think their ideas are the best course of action for the betterment of the country. Now, I can also admit that I also have days in which I don't think quite as above the fray.

Obviously your opinions and ideas are based on your world view, your perception of what life is like for yourself and for others. Of course people have a fairly good handle on what like if like for them. They know what they need, what they want, and what would be best for them (well, most people anyway).

And then there is the other side of the perspective: the perspective of other people, of other subgroups within the American and world culture. I'm certain that everyone in this vast country we call the United States of America considers how their actions might affect their neighbors. I'm convinced that, at least once daily, Americans living in plush suburbs ponder what life is truly like for children living in inner cities neighborhoods. I know that all white men are sensitive to what it might be like to be an African American woman. And I know firsthand that all straight folks think about what it must be like to be gay in a heterosexually dominated society.

Okay, so I'm actually not certain of any of that. If anything, I would be more certain that little, if any of that goes on. The only thing I am certain of is that not enough of those things occur.

There are so many different Americas. There are so many varying needs. I can't help but wonder: is there a point at which a country becomes too diverse in values and needs that it's impossible to govern?

I don't know what the answer is to that specific question; it's an extremely complex dynamic. Here's what I do think I know: to assume that we all just know what life is like for all Americans is ignorant. To assume that everyone in this massive country needs to the same thing as you do is perhaps the definition of close-minded. To assume that because you are happy and satisfied with your daily life and therefore nothing needs changing is dangerous.

I think there are some important steps that have to happen before real progress can occur. They are very simple steps, and yet close to impossible. Here's what I propose:

Acknowledge that you have no idea what life is like for anyone other than yourself. Because you can't know, it's literally impossible. You can't even know what's going on inside the head of the person who is closest to you in this world at all times. But I think acknowledging this is the first step in being able to understand what it might be like. We try to hold this power over people by saying, "Oh I know what it's like." Well, no we don't. Do you really know what it's like to live minute-to-minute wondering where you are going to sleep each night (some readers might)? Do you know what it's like to hear people talk about how they value freedom for all and then tell you that you can't get married in the same breath (again, some readers might)?

So let people have their own power - we are the only one's who can know what we need. Through embracing this, I believe that we can then begin to try an empathize and attempt to understand what life is like for others. We can never know, but we can always strive to understand. Truly embracing diversity is letting going of your assumptions.

1 comment:

Arnax said...

are you sure you didn't go and get some social work degree? Welcome to my world! I actively avoid the phrase, "I understand what you mean" or "I know what that is like." (ok, not all the time and not with my friends all the time) Instead, I stick to, "tell me more" and, "how was that experience for you?" we can only know ourselves and hope that through that process of discovery, we help others realize clarity and focus.