It's all too much: attacks in Paris, bombings around the world, a 9 year old gunned down in Chicago, officers killed doing their job. We don't know how to end these threats so instead we place blame.
We blame refugees. We blame religion. We blame the President.
I don't pretend to understand politics. I know at 43 I should care about them exponentially more than I do.
But I don't.
I'm not glued to the debates because frankly I don't believe anything they profess they'll actually change. Because, really, nothing is riding on their philosophies.
We generally believe our alledged improvements are far superior to those others suggest. We all have ideas how to make the world better and safer: "if that were my child," "if I had cancer;" "if I were in charge..."
But until we're truly immersed in that scenario, with those choices dependent upon our decisions, we really have no idea.
Social media is full of people vehemently proclaiming their opinions and claiming freedom of speech as their defense. Yet, the same individuals are outraged by opposing views.
"You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours." You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms.
Then you can stand up and sing about the land of the free." -"President" Andrew Shepard, American President
So we blame the president. "Why hasn't Obama taken a harder stance on ISIS?" "Why isn't Obama speaking about the injustice in our state?" "The President should do his job!"
Like I said, I don't know much about politics, but I do know this-the president isn't your mommy.
The president isn't there to kiss every boo-boo, publicly speak on every crisis, or solve every dispute. Especially the ones that begin at home.
My kids know that I'll answer every question they have (sometimes more honestly than they'd prefer). We have always had a code for when they needed help out of situation that made them feel uncomfortable or unsafe. And when they come to me bickering, they know I'm willing to resolve the problem for them, but they probably won't like the results.
Recently I attended a children's sporting event. During the game one player used a racial slur toward a player on the opposing team. How this was/wasn't handled quickly taught 34 children a lesson in intolerance.
Most likely you don't speak that way in your home or use those words. But others do. What do you believe and teach your children about those households?
There are families dealing with addiction, illness, and strife. There are families living in their car, the shelter, or on the street. There are families that live in multi-million dollar mansions, and some living in war-torn shambled shacks. They may be down the street, or half a world away.
Intolerance begins at home.
No one is born holding a gun or with hate in their heart. They're learned behaviors.
Directly, or indirectly, we teach- we practice- we demonstrate intolerance...until we're educated not to.
Facebook is plastered with powerful images "reminding" us to forget about refugees and help our veterans instead.
There's no dispute that any man or woman who courageously stood up for our country's freedoms should return to our United States of America to no job or home. Yet, where's the tolerance in averting our eyes from the homeless when they too may be veterans. And there's no courage in turning away a child "born in the wrong place at the wrong time."
We fear what we don't know...what we don't understand.
We find compassion for a mother's frustrated outburst when we learn she's spent sleepless nights watching her child going through chemo.
We stop complaining about our neighbor's over-grown yard and pitch in to help when we learn he's mourning the recent loss of his wife of 50 years.
We put aside frustration and bring an extra breakfast bar and cup of coffee to the student often falling asleep in first period when we learn he comes to class straight from working the graveyard shift to help his parents pay the bills.
Until we end intolerance, groups like ISIS and Boko Haram aren't going away. There will always be a new group of children growing up to hate what they don't understand...until we educate- and practice- tolerance and respect.
Our military teachs other countries to defend themselves. We even provide the arms and ammunition to do so.
What if, though, we took part of the billions of dollars our military spends training adults in other nations and instead spent it on educating tolerance to their children instead?
"President" Andrew Shepard photo credit
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