You are more than an “-ism” and so are They
It feels a bit like we live in a society that is either overly nice (politically correct) daring never to touch on the things that matter most, never exploring with others the hard questions about existence, or we live in a society that is binary. I am right and you are wrong. I am good and you are evil. Your views should not be entertained because they stem from stupidity and nothing good can come from them. It is a shortcut way of thinking, to simply label, sorting people and ideas as we go.
Some are asking the hard questions, but more often then not, they are only able to discuss those questions with people who already have similar views because no one else will engage with them. We have lost the ability to debate. We have lost the ability to not take it personally.
For example, one hot topic is feminism. There is likely a dominant image that comes to mind with that loaded term. Women fighting to be allowed to vote at the turn of the last century. Bra-burning. Women advocating for equal pay. The pro-abortion movement. Maternity leave.
If we dismiss any –ism outright or embrace it unequivocally, along with those who attach the label to themselves, we are going to miss an opportunity to discover.
Yesterday, I decided to experience discovery…in a bookstore. I was tired of selecting from the thousands (millions?) of books on Amazon and wanted the experience of just saying, “yep, yep, yep” I’ll take these because these are here. As I selected the three Golden Books I would buy, my eye traveled along the display shelves at Green Apple Books, across the street from Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. There I found, “Malala’s Magic Pencil.”
I was captivated with this young woman when she was in the news. This remarkable girl began to advocate for the right of girls to have an education. From Pakistan, she lived under Taliban rule and, although a national figure in her own country, she was attacked and nearly died at age 15. After emigrating, Malala Yousafzai, continue to speak up for women’s rights and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize at age 17.
She is a hero.
Feminism, at its heart, is the belief that women should have the same rights, dignity and opportunities as men.
I hope we can all agree with this.
There are lots of beliefs like this behind the “-isms.”
But when we dismiss the “-ism” as a black-and-white, good or evil, rich or bankrupt belief, we end up dismissing these beautiful beliefs that might have united us.
Every person has a purpose.
Every person deserves love.
Every worker deserves respect.
Malala herself tells her story in this magical hardbound picture book. She gently introduces the want and wishes of her childhood. Her response was action, to use her own magic through writing to change the world. It is simple, beautiful, inspiring and eye-opening.
And it is real.
It is, also, thoroughly feminist. It presents that core belief about women’s dignity.
If I handed the book to you and said it is written by a feminist or a Pakistani woman or a human rights advocate or an immigrant, and said nothing more, would you embrace it or hesitate?
We need to see past the labels, to the person. How do we do that? By asking, “tell me more.”
By tolerating others’ views and inviting them to share more about them.
When they get to the point where our views or the practices of our views diverge, to allow the other to keep talking, to listen without focusing internally only on how we will respond.
If we can begin with a standpoint that people really do sincerely want the good, then when we hear their beliefs, we can attempt to pin down where the search for good is. The drug addict uses drugs to escape. Escape is not good, but at the heart, it is a search for peace. We can all agree peace is good.
So it is with these “-isms.”
So it is with “those people.”
So it is with life.