Shortly after Desert Storm and I returned to Germany, I was transferred to a new company for the last six months of my military commitment. When I got to the company, I couldn’t believe the racial division that was going on in the unit. I remember thinking, “This is 1992! Shouldn’t we be past all of this?” I was a 21-year-old kid and thought it was only my family that still thought like this.
We actually had a company meeting one day, shortly after I arrived, about some of the racist things that were being done and said. We met in this giant bay area on the 3rd floor of our barracks. There was an aisle that led to the front of the room with old high school desks lined up on each side. I loved whenever we had these company meetings because I could sit, talk and joke around with my friends. As the meeting was about to start I noticed the friends I was sitting with started to become uneasy and it got awkward. I, of course, became self-conscience and began to wonder if I had something stuck in my teeth or hanging out of my nose.
As the First Sergeant and Company Commander came in to start the meeting, I slowly realized I was the only white person sitting on that side of the room. I was getting glares from everyone. There was never a thought in my mind of skin color when I sat down, but now I was clearly out of place. I was friends with many people on both sides of the aisle so I decided I was going to devote my last several months bringing these people together.
I don’t know if the problem was ever resolved in the company or not but right before I left to come back to America, one of the guys in the motor pool came up to me and thanked me. He thanked me because I had been encouraging him to just talk to some of the guys that weren’t his color and to get to know them. I told him he may be surprised to find out they have a lot in common. The two men started talking and ended up forming a friendship. In all, I considered this a victory. I may not have fixed the company but at least I was instrumental in helping two people move past their prejudices.
I’m a ‘fixer’ by nature. Most of my life, I’ve found myself in the middle of other people’s drama because of my desire to fix their problems rather than minding my own business. Too many times I’ve made the situation worse by trying to ‘fix’ things. I am not sure why, but I have something in me that’s so confident I can come in and broker peace or somehow smooth things over. It doesn’t matter if the situation directly affects me or not. I want to fix it.
For a number of years, I have had this strong urge to somehow help fix the issues we have faced or facing. Watching how our society has reacted to these issues over the years has left me rather discouraged. Everybody wants things fixed but instead of fixing, so much time is being spent on pointing fingers rather than actually getting results. At this rate, nothing will get truly fixed.
Here’s the truth of the matter. Anymore, every single issue carries a political stance or strong personal belief so we end up spending more time arguing over who’s right while nothing gets done.
Someone asked me before this past election if I was a Republican or Democrat and I answered, “I’m American.” Far too often, I talk to people who find their identity in these labels and can’t think past what these labels tell them to think. In today’s day and age, it’s not acceptable to be Republican and at the same time have the belief everyone should have access to healthcare. How can we live in a such a great country but have such narrow-minded thinking? At the end of the day, I’m not Democrat or Republican, black or white, I’m not gay or straight, Muslim or Christian, female or male – I’m American.
Don’t miss the beauty of this simplicity. We’ve been living in a divided country for so long we are starting to see the foundation of Lady Liberty crack and crumble. More time is being spent on defending beliefs that being right has become more important than doing what’s right. One of the beautiful things about America, you can have opposing views and express them to your heart’s content but there needs to be a point where results take precedence over points of view.
I am not delusional to think I have all of the answers. Nor do I think any one person has the answers. I am convinced that together, we all have a piece to the puzzle. To accomplish this though, insisting our way is the only way to see things has to fall to the wayside. Valuing other people’s point of view and respecting each other is the only way to achieve success with the issues that face our world today.
Would you like to know how I think we can fix things? I’m glad you asked. Stop giving our politicians so much credit and not giving each other enough credit. I truly believe this is the greatest country in the world and what makes this country great is the people who live inside her borders. We have an embarrassing wealth of smart, creative and intelligent people here I am confident every issue we face we can find an effective solution. The moment we begin to embrace each others differences and honor the point of views that don’t line up with ours, then we begin to learn from each other and find real solutions to the most pressing needs that face us today.
The only way we win is with love. Love is embracing someone who thinks 180 degrees opposite of you and learning from their views. You don’t have to agree on everything or believe the same way. Agree to disagree but determine in your heart to not stop until an answer is found.