wisdom

What I Wish: Continue Asking What’s Right.

We are so easily manipulated and swayed by popular opinion.

It’s easier than deciding for ourselves or feeling alienated by not agreeing with consensus

Our whole value system is shifted or skewed by selective half-truths, fractured views, disinformation, and big broad assumptions about how we are supposed to live in the world, many of which I am not immune to. I only think we should continue to ask ourselves what’s right, instead of just following along with the way it is.

And what kind of society or world do we want the next generations of humans to inherit? We are so evolved, in so many ways, and we can do better than this.

Here’s what I think: it’s all about framing. You can set the exact same scenario up, and play it from opposite perspectives. Each side thinks they’re right. Believes they have the full picture.

If you are a kid who is playing with a ball that someone gave you or loaned you, and another kid comes and wants to play with that ball, you may feel like that’s your ball. They have no right to it, and you don’t have to share.

But if the person who gave you that ball came back, said it’s the other kid’s turn, and gave him or her the ball, would you feel like something had been taken from you, even if it wasn’t yours to begin with? Does the length of time you hold it in your possession change how much ownership you feel?

And what if that second kid also has to give the ball back at some point? Who does that ball belong to? What if the person who was loaning out the ball found it? Or stole it? Maybe it belonged to someone else before him. Maybe it belongs to everyone. Maybe it belongs to no one.

We stake our claim to things that don’t really belong to us, and quickly decide that they do.

Do you get to draw a line and say who belongs where based on which side of the line you happen to be on?

I know these analogies are overly simplistic, but that doesn’t make it untrue. Nothing we have really belongs to us. We leave it all behind, and our borders, these lines weren’t always there. People made them. They are arbitrary divisions of land and cultures and people. They have weight and consequences because we decided they would.

I understand that we can’t throw away all the rules. That in a society, we need structure to make it work for the benefit of all. And I don’t want people I don’t know walking through my front door and saying they can live in my house if they want to.

I get that it’s not an all-or-nothing set of circumstances. That there is much history in the forming of our societies, and many rules are there for a reason. However, not all those reasons are good. We need to be able to shift our perspective when needed.

Life is constantly evolving, and if the world became such that it became necessary to open my home to people in need, as people did during times of war and persecutions, I hope that I wouldn’t hesitate to share. 

And I understand that there are many ways of looking at things, and much to consider, basic human decency being one of them. And that is why I ask: would you change your mind and your actions if you were on the other side of that man-made line?

Everyone wants a place to be. We don’t choose where and to whom we were born, at least not that we are aware of on this plane of existence. Maybe it is a test of our compassion and acceptance. Maybe we are failing miserably. Maybe.

All of us came from somewhere. Most of us who live in the United States, if we trace our lineage, came from somewhere else. We are not from here. We staked our claim (or our ancestors did) and now we say no one else can come in. These are made-up rules in a made-up world.

I know it sounds idealistic. I know it’s more complicated, but still, it’s not us against them. It’s just people, wanting what all people want: a place to call home, enough to eat, and to be surrounded by people they love, and love them — the basic happy and healthy thing.

Caveat: I know someone will reference drugs and murderers, but we have those here too. People who do bad (and good) things are everywhere, but I don’t believe most people who are picking up their whole lives, carrying their children, leaving loved ones and whatever possessions they may have behind, and walking for miles with barely enough food or water to survive, are crossing a border to sell drugs or kill someone.

Where you are, and what you have, often determines your viewpoint — how you feel, what you see, what you believe.

So if I were you, and you were me, would you still feel the same?

If I lived on the hill and you lived on the flats.

If you lived on the flats and I lived in a swamp.

If I lived in a castle and you lived in a house.

If you lived in a house and I lived in a car.

If I lived in a car and you lived in a tent.

If you lived in a tent and I lived in a box.

If I lived in a box and you lived on the street.

If I was born in America and you were born in Any Other Country.

If I was born in Any Other Country and you were born in America.

Is one of us less deserving than another because of where we happen to be born?

If you were starving, would you judge it differently from if someone else was starving? What if you had kids to feed, or you were running for your life? Or are we saying some lives are more valuable than others? If you were the person looking for shelter, would you wish someone would help you? Or would you follow the rules, even if they were unjust and wrong? To save the life of a loved one – what would you do?

If we accepted every injustice, every law — even if it is a terrible, heinous, or ridiculous one — simply because someone said so, we would still have slavery, women wouldn’t be able to vote, and you wouldn’t be able to have a beer — if you wanted one — unless you were willing to break the law.

Just because something is the status quo, acceptable to society or even the law, it does not automatically become just, fair, or ethical.

Just because someone says there is a line and you can’t cross it, that doesn’t make it right. We are all humanity on a planet, on borrowed time. None of it belongs to us. And yet, we want to say it’s ours. We want to say someone is breaking the law, because they are not us. I do believe there is a crisis, but it is not a crisis of immigration and crime, it is a crisis of our core values. It is a humanitarian crisis.

It is a crisis of the heart.

Here’s what I wish:

That we would all follow the Golden Rule.

If we all followed the Golden Rule,

It would all be so simple.

It is simple: treat others how you want to be treated.

I can’t wait until kindness comes back in fashion.

When respecting our planet, creatures great and small, and each other is cool again.

And integrity regains popularity.

So come on, let’s trade places now and then.

Let’s not wait for the aliens to convince us that we are on the same side, that we are all human. Let’s be trendsetters before it’s too late.

***

Finding beauty, even solace, in the everyday, multimedia artist Melanie Zipin composes her songs and stories from the material that surrounds her. Taking an early departure from her inner-city roots, the high desert of New Mexico provides ample space and vantage point for such an introspective watcher, as she leads the reader from the small tales of local folk and everyday occurrences up to the mountaintop for reflection. Her writings urge the reader to celebrate the underdog, even when they are lost, knowing that the human spirit can be rebuilt with dragonfly wings, crisp fallen leaves, and the lone call of a coyote. She has one son, and lives with her husband far from the concrete jungle, thankful for every drop of rainwater that sustains them, in a house they built from hand-piled mud, where she makes art and music, and writes and writes and writes.

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