This week I have been called immoral, evil, ignorant, and bigoted. I was told I care nothing about children (this after almost 30 years as a pediatrician). I was told that I was going to burn in hell. It has been a very odd week.
None of these things sounded much like the me I know and love.
Each time I was simply standing up for what I believed was right, and the “adults” with whom I was conversing were so astonished when I did not simply cave to their obvious superiority that they went straight to name calling, rather than reason.
I could almost feel the thrill they took in shouting their beliefs from their shaky mountain top, refusing to even consider a different viewpoint.
I am a grown up, I can hold to my beliefs and not shed a tear, but oddly… it still hurt.
So how must it feel as a 10 year old, when enormous adults are towering over you, talking at you and not giving you a moment to speak for yourself? How, when the popular kid in class, the one with all the social power, calls you a dork and shoves you into a wall? How, when you know you are different and different is immoral, ignorant, and hell bound, if only because it does not sanctify their views and might poke a hole in the fragile balloon of their security?
We are fighting in the streets now, for equality not based on religious views, skin color, sex, or sexual preference. I wonder if the people demanding they be respected even though they are Muslim, or Black, see that their fight is the same as those that demand equality even though they are gay. Do the women ( and the Pope! ) fighting for equal pay see their battle as a part of the never-ending fight for all humans to respect each other as equals?
Can we ever get to a point where we realize that no one wins, as long as someone else looses?
That someone else’s success does not subtract from or in any way prevent ours?
As usual with social change, evolution must start with the children. Children are pure potential; their minds are open, interested, and willing to love. A baby looks at any face with wide open eyes and an ear-to-ear smile, not caring what color or sex that face is, what church they go to, or whom they love. We as their parents and teachers sometimes ruin that. We damage their beautiful, open minds and darken their young hearts, forcing our reality upon them. We teach them to smirk and squint, to judge and condemn.
If we want our children to be happy and fulfilled, to be able to think and create, and to be open to the opportunities the world puts in their paths, we must examine our own thoughts, pack the ugly ones up and cart them off. When we catch ourselves starting to say something unkind, we must stop. When we find ourselves treating someone as if they are less, we need to realize that this gives permission for another person to treat our child as if he or she is less. If our children see us treat every person with respect, they will know they also are deserving of respect, simply because everyone is.
Take the positives from our separate cultures and celebrate them, but allow that other cultures have positives too.
Be proud of our accomplishments, but also find it in our hearts to congratulate others on theirs.
Step up when someone is cruel.
Understand that we are not fighting for Gay Rights or Black Justice or Women’s Rights, but for Equality. We cannot hold onto our own rights if we do not grant everyone else theirs. It makes no sense to insist that a person respect our beliefs and then turn around and denigrate theirs. It is immoral to campaign for Black justice then go home and vomit up ugliness about gays or women; to fight for equal pay for women then turn around and gossip about the mixed race marriage down the block.
Until we can give respect, we ourselves do not deserve it, and our children will follow in our path.
When we stand up to our own bullies (especially the ones squatting in our own brains), we teach our children how to stand up to theirs, and they will be able to grasp and hold the life we wish for them.
Perhaps now is a good time to remember the words of Martin Niemöller (1892–1984):
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.