“If we refuse to respect our differences in thought, form, ideas, and vibrations, we will fail as a species. The end.” (Gray Scott)
This past week saw a flood of posts on the Facebook page for my 30th high school reunion. People are posting reminders, making plans, encouraging stragglers, planning golf, and generally getting ready to see some number of the 440 of us that graduated the year that Wham! held two of the top three spots in Billboard’s Top 100 songs of 1985. Despite the somewhat questionable music that united us, we are a wildly varying group: from professions to marriage choices to places we live to attitudes towards the impending gathering.
Diversity has never been more important to me than it is now. Once upon a time, I imagined that everyone wanted the same thing from life that I wanted. The irony there, of course, is that I had no idea what I wanted from life. Still, I assumed we were all pretty similar. My travels and living around the world showed me that I was, in a word: right. Everyone does want something, but our somethings rarely match.
Even as I started to move this weekend, I was struck by all that is going on in my community. I drove past a huge soccer complex where scores of kids were competing. The farmer’s market was in full swing. A farmer was on his tractor (stopped at the edge of his field and seemingly texting – a great modern image.) Iowa City had an arts festival on every street. My thirteen year old was pondering time travel. Aloud. At great length.
This morning on my social media feed I saw that friends went to a concert in Dallas; middle son arrived in Russia and ate blini; former students are ministering in India; other former students are marrying; even more former students are having babies; another friend texted about stress at work.
All of that is just a series of tiny snapshots of what we were doing on a particular weekend in a tiny corner of the Midwest. Differences are good. No one would say that we all need to be doing the same thing at the same time. Preposterous!
Yet, recent newscasts and what is shaping up to be an omnipresent, omniannoying presidential election have shown that there are large groups of people who feel we should all be the same. Not only be the same, but believe the same, live the same, and bludgeon those who don’t.
Everyone should believe that________________. (fill in this blank with an opinion about sexual identity)
We all can agree that________________. (fill in this blank with an opinion about education funding)
Naturally, everybody can get on board with________________. (fill in this blank with an opinion on military presence)
It really doesn’t work that way. A simplistic but meaningful article notes that even having a variety of viewpoints in the scientific community is important to: facilitate specialization; invigorate problem solving; balance biases. In biodiversity, we understand that everything is interrelated and each species has an important role to play, no matter how small. Perhaps we ought to take that same approach to social issues and life overall.
Someone once told me that my sister had a knack for listening to everyone and understanding his opinion had value; she did not always agree with everyone. But, she made sure they all knew they were valued. This was particularly important in her career (college professor) and given her speciality (Middle Eastern history and politics). Perhaps we might take a look at everyone – yes, even those we think are lunatics – and find some grain of value. Perhaps the value is that you more clearly understand your own ideals. Perhaps the value is that someone opens your eyes to a new way of looking at an issue.
There seems to be plenty of closed-mindedness posting on the internet and seeping into every stream of life. Vitriolic posts and comments explode across the country; indeed, across the globe. It is a logical fallacy to say, “if you are not with us, you are against us.” (False dilemma) There is plenty of room for everyone, and we might just learn something along the way.
In high school I was not popular; I was not well-known (I’m still astonished and a little horrified that people remember the high school me); I was not particularly talented. However, in reconnecting with the community that was the group that helped propel Madonna and Huey Lewis and the News to stardom, I realize that even back then I had an important role to play.
Now more than ever, I realize that we all do.