I have been feeling irritable and depressed for the last few weeks. Certainly, it’s the Dark Time of the year. Northern Minnesotans only get 7-8 hours of daylight and seasonal depression is common. But it’s also a dark time nationally. Privileged exclusion and hateful rhetoric are being upheld as reasonable values. Most of the people around me are feeling shocked, angry, grieving, horrified, terrified. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are being bathed in this generally difficult energy. As an empath, I find it very difficult not to absorb it.
I’ve also been challenged by the the age-old question of “how do we tolerate intolerance?”. We’re supposed to accept people as they are and treat them as we would like to be treated, even when we disagree with them. We’re supposed to be “nice”. An advice column by Carolyn Hax in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune (Jan 11, 2017) helped clear that up for me. Carolyn says:
“Tolerance is about accepting as valid views that differ from yours. Bigotry is not valid. We do no have the moral luxury of practicing it, defending it, condoning it, normalizing it….Treating one variety of person as better or worse than others by accident of birth is morally indefensible….Have your resistance ready and do not flinch––or flare––when it’s time to use it….This crisis can be a useful pants kick toward a broader, deeper action in service of what you believe.”
In other words, action is required. Doing nothing is the same as claiming to be an ‘innocent by-stander’ to bullying––there is no such thing. Speak up. Rather than point out that a person is wrong in their beliefs, Carolyn advocates calling out statements that are offensive stereotypes. She offers suggestions such as: “I find that offensive”, “These are human beings you’re talking about”, “How would you feel if someone said that about you?”. We may not change opinions, but we must stand up for humanity.