For those of you who pay attention to detail, you may have noticed that I changed the tagline on my blog. Thanks Leonard Cohen. I think there is a lot of metaphorical context to “kicking at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight” and I could easily just add a conjunction to the end of my new tagline and place it there, but that makes for a mouthful. Maybe that will be in years to come, but for now, a message of acceptance and tolerance versus one that could be literally taken as a violent directive seems more in line with what I want. In the meantime, I will kick at the darkness in my own way, hoping, in Leonard Cohen’s words, to create “a crack in everything, as that is how the light gets in.”
In the vein of light getting in, I was struck by this NPR article I read the other day. I was intrigued by what I see as a self-serving nature of this lack of desire. People wondering “what they can’t say anymore” was thought provoking. Anyone can, within reason (wrongly yelling fire in a crowded room or “fighting words” have not been held up as free speech by the Supreme Court), say what they want. How those words are perceived is what is changing for much of a privileged white culture. Maybe it is fear that saying what one wants to say will now correctly be interpreted as being either a) unaware or b) the racist asshole one is. Being unaware is not problematic if people are open and receptive to education and perhaps understanding that there is “intent versus impact” and there are different ways to view the world. The unaware would be open to suggestions of different ways of being that don’t unintentionally offend an other.
With “political correctness” (and I just call it being human) the concern is not about me. For me, It is not that I don’t want to offend you, it is that I don’t want YOU to feel offended or uncomfortable. The situation becomes one of how can I best support you. A switch in my mindset was essential for me. It is about kindness. It is not about me walking on eggshells, it is about me walking with an awareness that not everyone has the same world view as me. I hear complaints of the feelings of being controlled or censored and I think about selfishness. I hear people talk about themselves. It is not the golden rule I am talking about, but the platinum rule: “treat others how they wish to be treated.” When I assume I know how others want to be treated or who or what they are or represent, I unintentionally strip power from them. When I approach with more openness, I can help start to level the playing field. Changing my ways of thinking continues to be an ongoing and eye opening process. I don’t see “political correctness” as censorship or suppression of free thought because I don’t want to say things that will cause hurt to others. I am forced to think before I speak, and understand the consequences of my actions and words.
I care about what and how others feel; which to me, makes “political correctness” about a world view of seeking to spread kindness and understanding. Not pretending to understand everything, but understanding that I will never fully recognize all the complexities of those that live in the world. Political correctness is humbling to me. It requires vulnerability and openness to the ideas that I might not always be right. And maybe for some, like for me, those ideas and concepts are challenging. Maybe even daunting. And much like life, it is a process. We won’t always get it right. We won’t always feel good about what we are or what we do. That uncertainty is newer to me, and I suspect, many people with privileges similar to mine.
I stumbled across this quote from the Dali Lama. I wish it was as simple as this, and it gives me something to aspire to:
We can reject everything else: religion, ideology, all received wisdom. But we can not escape the necessity of love and compassion. This, then, is my true religion, my simple faith. In this sense there is no need for temple or church, for mosque or synagogue, no need for complicated philosophy, doctrine, or dogma. Our own heart, our own mind, is the temple. The doctrine is compassion. Love for others and respect for their rights and dignity, no matter who or what they are: ultimately these are all we need.
And today, and last night, and tomorrow, as I sit here I struggle so hard to give compassion to those who deserve it most. I know I need to kick at my old habits ’til love bleeds through the cracks. And this is how I start.