When I reflect back on 2017 many instances come to my mind. From moments like Australia, Malta, and Germany all legalizing same-sex marriage. Adding to the already medium sized list of countries that recognize that love is love. But I also reflect on moments that set my soul on fire. Similar to watching someone throw away perfectly fine Taco Bell. It is these moments that give me the motivation to create content that I hope will move mountains. Even if it is only mountains of cat litter.
At any rate, one of the most jarring moments for me this past year was the unequivocal showcase of pure hatred that descended on Charlottesville, Virgina. From my position as a white male in modern society, I could comfortably sit here and say “what morons” then go back to ordering my Taco Bell because in reality from a white perspective, it doesn’t affect me per say. But being a moral, ethical, and all around human this moment demands more than words from me. I was really left in a state of disbelief and staggering grief that it’s 2017 and I just witnessed white supremacists flood a public park with off-brand Tikki Torches chanting antisemitic and white power vocal vomits.
After many days and months of firing off angry tweets about this topic. I began to ponder on how anyone could have so much hate in their heart. From what I’ve learned from my childhood, hate isn’t innate. It is something that has to be learned and taught to individuals. Now it doesn’t have to be taught like the ABC’s in Kindergarten. Its a learned behavior from consuming media, watching others in their environment, and the world they’re exposed to. Though in a segment of Sarah Silverman’s “I Love You, America” show she interviewed a gentleman that was an extremist. He spoke about how he began the treacherous life at the age of 14 standing in an alley smoking a joint. Not how you thought this story was going to go. He was approached and recruited by a “skinhead” as he referred to him. He reported feeling this lack of connection with his family since they worked a lot and that he was just lonely. After years of this lifestyle, going on tour with a white supremacist band, and getting married. His actions were taken over by love and his spends his careers helping others get out of extremism.
In another episode, Silverman interviewed a woman who broke free from the shackles of the Westboro Baptist Church. In fact, she is the granddaughter of the man who founded the church. She spoke about how they are essentially brainwashed from birth, telling them that their actions are out of love. Their group protesting veteran’s funerals, verbally attacking the LGBT+ community, and demonizing Muslims were all out of love she was told. Though now after leaving the “church”, which I use that term loosely since they are considered a hate group, she is dedicated to opening her heart. She hasn’t had contact with her family in over 5 years but has spent that time building the bridges she once burned. I mean really, really burned.
Most of us cannot comprehend even the beginning thought process of being part of a white supremacy organization or any other extremist group. Which, you shouldn’t think about it. But for many of those involved, it is where they feel “they belong”. It is an underground society that has accepted them and gives them a purpose. So when I fire off a tweet about this mid-taco-bite it gives them a job. Which is to defend these ideals that they “stand for”. But what instead of firing off my angry tweet, I asked to meet for coffee. Gave them a moment to be listened to. We all deserve to be heard and it is quite possible they chose this life or that this life chose them. Now I am not saying, white supremacy is acceptable or even remotely morally okay. What I am saying though is that when we open our mind and our hearts we have the power to change the world around us. Now it doesn’t have to be a Tikki Torch bearing white nationalist, it could simply be your great uncle who loves Donny Trump. But just giving a listen and showing some love has the power to change hearts and minds.