Be the Change

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.” – Gandhi

Be the change you wish to see in the world, is the paraphrased, misquoted statement falsely attributed to Gandhi many are familiar with.  Are most of us being that change though?  I’d say the answer is a resounding NO, the majority of people, myself included, tend to want to change others to conform to their beliefs.  In the U.S. it seems that those who preach tolerance, myself included, most of the time only have tolerance for what they believe though.  This is problematic because it makes us hypocrites and actually has our participation in what our against.  You can’t logically, philosophically or realistically rally around tolerance with intolerance.

In the current politically charged society of the U.S. there is this incredibly polarizing US VS. THEM mentality. While I highly doubt this is new, it is the most apparent in my life and is further exacerbated by the echo chamber of social media and internet algorithms which deepen the resonance of the feedback loop.  We, by and large, can’t have civil discussions about politics, because we have such volatile opinions of others and overly inflated opinions of ourselves.

I have family on both sides of political leanings and I fall in the center, which I’ve heard some state,  “the middle of the road of the road is the most dangerous place to be”. This position doesn’t absolve me of intolerance either, actually, it gives me more work as the majority of those who are passionate about politics fall on one side or the other, leaving me with few allies and many opposed to my position, as well as me being opposed to the majority of others positions.  Fighting a metaphorical war on both fronts is exhausting because not only are you dug in against two sides, you are in the crossfire of both.  On any given day, I could be labeled whatever insult is thrown by either side.

Although exhausting, overwhelming, at times, infuriating, this process and practice has not been futile.  You see, through all of this, I am learning to practice what I preach, which is tolerance.  I am learning, although no way close to perfect at accepting others beliefs without viewing them as (Insert Insult Here).  I am learning to not cast a whole swath of people on either side as entirely good, or entirely bad, they are people, just like me, and are a mixture of all traits, just like me.  I am actually learning to be the change I wish to see.

I think others on all sides of the political argument are learning to accept and respect the opposition positions, without agreeing with them and without insulting them.  I believe we just don’t see or hear it that often because of fear they will be fed to the wolves of the more entrenched opinions within their own political leanings.

If you want change, you must be the change.  If you want tolerance, practice tolerance, even with the intolerant.  If you want peace, practice peace even with the unpeaceful, if you want love, practice love with the unloving.  I am not perfect at this by any stretch of the imagination, I have a lot of room for improvement but today I put in the effort to be the change I wish to see.

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