I interrupt the semi-regularly scheduled NaNoWriMo posts((I’ll hopefully have a new chapter up tomorrow. I think.)) to discuss something with all of you, my readers. Today is my birthday((I’m honestly a bit surprised I made it to 28. Stupid curse making me paranoid for the last three days.)).
I’ve been fortunate enough in my life to be born in a country where opportunity abounds. I was able to attend college and grad school, thanks in part to grants and student loans. I’ve been able to educate myself about topics of interest to me such as social psychology, web design, and jazz music. I’m young, I’m married, and I’m on a decent path to making something out of my life. I’ve turned a life that didn’t have much into a life where I can put my future kids/family/etc in a position to have far more than I ever did growing up.
The other day, I was driving to work when the news came on the radio. The announcer mentioned how Ohio Governor John Kasich is pushing to keep Syrian refugees out of the state of Ohio. Kasich’s announcement comes in part thanks to the recent deadly attacks on various sites in Paris by an extremist terrorist organization.
I remember getting frustrated at the news. How could someone reasonably turn away people who are being oppressed or killed in their homeland? It goes against the very concept of what we consider American. Hell, the Statue of Liberty has the following line on it.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
That quote comes from the Emma Lazarus poem “The New Colossus”, which discusses the millions of immigrants coming to America to seek freedom. Those refugees leaving Syria certainly sound like they’re part of the tempest-tossed masses to me. Who would want to keep them out of America?
Later in that same ride, I was brought back to a moment in college. During my final year of college (2008), a rather notable political event occurred, as then-Senator Barack Obama defeated Senator John McCain for the presidency of the United States of America. In doing so, Obama became the first African-American man to become President of the United States.
I didn’t vote in the 2008 election. Neither McCain nor Obama particularly appealed to me as candidates, and I figured voting third party would be a waste of my vote. But I do remember getting upset when Obama won. I don’t particularly remember all of what made me upset, but I do remember that one of my main frustrations was the fact that Obama had promised to let the Bush-era tax cuts end. While some of his other promises had some appeal to me (particularly ending the Iraq War), most of what he had promised was a wild meh in my eyes. Beyond that, there was this nagging line that came from my family that had stuck in my mind for years that I just couldn’t shake. I was told the same thing by people on both sides of my family before I turned 18.
“Whatever you do, don’t vote Democrat and don’t vote for someone who’s not Christian.”
The line seems silly to me now. Religion, or lack there of, has little to no bearing on the quality of work that a political candidate can do in office. Likewise, while many of the ideas of the Democratic Party do resonate with me, I recognize that voting solely on political party does not show free thinking and informed voting. I’ve allowed myself to become more educated and more informed about my political and social views.
This certainly isn’t the only facet of my life where this has occurred. While I was in college, I ran a radio show with a pair of friends. While the show mostly discussed sports, we would occasionally delve into pop culture topics, typically choosing to focus on movies and music if we ventured down that path. During March Madness season of the first year of our show, we thought it would be a good idea to do a bracket of 64 female college athletes to determine who the hottest woman in college athletics was.
At the time, it seemed like a good decision. Our show’s blog had its traffic explode overnight. This was thanks in large part to a three line blurb on Sports Illustrated’s Extra Mustard feature((I tried to find the link to the SI feature since the blog has long since been deleted, however after a half hour of searching, I couldn’t find it.)). We even managed to get the writer who featured us — former SI and Grantland writer Mallory Rubin — to come on our show and do an interview about the bracket and on working in sports media. In retrospect, it was a horrible decision. If I were Rubin, I would have been annoyed out of my mind((To put it mildly.)) that three early twenties college kids had asked that I come on their show to talk about an item that was nothing more than a contest that promoted the sexualization of talented female student-athletes. It’s a contest that I’d never think of doing now. I was young, dumb, and learned.
I’ve made mistakes throughout life. At one point in time, I viewed homosexuality as an inherently wrong, perverse, sinful, and deviant behavior. Who was I to know better at the time? That’s how I was taught. But I learned. I became more cultured. I made efforts to understand people who were different for myself. I became a better person for it. Over the last seven or so years((I use seven years as my arbitrary cutoff due to the aforementioned 2008 election story.)), my views have changed on many topics including, but certainly not limited to, healthcare, immigration, taxes, education, drug usage, human sexuality, marriage rights, abortion, feminism, mental health, gun control, and many other topics I’m sure I’m forgetting at this time.
I’ve grown, adapted, and evolved as a person. I’d like to think that not only has this made me a drastically different person from the person I was five, ten, or fifteen years ago, but that these changes have also improved me as a person. I’m certain there are people who I’ve come across in life while I had views that I now see as antiquated who I’ve offended or wronged in some way with those opinions. To anyone who happens to read this piece that fits in that category, my sincerest and most heart felt apologies.
To everyone — regardless of if I’ve known you my entire life or a few days, regardless of if I’ve spent days and weeks with you in person or if I’ve only talked to you online — I have a request for you. As I mentioned before, today is my birthday. I’m not a fan of my birthday, however I recognize that it is generally a tradition to give someone gifts for their birthday. If you are so inclined to give me a gift for my birthday, let it be this((And even if you don’t want to give a gift to me, please consider the following for yourself.)).
Treat everyone with compassion. No matter who is around you, no matter their situation, no matter their religion, their race, their sexual orientation, no matter what the circumstances may be — have compassion. Treat others better than you would expect them to treat you. There are going to be people who treat you like shit. Those people will try to make your life a living hell for various reasons. Be compassionate. Be the bigger person. Sometimes that’s through direct kindness. Sometimes the kindest thing you can do is to leave someone alone. But always act with compassion.
And to those around you who already treat you great, act with compassion around them too. It’s often those who we are the closest to who we take for granted. Find a way to show kindness and compassion to them too. They may not be those who need it the most, but they are the people who deserve it the most. And in the wake of the outpouring of compassion that we can bring to others, we leave behind true change, if only for those few happy moments where someone treated us better than we felt we deserved.