Ignorance Is the Enemy
This cycle has been repeated over and over again throughout the course of human history; and it’s bound to be repeated in the future. Our ignorance and our paranoia guarantee it. We can, however, stop this cycle in our own lives. The way to accomplish this is through open-minded education, communication, and experience. Once we understand another human being as an individual, we realize that for all our differences we also share a number of common traits. The recognition of this common ground breeds understanding. Understanding breeds security. Security breeds comfort. Comfort breeds acceptance – which ultimately leads to harmony.
All of us are guilty of some level of prejudice, of bigotry, of bias. We can’t help it, we have been taught this behavior by past generations. It’s our obligation to future generations to eliminate passing it forward. Unfortunately, it’s now the accepted state of our world. Not the ‘politically correct’ world (the world that doesn’t offend anyone at all – that world doesn’t really exist anywhere yet); but rather the real world (the one in which we live). Every group of individuals has a predisposed bias favoring their own group(s) and opposing any group that is different. This type of favoritism is understandable, even commendable, when it relates to family, but it shouldn’t be carried forward to the treatment of one stranger over another.
No single race, gender or religious group has the market cornered on discrimination. We need to accept the fact that we’re only as good as our own character – our own actions. We are not better (or worse) than someone else merely because we’re part of a group. Being a man, or black, or Jewish, or a senior citizen, doesn’t make a person better than someone who’s not.
Being firefighters and police officers, I believe we have a unique opportunity to witness the character (or lack thereof), of people from all walks of life. We serve, and encounter, every ethnic and economic group in our community, many of them during their darkest hours. We can witness first hand that pain and fear make no distinction regarding race, religion or sex – or social or economic standing. There was a movie released this past year titled CRASH. This movie dealt with prejudice and discrimination from many different sources. It, in my opinion, accurately portrayed people’s preconceived biases as one of society’s most common traits!