Where to begin? That’s always the hardest part, right? You have a paper due in class, you need to ask someone for a really big favor, or maybe confess something they won’t like – a break up, a job resume cover letter. I could go on, but you get it. We are constantly tasked with the question of just where to start. We know what we need to do, but how do we begin?
Sometimes it’s easier to know than other times. Sometimes the way is clear. Doctor says I need to lose weight or be sick. I’ll start with diet and exercise, and of course quit smoking. A little research later, and I am well on my way to extending my life expectancy. Whether it’s finally writing that novel, or talking to your kids about sex, knowing where to begin is hard. All of those examples are easy compared to things like religion, politics, race, sexual orientation, and other more subjective social issues.
The U.S. just elected our 45th President. A lot of people are extremely happy, and a lot of people are supremely terrified. Why? Because we don’t know what’s going to happen. See, that’s the problem with beginning something new; you don’t know where it’s going to go. It could go great, and it could go spectacularly awful! You might be thinking, You’re wrong! I know exactly how it’s going to go!” I promise you, you don’t. But the fear of the unknown is what makes us hold on to those ideas so firmly.
One of the most terrifying things I have ever known is uncertainty. That same uncertainty is ripping us apart right now. Supporters need to be right about their choice, because they feel like everything they think is wrong with the country is riding on this person’s shoulders, and they went all in on that bet. There are no take-backs, no do-overs. If it goes south, they will carry that guilt, but they can’t think about that. Not right now. The stakes are too high, so they throw all of their support in, and defend him against the other side.
The other side? Horrified. Convinced that this is the end of everything. A compassionate majority joins groups of minorities screaming for justice, or at the very least protection. They take to the streets demanding to be heard, often committing acts sure to get the attention of their oppressors. Bedlam. Everyone is shouting, two sides at odds, and smaller factions popping up every minute to add to the chaos and confusion. This is how it begins. Whatever “it” is. We don’t know. We think we do, because that belief is the only thing keeping us from actually going insane.
We need to talk. We really do. We need to stop shouting, and start listening. Stop thinking that our individual position is the only valid one, and try. Everyone try. Try to hear not your own argument against, but the other side’s understanding. You really don’t know who a person is until you at least try to talk to them. Not insult them, or bully them into feeling like they are somehow less than you. That achieves nothing. Being open to the idea that you don’t understand everything that you think you do is OK. It’s OK to be wrong. Changing your mind is not losing, and it doesn’t mean you’re stupid. Expose yourself to ideas that contradict yours. It’s really the best way to reach a greater understanding. Ask more questions than you make statements, and listen. When someone asks you a question, start with a statement that sounds more like, “Thank you for asking, I’ll do my best to explain.” Disarm yourself and you’re less likely to be resisted by the other person. Practice being willing to understand, and you may find you are better understood. Don’t argue from a place of fear, or superiority. Argue with the intent to learn more than you might teach. Try it. It’s a beginning, and a valid one, if history has taught us nothing else.
Some of the greatest moments in the history of civilization began with civil unrest. We are America, every last one of us individuals are America. We begin again every single day. In every moment we make choices that begin new events that shape our parts of the story that is America. What story will you tell? How will you begin?
Steifon Passmore is Operations Manager for Big River Broadcasting, and the Program Director/PM Drive host for WXFL-FM KIX96, known as M. Fletcher Brown. He has worked professionally in radio for 19 years. He graduated from the University of North Alabama with a Bachelors Degree in Communications and Theatre: Emphasis Theatre. He was garnered multiple national award nominations by Country Music industry organizations such as the ACM and CMA, and has been honored numerous times by the Alabama Broadcaster’s Association. He is a founding father of the Theta Eta Chapter of Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity at UNA, and remains active as an alumni. He holds a position on the boards of The Helen Keller Festival, and The Zodiac Players of The Shoals Community Theatre. He continues to direct theatrical productions in the Shoals, including “Of Mice And Men”, the musical “Sweeney Todd”, and most recently “In The Heat of The Night”. He lives in Florence, AL with the two youngest of his three children.