An Attitude Adjustment

 

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It becomes part of our being, hugging us like skin. Not something that you can slip off at night and toss on the floor with the clothing of the day. No, attitude is much deeper and harder to change. Attitude begins to grow within us as babies when we are introduced to the world around us. We learn to love, we learn to hate, we learn to discern as bad and good. Yet somewhere along the journey of life, some of us may find ourselves consumed with the negative…like straining to see in the dark of the night…only making out the bad things around us.

Many times a parent declares, “I don’t like your attitude” or “you need to change your attitude” without understanding how difficult this process of change can be… We are asking one to quickly morph into another… or face our consequences. Yet we as parents have helped define their attitudes.  Combine that with the world we currently live in…wow it is a ticking time bomb. Take a moment and consider that children are living in a very complex world today. You and I may have walked a mile to school  (I confess I did not) but we never dealt with the intensity and gravity of cyber bullying. We may have had to eat what was on our plate or go hungry ( I hated roast beef) yet we never felt the aggression and severe emotional pressure many kids of today experience. Today for fun, our children occupy their time with a never-ending visual stimulation of violence through our media and high def gaming videos. They kill with a deft handling the game  a skill once acquired by playing jacks or marbles. They watch live social media capturing death, destruction, mayhem and violence. Some kids have had siblings, friends, parents die on the streets.  Today doomsday preppers are glamorized on tv as they are proudly hording guns and ammunition…life and death, killing and survival concepts discussed as matter of fact like cooking shows and recipes. It has become a harsh world. Attitudes become armor to protect from that which is so difficult to deal with in life. And we are partially responsible as parents. As adults we become blind to the attitudes we carry as we strive to make the dollar, pay the bills and seek our own escape from the craziness. But we all travel with deep feelings and beliefs that keep us separated from each other.  And we teach our children to do the same. Attitudes, they are so hard to change…

So what happens to tomorrow if there is not a positive shift in attitude? What happens if the adults do not begin to see that their bigotry, intolerance and closed minds are imprinted upon their children?  I do not want to go there. Attitude…while deeply ingrained does carry ability to change. We see an epiphany realized by the family who adamantly declares strong anti-gay attitudes…until a loved one comes out. We see the ability to empathize during a natural catastrophe…as strangers extend a hand or even risk their life for another. Why is it only then that we are willing to see beyond the dark…why is it only then that we feel we are all a part of a larger whole?  Those beautiful moments when a connection of respect for life of another is made with no thought of what is to be gained in return- action without attitude.

I often wonder why we wait until desperate times to rise above our attitudes. Why do we join the cause only after we feel personally affected by the war.  Cancer, poverty, unemployment, inequality, gun violence, bullying, racism, sexual abuse, domestic violence, addiction…on and on they march in front of us. Our attitudes block us from the fight unless life has chosen to throw us through the ropes. Only then do many of us awaken and see that the fight is worthy.  We take up our sword and add cause to our existence. But I ask, why wait?

The Beast

     All too often, we mourn the senseless suicide of very distraught young people due to the intolerance and ignorance of the socially inept. The ones who are driven to taunt and make life hell for others in order to feel they are somehow better than those they pound down with words and violence. Their bullying rips into the very fiber of those they hurt and many victims can no longer take the assault on their individuality. Their pain is magnified by millions as many times they are emotionally destroyed through social media….mind you not a note written in class but written to the world. We feel saddened, unable to stop this horrible beast. Studies are run, awareness campaigns are developed and school prevention programs and protocols created. Yet the beast lives on.

     I suggest we take a good, long mature look at ourselves. Take off the blinders, shed the ego armor, and stand naked within the light of truth. We must own our part in begetting the beast. We have fed it with our own behaviors and nurtured it with our hate. Simply put, our children have been watching us closely and learning well from us.

     Telling children that bullying is wrong-yet demonstrating our own muscle flexing and power/control only negates the message. Do as I say and not as I do never flies. You may roll your eyes and shake your head in denial. I stand my ground as I am willing to call it like I see it. 

Let’s take a look…

 How many times have we seen individuals charge one another on the field of play at a sporting event? (This makes the 6:00 news) How many times have we heard the verbal exchanges between fans or directed at coaches while sitting in the stands? Do we think our children are deaf and blind to this? And when we talk in conversation about those who are different from us whether it is race, religion, sexual orientation, gender or even their dress- our views become attached to our children like lint to a cloth. When we beat our spouse, abuse our animals and our family – we teach our children that this is what to expect in life. And then we wonder when they treat others with such disregard.

     And now we are in the midst of a very emotionally charged national election. So deep are the crevasses between many of us, we now have separated into the “us” and the “them.” The divisions spread with the ugliness of intolerance, anger and ignorance. The crevasses become a canyon. Our beliefs become our mantra and we sever from those so different from us. Self righteousness pervades our thinking and clouds our virtues. The beast is released and the bullying runs rampant. It grows. In our self-righteousness, we determine we have the right to exert our power and control. For example: we intimidate our employees as we offer “suggestions” about their voting. Such a personal and private right that men and women have given their lives for…to now be held hostage- by The Company Store. I resent seeing that happen in our country.  Seeing racial slurs on billboards and t-shirts and the silent hanging of a noose in a tree- so heavy in its connotation. Why in 2012 is this happening? As our children watch with wide eyes and open ears.

     Oh but bullying comes in many forms and while we may recognize it we ignore its presence and that too feeds the beast. Have we reached a time when we turn our heads on the founding democracy of this country? Have we determined the end is more important than the means to getting there? I fear it is so.

     We have determined the way to success is to bully others to achieve. We are teaching our children to be intolerant. We are teaching them that intimidation is power. We are teaching them that racism and oppression = power.  As a result we are teaching them that bullying begets power. We are teaching them that this unearned power is what we are here to obtain. As long as we march with this deprecating self-righteousness as our banner- we will never slay the beast and sadly more innocent will die.  Seriously, we as adults must therefore…grow up and take responsibility.  Our behavior created the beast, our behavior can end it.