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A Better Way

Crystal Willcuts on hatred and anger in public dialogue.

Have you noticed how much anger there is in the world? As I was driving my car one day, I found myself behind a car with two bumper stickers. One had a cheeky boy peeing on Obama’s name. The other made mention of people being ignorant for voting for President Obama.

I was enjoying my day until this yahoo, deciding to wear his anger and hatred on his car, felt it necessary to attack everyone who could read and had the misfortune of driving behind him.

I voted for Obama and will probably do so again, but that doesn’t make me ignorant or stupid. I didn’t agree with George Bush being elected twice but that didn’t make me want to slap hateful propaganda on my vehicle. It’s the coward’s drive-by and I am not a coward. And might I add I graduated summa cum laude and have an IQ of 154? Yes, that is grandiose self promotion but I think I’ve made my point.

Okay, so after honking at this closet Nazi -- not that he noticed -- I arrived at the chiropractor’s office. While waiting I picked up the August 5, 2011 issue of The Week: The Best of the U.S. and International Media. On the cover was an illustration of a Muslim man and woman flanking Anders Behring Breivik in a lineup. The title read “The New Face of Terrorism” with the subtitle "Did American blogs fuel a Norwegian’s anti-Islamic rage?". (Ah yes, more hate, because there is not enough in the world.) The article went on to talk about how anti-Muslim American bloggers may have influenced Breivik, a far-right extremist, in his decision to murder 76 people, many of them the innocent children of Norwegian socialists. A sobering atrocity, senseless and all too familiar. Considering the topic of the article, the illustration of the hateful American standing in the lineup was sorely missing. Easier to point a finger than look in the mirror.

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I was at my son’s cross country meet recently, and some elementary school age boys were playing nearby. They disagreed about something then proceeded to call each other names. I thought, “These are kids. What do they have to be so angry about? They have toys and don’t have to worry about responsibility.” My husband said they mirror their parents’ and siblings’ attempts at conflict resolution or lack thereof. When these kids picked up rocks and lined up their aims, I had to step in. “Don’t you throw those rocks at each other or I’ll tell your parents!” Most quickly dropped their weapons and dispersed. One or two had to face The Eyebrow.

What are we showing our children? When we disagree with our spouse, or a story on the news, what are we saying in front of these little sponges that soak up everything? When someone wrongs us do we show forgiveness or hold onto hate and anger to be made into a millstone and placed around our children’s necks? What do the bumper stickers on our cars say to our children and what do they say about us? How did Breivik become a monster?

In this world we have to carefully dig through the sensationalism to get to the real news. People are being fed drama, real and perceived, from every angle and some get their only nourishment from it. Fear and anger are the stepping stones that lead from bumper stickers to blogs to bloodshed. Three hundred years of American history have brought this country nowhere. Intolerance, disrespect and violence towards minorities from the White House to the poor house hasn’t changed. Where is mainstream media to report this injustice? Where are the leaders of the dominant society, religious and otherwise, to loudly and publicly denounce this hypocrisy? They must be the ones with the bumper stickers, because I hear nothing. We must take it upon ourselves.

When everyone around is calling out hate, intolerance, and fear, we have to call out love, compassion, and understanding. When one talks about love, there are those who want to put the hippie spin on it and color it in shades of crazy. But it’s not crazy if it’s the only thing that stands up against hate. We have to stand up for it. We have to say when something is wrong. We have to honk our horns, write our articles, shine lights in the darkness, and pray our prayers for each other with courage and, above all, with love.

Crystal Willcuts Cole, Mnicoujou Lakota and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe member, was born in Rapid City, South Dakota and is an artist, writer, and poet currently residing in Big Stone Gap, Virginia with her husband and two children.