Lately, it seems like we’re teetering on the brink of disaster. Every day, we hear about terrorism, natural disasters, elections so contentious that even rallies are punctuated by violence…it’s almost like we’re all collectively yelling:I took a step back this morning and tried to figure it out in my head. What on earth is going on? Here in the U.S., we’re dealing with a lot of anger and frustration. We’re seeing that spill over in some of the most horrific ways–both in physical violence and in emotional rhetoric. We’ve lost our sense of decency.
So here’s where I think we need to inject some RESPECT back into the world, and it’s easy enough for any of us to do. If we can just do this much, I really believe that we can start to climb out of the hell-hole that’s perhaps of our own collective making. We need to:
1. Respect other people’s humanity
As human beings, we have some very basic needs: eating, drinking, sleeping, eliminating waste, and having sex. And yet, there are some folks that would limit certain people’s access to some of those basic needs. Exhibit A is North Carolina’s repugnant HB 2, the state House Bill signed into law that made it illegal for a person to use a North Carolinian bathroom that doesn’t match the gender on their birth certificate. As a cisgender female, I’ve never been challenged about using the ladies room. I have friends and former co-workers who are transgender, and their right to use the bathroom that matches the gender THEY KNOW THEY ARE is just as valid as my right to use the bathroom that matches the gender that I KNOW I AM. It’s not for me to say that someone is male or female. And the argument that HB 2 will prevent child molesters from picking the bathroom of their choice to set up shop is patently absurd. Do these flailing protestors think predators respect signage?
Equally repugnant is the general tone of xenophobia and racism that we’re seeing stoked by certain candidates for our nation’s highest office. It doesn’t represent who we are as a country and only makes us look like the slack-jawed, knuckle-dragging neanderthals other developed nations fear we might be.
These fire-breathing candidates (and one in particular) have helped surface and increase the general levels of xenophobia and racism enough to make a sane person want to scream at the top of their lungs. Apparently, “Driving While Black” is still a thing in Missouri, and North Carolina just doesn’t want to stay out of the news when it comes to insensitivity. Ask any doctor: underneath all that melanin and the layers of skin, we’re all the same. We’re all human. Skin color, national origin, and religion are examples of things that DON’T AFFECT OUR HUMANITY. It’s long past time to put away Confederate battle flags, plans for bullshit walls, and discussions of who’s going to burn in what plane of existence–and realize that if we don’t all start treating each other well, the Hell we fear is the one we create for ourselves.
2. Respect an individual’s right to control their own body
I know both men and women who’ve been raped–often by people they knew. I narrowly escaped a similar fate in college, and I consider myself lucky by comparison to so many who didn’t. Whether it’s the case of Brock Turner–the rapist who was given a scant 6 months’ jail sentence so as not to ruin HIS life–or Worcester Polytechnic Institute telling a victim that her own drinking puts her at least partially at fault for being raped by a security guard at a building they put her up in, rape victims are being sent the message that sexual violence is probably not the big deal that they think it is. Well guess what? IT IS. Both men and women deserve to have the freedom to live their lives without fear of rape, and if they are subjected to rape they shouldn’t be violated all over again by a justice system and society that are willing to shrug it off as probably being at least *somewhat* the victim’s fault. Nope nope nope. We need to stop teaching our daughters how to avoid rape and start teaching *everybody* NOT TO RAPE.
3. Respect that we all deserve a living wage
There’s been a LOT of fussing lately about cities and states considering pushing their minimum wage up to $15/hour. A lot of crying foul has been going on from small business people in a panic and dither over the fact that living wages should have to be paid to everybody. After all, if you raise wages of those who are making less than $15/hour, the cost of goods and services will go up. Yep, they will. But will they go up so much MORE that all of a sudden they’re untenable for everybody? Will tons of jobs be shed economy-wide? It’s not clear. What is certain is that income inequality is a huge deal, especially for those who find themselves completely left behind in a hyper-productive workforce where the profits of said productivity barely trickle down to the masses.
Horrifyingly, Glassdoor.com reported last year that the average CEO earned 204 times the median pay earned by their company’s workforce. Let’s think about that for a second. That means that for every $1 earned by the employee hitting that median salary (not the minimum but the MEDIAN), the CEO averages $204. If Ms. Median makes $30/hr, then two pre-tax minutes of her time can buy her bag of potato chips from a vending machine, while those same two minutes can earn Mr. CEO a hot stone massage and a generous tip for the masseuse. I’m not saying that everybody should be making insanely high wages if their jobs don’t require highly technical or specialized skills, but the cost of living continues to rise and real wages aren’t keeping pace. And while some have argued that Jimmy Fryolater isn’t all that skilled and shouldn’t get $15 per hour when Sally Teacher or Joe Firefighter gets $13 an hour, they should consider a couple of key things:
First — Jimmy probably has a boatload more patience than the person protesting his raise. Everyone should have to work food service and/or some form of retail sales. That teaches you courtesy and respect for others, since it’s rarely ever given to you when you’re in that role.
Second — why DO we let it be that teachers or firefighters (or any other critical public servants) are paid so poorly? Those responsible for educating our children or protecting our cities and towns should be well-paid. We expect a lot of them, and it’s unfair not to return the favor by showing that they’re valued.
So, what to do…what to do?
Here’s how this works in practice:
VOTE. If you aren’t registered, get registered. NOW.
BE NICE TO OTHER PEOPLE.
VISIBLY, ACTIONABLY RESPECT OTHER PEOPLE’S HUMANITY.
Be the change you want to see, and help make change happen by working positively to influence the world around you. It really is that simple.