Apr 16, 2020

A Case for Building Consciousness

Excerpt from Do the KIND Thing

Only by building this consciousness do I think humanity has a shot at surviving the twenty-first century. Many friends in the West have shared with me their concern about terrorism and fundamentalism. Knowing the work I do, they ask me, “How are we going to get Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia to change their ways? Why do wealthy Arabs fund ISIS, the ‘Islamic State’ terrorist group? How will we stop Hezbollah and Iran from supporting Assad’s butchering of tens of thousands in Syria?” I am not a pacifist. I recognize that the use of force is necessary to stop totalitarian aggression and abuse. After all, I would not be here if it wasn’t for the United States’ intervention in World War II. But beyond the use of military force when absolutely needed, what role can education play to prevent future conflicts?

Trying to force-feed another culture with your own values and sense of superiority will never work. We have a better chance if we recognize that every person in the world wants to be understood. By building a platform rooted in dignity, equality, and respect, where all kids can share what they feel they have in common with others, I hope that Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists, and others will join the dialogue and help one another discover our commonalities as a human race.

Because I was raised in such a sheltered environment, I comprehend how isolated we humans often are from one another. Sometimes these misunderstandings can be funny. I grew up not realizing that the language we spoke at home mixed Yiddish and Spanish, until a Christian playmate asked me what the word tuchas was (it means “butt” in Yiddish, which he didn’t speak, and I was so insulated I thought it was Spanish). I also used pishar as a verb to mean “to go to the bathroom,” combining the Spanish and Yiddish words into one, a turn of phrase my children still use. But sometimes what you’re learning are prejudices that can cause enormous harm if you don’t understand the humanity of others. If your parents teach you intolerance and hatred during your childhood, what you get is bigotry, xenophobia, and war.

My friends challenge me on my naïveté: “Daniel, don’t you know that the people who have the greatest hatred and ignorance of the other side don’t want to be engaged with a curriculum on shared values?” I recognize how hard a road it will be to bring them into the conversation. But are we going to give up and not try? We cannot afford to just stand idle.

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Both Sides Are Minimizing Violence. Americans Must Fight for Our Nation

Shocking news emerged this week from the bipartisan committee investigating the January 6 attack: On that dark day, Fox News hosts and former-President Donald Trump’s son sent text messages begging for Trump to address the nation and stop the violent riot. Yet many Republicans continue to downplay the insurrection that dangerously undermined electoral integrity and the rule of law and threatened our democracy.

But minimizing violence isn’t only happening on the Republican side. From Philadelphia to Los Angeles, District Attorneys promoting an anti-police narrative and lax crime-fighting policies have contributed to an alarming rise in homicides and spiraling crime rates. Yet despite the skyrocketing crime in liberal bastions, many of us have family and friends living in these cities who refuse to accept that controversial policies to suspend prosecution for many crimes may have played a role in the violent wave.

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Breaking society’s bad habits Starts With Us

Decades ago, hatred began to build in online chat rooms, where people (protected by the anonymity of their computer screens) could post judgmental vitriol with little accountability. We thought these ugly conversations would stay contained to small virtual spaces; but when millions of people adopt the same bad habits, those behaviors add up to define who we are. Hatred begets hatred and nasty words based on nastier (and often false) sentiments, have since spread through social media – and bubbled over into the offline world, too.

Today, we seem quicker than ever to judge one another, and slower than ever to forgive. We often assume negative intent instead of positive, and point our fingers before we’ve taken the time to explore the nuances of a situation. More and more, we’ve replaced trust in one another with chronic skepticism and defensiveness. We have become accustomed to pitting “us” against “them,” and dividing the world – and its complex issues – into two incompatible halves.

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