Welcome to Big Old Goofy World . . . a place where I can share my thoughts, hopes, and dreams about this rock that we live on and call home.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Talking on Things We Don’t Know About

Ain’t it like most people? I’m no different
We love to talk on things we don’t know about
Ain’t it like most people? I’m no different
We love to talk on things we don’t know about
(“Ten Thousand Words” by the Avett Brothers)

A couple of weeks ago my son and I were standing in the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.—one of the fine museums of the Smithsonian Institute.  We were standing before a picture as man walked up to us, pointed at the image, and firmly proclaimed that the man in the picture was Sitting Bull.  I said, “I beg your pardon.”  The man said, “That is Sitting Bull.”

Now typically I do not correct strangers in public when they are wrong, but this guy was wrong . . . way wrong . . . had the wrong guy  . . . had the wrong tribe . . . and, even the wrong generation.  That was not a picture of Sitting Bull . . . Sitting Bull was not a Crow Indian . . . Sitting Bull was a Hunkpapa Lakota.  The picture was of Plenty Coups . . . a Crow Indian.  I told the guy that, but he insisted that it was Sitting Bull.  I pointed to the name plate under the picture that read “Plenty Coups”.  The man’s response?  “All them Indians look alike.”  Then he proceeded to tell my son a whole lot of mythic tales of how the West was won . . . John Wayne sorts of tales that were wrong.  I just walked away because the guy was talking a whole lot on things that he truly knew nothing about.

His ignorance reeked.

I sat with a group of people a while back as they debated those dastardly Muslims with all of their hatred and jihad attempting to rid the world of all the other religions . . . especially the Christians.  Listened as they rattled on and on about how all Muslims were the same . . . just a bunch of terrorists out for vengeful blood.  They are all the same, they said.  But I asked, “How many Muslims have you ever met?  How many do you actually know?”  The silent stares were answer enough . . . none.  They were talking a whole lot on things that they truly knew nothing about.  I walked away.

Their ignorance reeked.

Such conversations are all around if one has ears to hear.  Ten thousand words on things none of us know nothing about.  Words about other religions . . . about other races . . . about other cultures . . . about other generations . . . about other nations.  They all look alike . . . they all act alike. They are all the same.  By that it is usually meant something that is not good.  If they are not like us do we really have anything good or nice to say?  Not usually . . . but, we still have a lot to say.  We all have opinions . . . opinions based on myths, lies, and misinformation . . . myths, lies, and misinformation because we really and honestly don’t know what we are talking about.

Sadly I have learned that if a person speaks out of his or her ignorance with enough force and conviction others will believe . . . they will believe the myths, lies, and misinformation.  All Muslims are alike . . . blood-thirsty terrorists.  All Indians are alike.  All old people are alike.  All women are alike.  All black people are alike.

I went to a small college in central Nebraska . . . a state with a minority population of less than three percent . . . and that was reflected on campus.  There was practically no diversity as nearly all of the student body was white.  People of color were few and far between.  While at college I ran track with a young black man from Washington, D.C.  One day as we were running he stated that he was dropping out and moving home.  When I asked why . . . he stated that he could not take any more of the passive aggressive racism he was experiencing.  He said he was called a “nigger” by some guy while walking back to his dorm room one evening.  He confronted the individual . . . asked the offender how many blacks lived in the community that he grew up in.  The guy responded that there were no black people in his community, and none even in the county he was from.  “So, if there are no blacks from where you are from,” asked the black man, “how can you hate someone you have never met or encountered?”  Because, replied the offender, all blacks are alike. 

His ignorance reeked.

Ignorance reeks.  That is a fact . . . especially when ignorance is pawned off as fact and truth.  Sadly, as the lyrics above state, “Ain’t it like most people? (we) are no different.  We love to talk on things we don’t know about.”   I have been known to razzle and dazzle with bull poop a time or two . . . we all have.  But, it does not make it right.  Does not make it ethical.  Does not make it fair.  Mostly it disrespects others . . . puts them down . . . oppresses them . . . makes them “less than” us.

I try really hard not to get roped into discussions based on ignorance . . . try real hard not to be baited into arguments based on myths, lies, and misinformation . . . try real hard to razzled and dazzled by a whole lot of b.s.  I try real hard not to display my ignorance when I really don’t have a clue about what people are talking about . . . instead I try to ask questions so that I can learn and become knowledgeable about what others are talking about.

I am trying real hard to base my thoughts, ideas, statements, and opinions based on experience, research (on all sides of an issue), and a whole lot of discernment and prayer.  I am trying real hard to have more conversations with people and things and situations where I am the one who is the fish out of the water.  I am trying real hard to be one who is willing to walk in another’s shoes before I pronounce judgment.  I am trying real hard to be open . . . authentic . . . and willing to listen to everyone’s stories.  I am trying real hard to understand.  I am trying real hard not to be like everyone else . . . I do want to be different.  I want to be who God wants me to be . . . I want to be me . . . a person called to love God and others . . . to love others even if they are different than me and I do not understand them.

That is the point.  None of us is created the same.  Why in the world would we ever think that we are?  There are so many colors in a rainbow . . . why do we all have to be the same one?  That was never God’s intention, so why is it ours?  Ignorance reeks . . . let us not sit in our stink.

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