Commentary

Inspiration All Around Us

By JOHN M. IMPERIALE | May 03, 2017

It is not easy to ignore the acrimony, discrimination, nastiness, crudeness and hate-mongering that has seemed to envelop our nation today. But it is possible.

It is possible when you see good people, acting in civil, courteous, respectful, intelligent ways. And it is especially easy when such people quietly manifest their basic goodness openly, without fanfare or confrontation, but openly nonetheless.

Crudeness has become common conduct in today’s America. The tone has been set by the man who became president. He won in spite of demeaning entire religions, nationalities and women. His successful election has given cover to millions of Americans who have allowed themselves to be convinced, if they were not already inherently bigoted, that immigrants and minorities are the root of America’s problems, and women can be degraded with impunity.

And so we see the rise in vulgarity. Men wear T-shirts that children should not see. Radio and television pundits spew invectives that would have gotten them fired not too many years ago. Immigration has been linked to terrorism, in spite of the fact that just under 100 percent of the people in this country are the product of immigration. That is to say, everyone except the less than 1 percent who are Native Americans.

Minorities have become synonymous with crime, even though true crime statistics do not support that falsehood. And simple manners and common courtesy are increasingly lacking in our day-to-day interactions.

It would be easy to get caught up in the lack of class that is displayed by more and more of our fellow citizens. And then you see a sign, posted clearly outside a home: “Hate Has No Home Here.”

And it makes you realize that the bigoted, the sexists, the fear-mongers and the prejudiced are just the loudest. They make the most noise and now, thanks to the climate that has been created in Washington, they have become emboldened to spread their viciousness openly. And they do it with no shame.

But shame on them.

I am inspired by the good people, the people who quietly profess that hate has no place in their home or their lives.

I have often wondered whether I should challenge the crudeness of some people I run into. The ones with the vile sayings proudly worn across their chests. Or the ones with bumper stickers that border on profanity. Or the ones who say out loud the worst kinds of insults about other people, people of different religions, nationalities or sex. Should I make an issue of every disgusting thing I hear or see? To do so might have me constantly engaged with people I have no interest in engaging and no chance of changing their minds. So I ignore them, and wonder if I am right to do so. I should say something, I suppose.

But why? To give them the satisfaction of knowing that I recognized their perverse point of view?

I choose to ignore them. That is just my way. Perhaps I am wrong for doing so, but in my heart I believe that ignoring such people hurts them more than confronting them.

But I cannot ignore the people who inspire me.

So I see the “Hate Does Not Live Here” sign with its message of acceptance of all people, of all religions, nationalities, sexes, sexual preferences ... acceptance of all. And I feel good again. I feel good that my neighbors and friends do not take to the lowest level of thought or discourse and instead are willing to simply proclaim their basic decency.

“Science is not a liberal conspiracy.”

That simple fact was displayed on a T-shirt, worn by a woman whom, I assume, just wants to make a quiet, intelligent point. That is, climate change deniers are blatantly ignorant of what are proven facts. Science has overwhelmingly shown that we, mankind, are a leading cause of the climate change that is warming the Earth, creating super-storms, threatening shore communities, potentially wiping out entire islands and populations, and causing massive changes in numerous species that are altering the overall balance of nature.

And with a simple T-shirt, a person displays her belief in science and hopefully convinces a few more people to speak out to save the planet.

I also am practicing my “deaf ear” for people who curse openly in public. I have furthermore decided that I have no time to argue with people who are close-minded or unable to speak respectfully to people with whom they disagree. I used to listen to the Rush Limbaughs and Sean Hannitys of the world,  just to hear what they had to say. I believe that you cannot give your opinion of someone if you have not listened to them. No more. No, I refuse to listen because their brand of discourse is simple hate-talk.

But here is the good news: I am inspired every day by the loving lawn sign, the intelligent T-shirt, the thoughtful conversations, the polite strangers, the smiling passersby. I walk on the beach with my wife and we pick up discarded plastic bottles and then see other walkers doing the same: much better people than those who carelessly discarded the plastic in the first place. And everyone smiles. Everyone says hello. Everyone wishes you a good day – and means it.

I go to my grandchildren’s T-ball and Little League games and I am in awe, not of the children, cute as they are, but of the adults. Volunteers all, they work patiently and tirelessly to teach not just how to play the game, but how to respect each other. Yes, the children are the future, but virtually all of the parents, the men and women of today, are wonderful people.

I think of the hospice nurses I have been privileged to come to know over the last couple of years. Angels, every one of them. We all should be inspired by the police, the firefighters (volunteers!), the teachers. But I am just as impressed with the workers at our local stores, many of them older Americans still working out of necessity or the simple love of being around other people.

And then there are my friends and neighbors. Naturally good human beings, every one of them, always helpful, always there for each other.

We are in danger of being a crude society, but it will not be a society of which I will have any part. With so many good, decent people inspiring me to be a better person, why should I ever have to deal with the bigots and the vulgarians?

John M. Imperiale of Harvey Cedars can be reached at johnmimperiale@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

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