Thank you for allowing me to sit in your classroom this year.
Like any great teacher, you challenged me. Challenged me to think beyond my own preconceived ideas and set-in-stone beliefs. Not to say what I think is wrong, but rather to think beyond the surface of what I see and hear.
Why do people do what they do? Why do they say what they say?
There is often more going on than what we see or read – that’s what you reminded me, 2017, throughout class.
Given the acrimonious departure of 2016, I should have known how much knowledge I would gain about humanity. The level of vitriol, angst and hypocrisy on full social media display was beginning has been nothing short of astounding.
Yet, as December draws to a close, here I am…in awe of the lessons you taught me.
Awe for the amount of anger and hatred leveled throughout your tenure. Awe at the level of discord and distrust. Awe mixed with sadness at the self-imposed proprietors of justice. Awe at the loss of listening skills…I mean true, quiet, contemplative, open-minded listening.
Awe at how many people are hurting down to their very core.
As we discussed in the beginning of class, I knew there were hurting people. But,t I could not have predicted how pervasive it was at all levels of society.
Pain is no respecter of wealth, intelligence, status, occupation, politics, race, heritage, ethnicity or gender. Pain in any form – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, cultural – is ruthless if we don’t know how to handle it.
Not everyone knows and it often manifests in anger.
On the surface, it’s easy to say that there are plenty of Americans angry over politics. Their candidate didn’t win the presidency, so your beginning, 2017, for them was filled with angst. On the flip side, those whose candidate did win, well, their arrogance was on full display after eight years of frustration.
Easy to say, but that feels like a cop-out.
To truly grasp and understand what you have brought to America this year requires digging. Digging into the American psyche. A tremendous task that no one person should undertake, yet here I am vainly attempting to do just that.
2017, you have taught me to continue asking the question, WHY. Why do people do the things they do? Why do people say the things they say?
Some actions and words are easier to explain than others.
“Sports has always been political”
2015 warned me this was coming – the separation between sports and politics would cease to exist.
And here we are with sports media doing that exact thing. Sports and politics have always been, but NOT sports media and politics. Now that we know how so many of sports media believe politically, the general public has a right to question anything they say or write. How many die-hard Republican sports writers can cover Colin Kaepernick objectively? How many liberal Democrat sports writers can cover a Curt Schilling objectively? They might be able to, but they have left the door open to question their motive.
What I understood in 2015 and now is that people believe what they want to believe. Dialogue be damned! People want to speak their mind without reservation. They don’t want to be told what to do. They are tired of being told what to say. They are tired of being told where to go. They are tired of being quiet. They’re angry and aren’t afraid to speak up anymore.
They are just simply tired.
I get it.
There are things going on in this country and world that aren’t right. I believe in dialogue over these issues. I believe in listening to opposing, thoughtful AND respectful opinions on these issues. I say respectful because there is a fine line between acting in righteous anger and bitter anger.
No, we shouldn’t stay quiet about injustices. Far too often, sports media operates in the bitter anger mode of injustices. It’s easy to tweet, but how many of us are willing to invest the time and energy to change those injustices.
One thing I’ve learned, however, is that one person’s definition isn’t always equal to another. Define injustice. Same holds true for any hot topic term: equality, diversity, inclusion, fairness. If we can’t dialogue our way to a common definition, how do we expect to truly make a difference? We’ve discussed this ad nauseam – how can we ever hope to reach these goals when we can’t agree on what each of those look like?
Celebrities, media, athletes, politicians, the general public – we are so diverse in thought, experiences and beliefs. Isn’t it futile to expect us all to get along if there is no common starting point from which to begin?
There is a foolish notion out there, 2017, that respect is earned. In our chosen vocation, sure, you have to earn respect. But, there is a different type of respect that isn’t earned at all. It’s freely given.
Respect for life.
Respect for your fellow human being – a living, breathing life. This type of respect does not mean we have to agree with everything another person says or does. We don’t have to involve them in our daily lives. It does mean that we respect their right to be alive.
What about us? Individually? Do we respect ourselves? That’s a loaded question though isn’t it? How can we respect others if we don’t have enough respect for ourselves? Some folks are so tied up in anger, frustration, bitterness and pain that they can’t see clearly.
Respect others? That ain’t happening if we can’t respect ourselves first.
If we want to combat injustices, change our country, change the world, stop the denigration of any demographic group, we have to teach ourselves and the next generation(s) how to respect a life.
Where does that leave us 2017? You told me to keep asking the “why” questions.
Why do people hate someone because of their race, gender, faith, religion, political beliefs, financial status, success, (fill in the blank)?
Why do people hold on to anger like a security blanket?
Why do people believe their voice matters more than others?
Why do we think we can reach any semblance of equality, diversity, inclusion if we’re not willing to respect ourselves and others despite our individual faults and differences?
2017, do you know why? I think I do. But, if there is one thing I’ve learned before and during the time in your classroom is that there needs to be ears willing to hear.
In today’s social media world, the ears willing to hear are fading away.
Well, that’s for 2018 to tell you now isn’t it?