There are a lot of things happening in Rochester right now that I am trying to process, and that I know many people have a (generally near-sighted) opinion on. I wanted to wait a few days to put any of my thoughts into the universe. After much mulling, the only thing I’ve come to is this: I’m… angry. Or, perhaps frustrated is more accurate. And I’m tired, but not really about what you might think. The blinders go up a lot these days, and I feel more lonely these days.
We do not value individuals at a very base, very human level. We don’t stop to really look at each other (it makes us uncomfortable) We do not pause (it bores us). This is not a culture of fear, this is a culture of mean. It is not a culture of hate, it is a culture of no conscience. Violent and-or-also scary events happening locally are making mainstream Rochester media (and in some cases even national): the murder outside of one of my favorite Rochester establishments, the bullying of an elderly bus aide; these are not isolated. This isn’t the first time they have happened. In fact, they are connected to each other and connected to our way of living in America (or, because I can’t speak for all of America, New York State. Or, Rochester at the very least. However, maybe I can speak for America… please excuse me if you disagree).
Are you really that surprised? Are you JUST NOW becoming appalled for the first time? Because I’m not surprised, and I’ve been appalled for a long time. A lot of people are asking “Why can this be possible?” and “How can this happen?” and they say “This didn’t happen when my parents were kids, when I was a kid.” See, you’re wrong. It did happen. It manifested itself in different ways. And now the meanness and the no conscience are amplified because we live different lives. The world is different. We communicate a lot differently, we move more quickly, and we don’t stop to think deeply. I do not believe that anyone should throw out their iPhone or stop emailing, but I do believe that we have not learned to adapt in a way that is adequate for our well-being on a large scale.
We must learn how to pause and know when to speak up. We must check ourselves and check others. We need to stop throwing money at individuals and non-profits who work in isolated contexts and start putting our time and money into education, training, cultural and media literacy, and mass media that nourish and create a culture of kindness. One where the fluidity of identities and all social roles are valued. To anyone who is “different,” this is already a no-brainer. To those of us interested in social justice at a radical level, this is already a no-brainer. Until we stop fretting about “kids these days” and start thinking about how cruelty starts and how it materializes over and over throughout time, nothing can change. Wanna know what happens when you start being kind? People fall in love with you a little, and they start being kind back.