People are going crazy over Colin Kaepernick again. This time, Nike is to blame (or praised, depending on your point of view). Nike just made Mr. Kaepernick a spokesperson for its new ad campaign on the thirtieth anniversary of its “Just Do It” ads. You would have to be living in a far away country if you are not aware of Kaepernick’s protest against racial injustice and law enforcement’s treatment of minorities by his kneeling during the national anthem. Many people, though, have looked at his protest as disrespect for the American flag and the military who protect this country. The announcement by Nike in support of Kaepernick has caused some of those people to boycott Nike and even burn their Nike shoes and socks, while others have stood with Nike and Kaepernick. In short, if we listen to all the chatter, we are racist if we do not support Kaepernick, but if we do, we are disrespecting the flag and the military. There is no middle ground. How did the world get so polarized? Meanwhile, Nike, one advertising expert has estimated, has received more than $43 million in free media exposure.
Sadly, the support for, and outrage against, Kaepernick and Nike is only one example of the times in which we live. If you are a public person, a company selling goods or services to the public, or even a “regular” person who uses social media, it is hard to even breathe without someone praising you or despising you. An executive of Twitter recently had lunch at Chik-Fil-A and posted his lunch choice on Twitter. Social liberals went crazy, calling him all kinds of names and criticizing him for supporting a business whose owners are outspoken against same-sex marriage. How does picking a place to eat mean that you are either for or against LGBTQs? When this particular executive later apologized for his lunch choice, others criticized him for caving to pressure from social media on something as insignificant as his lunch choice. Maybe that’s the point: a lunch choice should be considered insignificant – not important enough to tell the world about it, and not an indication of one’s views on an issue. Similarly, In-and-Out Burgers recently made a $25,000 donation to a GOP candidate. Immediately, the Democratic Party called for a boycott of all In-and-Out Burgers. In short, we have lost our ability to tolerate those with opposing views to our own.
I once thought the world was getting kinder, with the civil rights movement, the Me, Too and equality for women movements, and the growing acceptance of the LGBT community. But lately, we have taken some giant steps backward. Now, it seems, you can’t even order a latte without someone going ballistic, as illustrated from this scene from Kicking and Screaming[i]:
Buddha once said, “You will not be punished for your anger; you will be punished by your anger.” And the resulting punishment of our anger is that turns into hate. Or in the words of Cicero, “Hatred is settled anger.”
It often starts innocently enough. I recently re-watched the thought-provoking film, Changing Lanes,[ii] where a lawyer and an insurance agent have a fender-bender that escalates into a feud. Here is the accident:
Each of the men reacts negatively to the actions of the other until this happens:
Like the characters in Changing Lanes, the anger that we direct against another sometimes starts out having little to do with that person. We are dealing with other issues that we can’t control or just having a bad day in general. When our lives seem to be spinning out of control, we direct our anger against someone or a situation we think we can control. In short, our anger or hatred often is the result of simply trying to understand the world. When life seems to have little meaning or rationality, we want to lash out against someone, something – anything – to help us make some sense of it all. I often feel like Ben Affleck’s character in this additional scene from Changing Lanes:
How do we learn to respect and be more tolerant and accepting of others? Although I may not be the most tolerant person in the world (although I’m trying), here are some things I try to do.
When I disagree with the words or actions of others, at a minimum, I try to realize anger is not the answer. As Lawrence Douglas Wilder said, “Anger doesn’t solve anything. It builds nothing, but it can destroy everything.”
Next, I try to determine what’s really behind the anger and hate. Someone once said, “Anger is a natural defense against pain. When someone says ‘I hate you,’ they mean ‘You hurt me.'” So when I feel like lashing out at someone, I try to remember to take a breath and find the real cause of my building resentment and anger. If my anger is due to the actions of the person I am angry with, rather than lash out, wouldn’t it be better to talk it out?
When talking it out, I have learned it is better to use “I” words rather than “you” words. In other words, I try to express how others’ actions make me feel, and not lecture them on what an idiot they are to believe a certain way. But even this technique is no guarantee that anger won’t result, as illustrated by this clip from This is 40[iii] (sorry for the language):
In closing, please remember two things. Just because we don’t agree with a person’s view on a certain subject does not mean that we support the opposite view. Everything is not black and white; there is a middle ground. And tolerance does not extend to bad actions. All of us are entitled to believe what we want, to our own set of beliefs, values, and perspectives, but our actions should never hurt other people, regardless of their beliefs – or ours.
Being tolerant can be uncomfortable, but even tolerance should not be our final goal. Acceptance and love of others should be what all of us should aspire to. We are taught to love our neighbors as ourselves, even those neighbors that annoy us, those we don’t understand, and those that frighten us. As we take the time to get to know others, their cultures, their perspectives, and why they believe the way they do, I have found that those neighbors become less annoying, and less frightening, which leads to greater understanding, acceptance, and love. That song from the 70s is just as true today as it was back then: “What the world needs now is love, sweet love. No, not just for some, but for everyone.”
[i] Kicking and Screaming:
- Production Company: Universal Pictures and Mosaic Media Group
- Director: Jesse Dylan
- Screenwriter: Leo Benvenuti and Steve Rudnick
- Starring: Will Farrell, Robert Duvall, and Josh Hutcherson
- Release date: May 13, 2005
[ii] Changing Lanes:
- Production Company: Paramount Pictures and Steve Rudin Productions
- Director: Roger Michell
- Screenwriter: Chap Taylor
- Starring: Ben Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson
- Release date: April 12, 2002
[iii] This is 40:
- Production Company: Apatow Productions and Forty Productions
- Director: Judd Apatow
- Screenwriter: Judd Apatow
- Starring: Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann
- Release date: December 21, 2012