I woke up and went to work this morning (6:30) the same as I do every morning. Once I was at work, sitting at my desk, drinking a juice, I decided to take fifteen minutes to read the New York Times and catch up on news throughout the world.
I read an article about the rapid and unstoppable force of global warming, an article about the political unrest surrounding DACA and an article about the highly under-discussed crisis of Rohingya persecution in Myanmar. Every day, I am beginning to have less and less faith in the world. It seems to me that no matter how many people there are trying to build connections, build homes, build up people, there are even more people fighting desperately to break it down.
My students are primarily Muslim. They are also exactly like all the teenagers I have had the great privilege and joy to teach in America- curious, silly, lazy, smart, talented, complicated and vastly diverse. My students wear hijabs, or they don’t. They pray five times a day, or they don’t. They believe in kindness towards others and exemplify that through their actions and their generosity, or they don’t.
My students ask me if it is safe for them to go to America.
It pains me deeply to not know what to say. I honestly don’t know what to tell them, because I don’t know the answer myself. There was a time when I could have responded “Of course!” with no hesitation, perhaps even with a dismissive chuckle.
Now I am not so sure.
I am young. But sitting here at my desk this morning, I have realized (decided?) that there are a few things that I know to be completely and irrevocably true. These are the things:
- Children are children. No matter where you are, what they believe or what side of the world they grew up on.
- People are people. No one desires the role of villain. No one believes that they are the ones on the wrong side of history.
- It is far better to approach others with empathy and understanding than it is to assign blame or hatred.
- People want to be understood. People want to be heard. People want to be appreciated for who they are. When we deny them this, we deny them everything.
- The world is not black and white. There are not good people and bad people. There are just people who make bad choices and people who make good choices and people who are fighting between the two.
- Everyone will lose that battle sometimes.
- That doesn’t mean they are bad people.
- That doesn’t mean they are good people.
- A person is made up of many pieces.
- To define a person by a piece of them is like writing a summary of a book after reading the first chapter. It is incomplete, it is largely biased and it is ridiculously ignorant.
- I should not judge you by your pieces. Even the piece of you that is judging me for mine.
Most religions, philosophies and cultures that I have been exposed to teach forgiveness and love of others as a fundamental value.
Based on the current state of things, it seems to me that it has become popular to judge another based on their pieces rather than stay true to these values.
I really hope this changes one day.