Sometimes I like to watch videos of people dragging the zodiac signs through the dirt on Youtube. I don’t even really believe in horoscopes but it’s a guilty pleasure of mine. As a Gemini, I’ll often hear that I’m two-faced but I will on occasion hear that I’m usually the sign that is most open to various arguments.
That is something I’m pretty proud of and I suppose that’s why I’m often a mediator in conflicts. Having said that, sometimes I don’t feel like I deserve to be a moderator for squabbles as I have been a bigot numerous times in my life for numerous topics and opinions.
I’ve been a religious bigot, an atheistic bigot, a conservative bigot, a liberal bigot, a moral bigot, a music bigot, an art bigot, and more.
A bigot is defined as one who is intolerant of those holding different opinions. Another definition is that a bigot is a person who is obstinately devoted to his or her own opinions.
Bigotry usually comes up in arguments about race, religion and morality. But if we’re honest with ourselves, bigotry is about opinion and an opinion can be had for anything. Therefore, an unbending devotion to your argument and hatred of a counter-argument can be had for anything ranging from A.A. Milne to ZZ Top.
It’s terrifyingly easy to become a bigot. The easiest is to be born into a household or society of bigots, inflexible thinkers and zealots, which is probably every society on the planet. It’s the contagion no one can fight against because no one thinks that when they do it, that it’s just as bad as when other people do it. This disease is a silent part of our cultures.
The second easiest way is to have an opinion, be faced with someone with the opposing opinion and have them hurt you with it. While this is dependent on other people consciously or unconsciously hurting you, it is remarkably effective. It’s possibly more effective than merely being born to hate because there’s seemingly an emotional legitimacy for it. It also makes you more radical.
Last year, I found myself in altercations that led me to cut three people out of my life. The disagreements were on moral grounds. They did things that I absolutely despised and they already had a history of doing very shady things to others which caused them to lose those relationships as well.
Clearly, I had reasons to back up my opinion. Not only did they had bad histories with others, they hid what they were doing from me. Once I stopped trying to defend them and started defending myself, the decision to terminate those relationships was simple enough.
However, I found it difficult to just drop the matter completely, especially with one of these people. In my mind I keep seeing them plead their case and it would make me annoyed. Then I would see mutual friends defend them and that made me irate.
I would rant and ask myself how the hell could they think that what they did was okay? I had reasons upon reasons to back up my argument but it never made my mind shut up. Just one image of them defending themselves would be enough to make me incensed all over again.
I theorised that it must be the cognitive dissonance that is causing me so much stress. I thought these were good people! How could good people believe/do such madness? If the same was done to them, they would never stand for it. As a matter of fact, they’ve suffered lesser issues and were more upset than me!
The problem here is that I was trying to use logic to dispel emotion. That doesn’t work and probably never will. The problem wasn’t even the cognitive dissonance because I was right to label their actions as bad. If I went as far as to call them bad and not their actions, that would be advanced bigotry.
At such a point, I don’t just categorically denounce your opinion, I denounce you. Having enough experience being bigoted with other stuff in the past, I didn’t want to go there. I know what that looked like and the ramifications of it. We all do.
Nevertheless, I didn’t know what to do. I felt myself getting bitterer every day. I was visualizing random conflicts, it was much easier to misinterpret other people’s words and actions and I literally started seeing things that weren’t there.
For example, I read a caption that said, “Stop doing this.” But when I looked at the image, the person was smiling. I was really confused. Why should the girl in the picture stop smiling? Hours later, when I was calmer, I reread the caption and it said, “Start doing this.” That was absolutely frightening. I literally read something that was never there. Was it possible that I was doing this in my everyday life? Was there really truth to the statement that we don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are? It seemed so.
These are the effects of bigotry and to be honest, they are very seductive. You think you’re right about everything and suddenly the world is against you, when in reality, it is you who is against the world. You will blame the people who consciously or unconsciously hurt you, because you have to have a scapegoat/reason for your rage.
You begin to isolate yourself because you can’t trust people, especially those types, the people who you disagree with. They are what’s wrong with society today. You think what a wonderful world it would be if they were dead. But it wouldn’t be a wonderful world. It’d continue to be the same world.
It didn’t matter I had history and my friends on my side of my argument. It didn’t matter that the people I cut out kept reaching out to me, wanting me to come back. That didn’t quench my irrational rage. It didn’t make me feel better. They never admitted they were wrong, but even if they did, I wouldn’t trust them anyway. I’d still be upset. So what was the solution?
The solution was to accept, but not necessarily agree with their opinion. The moment I did that, I felt the rage melt in the light of my enlightenment. But what does it mean to accept, but not necessarily agree with them?
Firstly, I have my opinion which I acknowledge and think is correct. Secondly, they have their opinion which I acknowledge but do not think is correct. So while I disagree with their words, I open my heart and mind to their opinion without taking it as my own.
F. Scott Fitzgerald said it best: “The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” Thankfully, I’m intelligent enough to do this. Unfortunately, it took some time for me to realize this was the solution all along. Maybe I’m a bit slow. Perhaps at this stage of human civilization, most of us are slow at this.
The ramifications of Fitzgerald’s quote is that there may be some among us who simply can’t do this. With such folk, we have to be sensitive to them, even if they cannot be sensitive to us. And maybe they would be able to emulate the ability.
To be honest, I think there’s enough of us who can do this. We just don’t. We’d rather play the in-group/out-group game. We’d rather hate and look stupid to everyone else who is calmer about the subject at hand. We will only ruin ourselves and end up on the wrong side of history. You can still be on the winning team and be a liability at the same time. Don’t forget that.
Finally, that experience of losing three people in a short time really threw me off. I’d never been in a situation like that before as my relationships were usually a strong part of my life. It was scary and I never felt more alone.
It seems like people can hurt you with their opinions and actions, but in truth, they cannot. Because that would mean that only they could heal you, and that is simply untrue. Maybe you are hurting yourself because you have a misunderstanding of tolerance. People have to be free to be who they are. They can’t be something they’re not, can they? Of course not, and neither can you.
When they show you who they are, show them who you are and what you stand for. Accept that they did what they did; accept that they believe what they believe and live your life in accordance to your values. So, if you disagree with them, simply set the appropriate boundaries and live your life in peace. You owe it to yourself.