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Clear Up the Misunderstanding: A Message of Unity

I turned 29 on October 28th, and the plan was to celebrate with my twin brother, a friend, and our significant others the day before. In what has now become tradition'my brother claims it's three consecutive years'we were going to make the two plus hour trip to Pittsburgh for some fun and games at Dave and Buster’s. Unfortunately, as most reading this Pittsburgh based site will know, the 27th is a day that will go down in infamy in what is now seemingly such a common occurrence'a mass shooting at Tree of Life synagogue. I actually first found out what was happening after receiving an automated text from work, only to have Twitter and the news fill me in on the situation further as the day went on. Our plans weren't until much later in the day, and while I'm still not entirely sure it was the right decision, we kept our plans and made the trip to celebrate the occasion; however, a black cloud hung over the entire night for me, as I couldn't help but think of the eleven individuals and their families whose plans had changed forever, for no other reason than they were Jewish.

I simply can't wrap my head around that kind of hate. Honestly, I can't wrap my head around any level of it. Unfortunately, it seems to remain a poison that is infecting all walks of life in our current time and place. I can't imagine it's actually any worse than it has been throughout history'in all actuality, we're probably better off than before'but the 24/7 news cycle and pervasive social media culture do nothing but shine a light and intensify the idea that hate is still all around us, despite how far we've come. The idea that such thoughts and feelings exist and persist weigh on me literally every day, and I thought maybe this was the least I could do, my little part in using what platform I have to get a positive message out, even if it's nothing but cathartic.

I'm not from Pittsburgh, so I can't say these tragic events hit me on some kind of personal level. As a straight, white, Christian, college-educated male, I can't say that I've ever really experienced the same kind of hate or marginalization at any point in my life; however, I am human, and really, I believe that's all it should take to feel for and be disgusted by what happened, why it happened, and that it continues to happen.

As I said, I can't understand such hate, but I certainly understand where it comes from. Hate is nothing but a deadly mix of fear and misunderstanding. A saying I've come up with and try to remember goes something like this We hate what we fear and fear what we don't understand, so the best way to stop the hate is clear up the misunderstanding.'

Sure, I've led a privileged life, but not in all fashions. The picture above is of me and my brother, who has autism. Through him, my family and I have learned the price that comes with being 'different' (By the way, I hate that word in that context, as if it's a pejorative. Different is not bad, it’s just not the same). Having to be sensitive to any and all situations, scenarios, and surroundings, ready and alert for anything that may or may not happen. Having to endure weird looks, unintended'or not so much so'critical remarks, disrespect, and'misunderstanding. Instead of seeing him as just another person, my brother is often disregarded, ignored, talked down to or around, or simply just misunderstood. If we would all simply take the time to ask, listen, and truly learn about one another, just maybe our differences would be forgotten and our similarities recognized.

This wouldn't be one of my articles if I didn't add some kind of higher-level ideology in for good measure; therefore, Contact Theory is an important part of this discussion. The idea is that once we spend time with and get to know someone who is different than us, there's much less to be afraid of or hate, since we're now more familiar with that person or group. For some levity, Aziz Ansari described it more aptly in his Saturday Night Live monologue when discussing Islamophobia:

I think part of the problem is a lot of these people, they just haven't interacted with any brown people in their normal life. The only people they see are these monsters in the news who are just a drop in the ocean.

Maybe what needs to happen is when they do the news report, they should do a second report about some other brown people that are just up to normal stuff ' just to calm those people down.

So the reports are like: 'The suspects are considered armed and dangerous. Not armed and dangerous ' these four other Muslim people that are eating nachos in Chicago. Let's go to footage of them. Uh-oh, looks like Nasir just spilled a little cheese on his khakis! Got a little overambitious with that last dip! We've all been there!'

Basically, when you humanize the 'other nachos are messy and we all eat them'there's not nearly as much to be afraid of.

I try to live by the old axiom of 'Do unto others.' I can't understand why anyone would want to hate, disenfranchise, marginalize, or exclude someone else because they are from the wrong country, have the wrong skin color, love the wrong person, are the wrong gender, worship (or not) wrong, or any other list of 'wrongs' that of course are not wrong at all. In my book, if you're not hurting anyone, you be you, and if you're happy, that's what counts.

In a time where there seems to be nothing but division and no real way for any of us to stop it, I try to remember to worry about what I can control and affect what I can affect. Sure, it's unrealistic and it often doesn't work, but the point still stands. For me, that's being the best father, husband, son, brother, uncle, friend, and neighbor I can be. Make a difference to those who I can, and treat everyone else with the dignity and respect they deserve. I'm not perfect'obviously no one is'but who has ever been hurt in striving to be better?

Those titles may be different for every person reading this, but I implore you to do the same. Listen, learn, love, and try to make a difference. It may not be much, but in the end, it's really all we have.

Ethan is a Pirates contributor to The Point of Pittsburgh. An Accountant by trade, Ethan is passionate about the business of sports and won't apologize for enjoying it more than the actual games. He's a believer in analytics, hasn't played a game since little league, and can be contacted via Twitter @EthanHullihen

1 Comment on Clear Up the Misunderstanding: A Message of Unity

  1. Tony Ventimiglio // November 13, 2018 at 1:49 PM //

    Today’s culture focuses to much on “hate” and has no understanding of the world. Evil people do not have to “hate” to harm/kill large numbers of people. Look at some historical facts. Stalin, Lenin, Mussolini, North Korean Leaders, China (Tiananmen Sq?) and hundreds of more examples. These instances that I noted are all related to greed, power and evil. Think about serial killers. Think about a murder for any reason. You make some valid points but the word hate has become trivialized in today’s culture. The shooting in PGH, yeah maybe hatred. But look at San Bernardino, Thousand Oaks, Las Vegas, Orlando. Any attempt to put a label on anything is counter productive. Certainly, we can all improve in how we treat others. We won’t change evil people though.

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