By Elijah Morlett
Fear is one of the most powerful tools that people can use in their speech. Throughout history, the idea of seeding fear into the minds of common individuals has been prevalent in many leaders.
Once fear is sown among the masses, it quickly sprouts confusion. Faulty information and deliberate miscommunication, courtesy of television personalities and politicians, tend to this confusion, ensuring its safe growth.
The confusion, ultimately, grows into hate. This strong sense of distrust, this utter dislike of a person or group, matures and fosters a societal turbulence around the world.
What begins as an innocent act of expression becomes a clash of offensive speech designed to discredit and degrade all kinds of people.
What leaders today seem to have forgotten is that expressing your belief does not mean you have to harass others for theirs.
Hate has always been a prominent part of history. Some people would argue that discrimination has gotten quieter since the civil rights movement, but though the actions are less intense, the ideas of hatred have never stopped flourishing.
We have tension built between Christians and Atheists, heterosexuals and homosexuals, Muslims and “Patriots” and countless other combinations.
Here is the truth: An atheist speaking his or her belief against religion is not starting a sacred war against the faith. Likewise, a Christian saying, “God Bless,” is not an ignorant bigot forcing his/her beliefs on other people.
Homosexuals advocating for their rights are not vying to destroy the sanctity of marriage. Their fight for what they value is not an attack against what people view as their own traditions.
A practicing Muslim celebrating Ramadan is not worshipping the idea of terrorism against innocent beings. He is simply in prayer, exercising a Constitution-given right.
Sadly, so many individuals in our nation, especially in our own Oklahoma, have overlooked these details when determining how to treat a human being.
Many have either ignored the fact that different people have different beliefs, or have let public leaders’ and television personalities’ inflammatory speech taint their knowledge, and now they can no longer see the good behind a disagreement.
Our culture has been quick to sling demeaning titles like bigot, racist or terrorist to people that only have spoken a heavy opinion. The point that we eventually start missing is that real bigots and racists are doing far more harm than those we assign the titles to.
In our society, it becomes easy to miss what those words, those titles, actually mean, causing people to begin their own speeches of hate, sewing fear born of pure ignorance.
Jon Stewart, host of the Daily Show, said as much at his Rally to Restore Sanity, calling out the loudest and most ignorant voices.
“If we amplify everything,” he said, “we hear nothing.”
That amplification is exactly what is happening in our country. Everything becomes loud, blocking out the notion of respecting one another.
Education is key to this major issue. If everyone took the time to learn, rather than assume, we could live in a world much different than the one we live in.
If we could stop and listen to someone speak instead of rushing into a counter argument, we can start building peace and stop accusing one another.
If we learn to form educated opinions instead of blithely agreeing with news commentaries or blogs, we can to begin to understand the intellectual potential we have as American citizens.
Once society teaches us how to utilize our resources and learn for ourselves, tolerance can begin.
Tolerance is not about accepting someone else’s belief. Tolerance is as simple as agreeing to disagree and allowing individual ideas to flourish.
We the people of the United States claim to be free and equal, yet our freedom to express ignorant ideas suppresses the equality of several groups.
We must begin the process of learning so that, one day, we can weed out the hate from our culture.