This I Believe

David - Plantation, Florida
Entered on January 15, 2007

This I believe

I firmly believe that a person must be judged by what s/he holds inside rather than the vision, perception or appearance seen outside.

This belief and foundation is so much more difficult to adhere to in a World increasingly led by labels, perceptions, impressions, prejudices and material objectivism.

We read of modern day terrorists but forget that in 1776, the “rebel” American colonialists were seen as such terrorists when, in July 4 of that same year it was announced that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” In other words, no matter the religious belief, no matter the color of skin, every man, woman and child is indeed guaranteed the right to be equal and happy and to fight for each of those rights. It would seem unpatriotic to even consider whether someone our own government labels as a modern-day “terrorist” is not simply disenfranchised from our tangible real world with no political or economic means to seek his/her economic freedom or equality or happiness other than to ask the World to take notice of his/her plight. Rushing to label this disenfranchised individual as a “terrorist” having no right to freedom or equality or happiness may be the same error committed by the British in 1776 when they rushed to label the American rebels as “terrorists.”

I believe it essential to truly step into another man’s shoes and walk his walk before condemning that man for his stride or direction. I have found that often what seemed to be a heretical, irrational and illogical direction actually became quite clear and understandable once I divorced myself of my preconceived notions about an individual and simply allowed myself to feel his plight. For, until I could actually rid myself of all pre-notions and adopt and truly experience the other person’s point of view, the only direction was one I had already mapped out in my own mind premised on my own experiences and perceptions – however valid or invalid.

In this World of rampant materialism, we see people by the car they drive, the watch and clothes and shoes they wear. The latest fashion trends and photographs of celebrities tell us who is “in” and who is “out.” We judge a celebrity that we don’t know or may never meet by gossip and innuendo rather than by any hard and fast facts. Simply put, most of what we see and read about in the media is simply an illusion. It is either a label that some publicist has placed on his/her client so that they may seem more palatable to a magazine or newspaper. We read a news article that captures a window in time as seen by a reporter we may never meet. We are not present when the story is captured and we have no way of knowing if the actual events are fairly relayed to us. We read of bias in the media but, in the end, that too is a label placed on people and stories by others who wish us to adopt an opposing point of view simply because the person who read the story or watched the news program disagrees with the ultimate conclusion suggested by the reporter.

I believe we are all prejudiced in one way or another and that as we learn and grow and meet and experience it is our task to shed ourselves of these prejudices. The prejudgment may be small and tenuous (regarding a type of clothing for example). The prejudgment may be great (regarding age or race of an individual). In the end however, we have all been both victim and deliverer of a label – whether innocently applied or with malice. I firmly believe it is our supreme mission to rid ourselves of all labels and to truly see a person for their actions, their goals, their desires and their good deeds.

As a youngster I played basketball in Southern Indiana during the years before our public schools were fully desegregated. In a local tournament and in the second round, our time was due to play a team representing the local segregated school. My mother asked me which team we played next. I reported that we were due to play the team in the red jerseys. I said this because that was how I was raised. I do not see a person for the color of their skin, their religion, their height or weight. I see that person for the deeds they perform in this World. I see that person for their contributions and desires. I recognize that everyone is entitled to equality and to pursue happiness in this World and that to label that person before even understanding him/her may be the greatest misdeed of all.