This I Believe

Marissa - State College, Pennsylvania
Entered on November 19, 2006
Age Group: Under 18
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The “E” in Cinnamon

I am a birthright Quaker. I grew up in a tie-dye lovin’, tree-huggin’, cuddle-puddle colors of the rainbow community with a Greenpeace veteran for a father and a soil conservationist for a mother. No, it’s not “quacker”. No, it’s not about the oatmeal. And no, I’m really not Amish. I just like spice in my life. Cinnamon is great, but I mainly go for the “E” in Spice, which stands for “equality” in this fragrant acronym of Quaker principles.

I believe that everyone has a right to their own opinion, but should not force it upon others. A conversation is good. A lively debate is splendid. An argument over who is right is borderline silly. A full-scale war is preposterous. The silly spats that sporadically arise between my friends and acquaintances stem from this very issue: They fail to take the time to fully absorb what the opposite perception is. While they are free to disagree, they rarely stop simply at agreeing to disagree but continue on to you-are-wrong-I-am-right-I-stuff-my-right-down-your-wrong-throat. Skank-ho or sociable? Pro-life or pro-choice? Terrorist or freedom fighter? Genocide or ethnic cleansing? Tomato or tomahto? In witnessing these disagreements, I tend to get bad tummy feelings because I always try to seek a middle ground. Any evidence of raised hackles makes me anxious to right the wrongs, even if I have nothing to do with it.

Seeking the middle ground and stopping to take in another’s perspective are exercises that I strive to extend to every aspect of my life, not just within my groups of friends. To illustrate: being immersed in high school means exposure to a wide array of clothing styles, tastes and opinions. Instead of thinking “ohmygod a girl that size should really NOT be wearing a skirt that small,” I try to reason that it’s great that someone isn’t mentally hindered by their physical appearance in order to dress stylishly. When the Fundamentalist kids start trying to persuade me towards their Biblical values, I respond with “you believe what you believe; I’ll believe what I believe.” Whether I think that someone’s clothes are skanky, their hair bad or their politics silly, these components are part of them as an individual and pre-judging said components is demeaning to their identity as a person.

So really, I am shoving tolerance down all of YOUR throats. Don’t we all love a paradox? I don’t necessarily agree with every other point of view— but everyone should be able to have one without fear of retribution or ostracism. When one person proclaims him or herself the epitome of right, catastrophes like Hitler happen. Maybe I’m attempting to bring a small portion of peace to the world in my own way, by not declaring that I am irrevocably correct.

So, tomato or tomahto?

Take your pick.