By Jillian Maas Backman
Like the rest of America, I am discouraged over the recent suicide of the young college boy, Tyler Clementi, of Reuckers University. The latest victim in an (alleged) secretly recorded cyber broadcast engaged in a gay encounter. The primary focus and media attention has been pinpointing bullying as the underlying culprit. I want to shift the focus to a more insidious cultural epidemic. I am beyond anger and outrage over the latest incident of labeling indignation. My soul is in complete surrender to the heartbreak of another child lost to the useless abyss of irrational rationalities. For crying out loud, what is left to say that has not already been written or spoken millions of times at the top of our exhausted lungs that can permeate and breakdown the harsh reality of prejudice?? We must all survive the drudgery of hearing the predictable banter of practicing more tolerance and compassion towards our difference. Our issue is much much larger than words. We have a people problem. We are wasting precious time with labels meant to deliberately separate us further apart. At some point in time, it will be too late to repair the labeling voids between us.
Labeling is an unavoidable cerebral task we can never escape. Our brain naturally categorizes all information that crosses its path. This is both a blessing and a curse. We unequivocally depend on our self-generated cognitive systems to keep an efficient handle on our chaotic Maya. The key word here is self-generated. Our labeling systems are dominated by what we key in. If not mindfully managed, there is the potential for abuse. We haphazardly break down social networks into labels because it is mindless. We pigeonhole people into categories of yes’s and no’s, like some crazy person with a labeling machine running around labeling everything in sight without rhyme or reason just because he/she can. We have total disregard for the consequences of mislabeling and the power to determine the rightness of one labeled group over another. Leaving all of us one-step away from the vicious nature of judgment. We have all fallen prey to this is self-serving habit at some point. Rendering a society of surface dwellers. Lives are at peril because we have become too lazy to explore each other from a soulful level rather than a surface level. This kind of laziness is stalling out our hearts. Many of you are quite happy with that reality. It takes effort to nurture energy between people, based in goodness or darkness. That contrast lies solely in your hands every time you reach out to know someone.
The good news: We are reversing this toxic behavior of cultural labeling.
Let us use this latest gut-wrenching episode to finally spark something in our core. Let’s literally shove this issue to the forefront of our existence.
It is time for us to implement a moral to- do list.We have the capability at any point in time to reach back into our cognitive brain and re-assign information at will. This can be done! I personally have witnessed someone who had toxic preconceived ideas about a certain group of individuals. Through determination and exposure to those he naively mislabeled as “bad” in his mind, he now has come to an enlightened place of acceptance.
Have we become a society of mixed messages and contradictions?
I constantly hear the phrase “I don’t care what people say.” I get that it is an internal mechanism we have in order to take what others say about us personally. The table should be turned. The time has come for us to care about what we are really saying to each other. Whether that communication is through texting, telephone conversations or virtual, personal responsibility, filtering, and presentation must be employed immediately.
Yet every literary script supports this timeless belief that we are all unique in a special way. I ascribe to this authenticity. Radio is a perfect medium outlet that satisfies one of my favorite pastimes- listening. I have the esteemed privilege of listening and vicariously living through my guests who share their incredible American stories. I lose myself in their diverse recitation of cultural history. Their stories become a part my story. Lines of segregating labels transpose themselves into blurred images in my uncensored melting pot of memory. Therefore, those who want to use our diversity as weapons of emotional destruction dumbfound me. What good can it do to continuously beat up people over our differences and complexities? We have to stop living in the artificial vacuum of dualities. We cannot continue to encourage everyone to live in their authenticity, and not allow others the same common courtesy. Trust me when I say, I take great pleasure in being my unconventional quirky self! I simply cannot imagine a place where we all think the same, dress the same, look the same… Boring! Please invest more care and interest, with me, on what the public is saying about others. More importantly, please take care of what you are saying out in the world.
I will leave you with a passage from my forthcoming book, “Beyond The Pews.” Blessed with the opportunity to sit with one of my spiritual mentors, Swami Mohan Das, he granted me the privilege of asking any questions I had of him. In his opinion, what is the greatest challenge we face today? His response:
“Hatred is like pus in a boil. Many are filled with this pus of hatred. They hold onto their hatred for selfish reasons, to deliberately keep themselves separate from others. We must drain this before we can move forward.” Swami Mohan Das, Delhi, India
Our words and actions only serve as temporary bandages over an open wound that oozes out a putrid stench named hatred of the sickest kind. This kind of unfortunate events will continue to plague our children, siblings, partners, and neighbors until we irrigate every germ of resistance to love- based infrastructures. We are in the midst of draining our pungent pus in a public forum. As you all know, this is always the hardest part- the- middle, the goal of building a more civilized communities. The majority of us prefer to do this kind of detoxification behind closed doors. We have passed the point of public humiliation as a deterrent for violent behavior towards others. We find ourselves at the ugly stage of deconstruction. It is not pretty to watch, but there are many lives at stake if we choose to withdraw because of dark forces. If we continue to feed off the dissected groupings we have unconsciously designed, the pus will re-infest itself as long as we stand on the sidelines and watch it build up again. Ravaged sores break through and take another child’s life in the name of vicious name calling, bullying and threatening labels.
Let us all stay steadfast to draining the filth out of this sickening disease known as hatred. Until, we reach the other side of reconstruction, commonly known as LOVE.
In grace, Jillian Maas Backman