Last Saturday morning two Jehovah's Witnesses showed up at the door. I greeted them, shook their hands and ended up talking to them for at least an hour. Afterwards, I thought of the lesson I learned a few years ago after having made a derogatory comment about Jehovah's Witnesses. The woman I was living with at the time asked me point-blank: "Why did you make that comment about Jehovah's Witnesses?" My answer was not convincing, having no rationale other than pure prejudice.
I have since learned to respect Jehovah's Witnesses for what they believe and for devoting their lives to bringing their belief to others. I also learned that the people knocking on my door were good people and that my feelings for them in the past was based in an unfounded prejudice which I had adopted from others. Prejudice is passed on from generation to generation, family to family, person to person, often without rational thought or reason. So, it is up to each one of us to reverse this process by teaching kindness.
I'm sure I have mentioned it before....the lesson I learned from one of my client's at the prison. When confronting another individual, ask yourself three questions before you open your mouth and if you cannot answer "yes" to every question, keep your mouth shut. The three questions to ask yourself are:
1) Is it kind?
2) Is it necessary?
3) Is it true?
Recently, in one of my Social Psychology classes, my professor made the statement that we, as a race, are more cruel to one another than any other species. He supported this by showing a video on the subject, which was rather shocking and embarrassing. Americans and Western Europeans were used as test subjects, which made me wonder what would have happened if other cultures had been tested.
Americans, Canadians, Africans, Europeans, Indonesians.....
That got me thinking. Am I an American simply because I live in America? Does living in a particular country give you the label of that particular country? Am I patriotic? Supposedly, an element of democracy is the ability and "freedom" to speak out against one's government without retribution. Americans have been doing just that, speaking out against their government, for centuries. Is it truly without retribution though? I'm sure my name is on some damn "list," in some agency, just waiting for the right opportunity to come along.
Emma Goldman's statement is true. On a smaller scale, while growing up I used to brag about living in the largest house on the block.
Like my revelation of prejudice, I have, over the course of time, come to the conclusion that I cannot limit myself to the confines of patriotism. I now call myself a "Worldian," staking my claim over a broader area, yet still remaining in the confines of our planet earth, which we as a species are slowly destroying. Perhaps in the future I might broaden my horizons and become a Universian.
While talking to those two nice people last Saturday, I remembered an acquaintance of mine who remained seated at our high school pep rally, during the playing of the national anthem. He was not only ridiculed for his actions, he was severely beaten by several bullies who were present at that pep rally. He was a Jehovah Witness. I told my Saturday visitors about this and asked them why they don't stand during the national anthem. I liked their answer and realized for the first time that it wasn't meant as an non-patriotic act but rather as a personal statement of what they believe.
There was no pressure to try and convert me last Saturday. I spend an hour having an intelligent conversation with two people who were nice. I enjoyed it and thought of the number of times I slammed the door in the face of innocent people knocking at my door. I apologized to them for my actions in the past and we chatted about world peace. Some might call it insignificant, but I believe it is a start. Heck, wars start between two people, why can't world peace start the same way?
Day-by-day the sides of my "box" become more evident as I try to throw my leg over the side....