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Human, But Different

Samir Selmanovic June 16 2016

One day we celebrate the beauty of it all, the next we mourn. The struggle of learning to live together in our evermore diverse and connected world goes in predictable cycles. Yet, something unprecedented is happening right now.

Democrats and Republicans, Muslims and Christians, the 99% and the 1%, the list is endless and divisions are growing deeper. The polarization has escalated beyond any historical norm. We have even become incapable of mourning and passing laws together.

In the past, for the most part, our differences have served us well, giving us our stories, preserving our unique beliefs and practices, providing us with an opportunity to belong to particular groups while helping us solve problems and advance as a human race.

Every once in a while, when we are afraid of the other, we think "with them, there will be no future for us.” In this us-or-them world, our very identity seems under threat. And for humans, nothing matters like identity. Not even economy.

Today, however, polarization reaches every corner of the world, every kitchen conversation, and every webpage. None of us is exempt. If you don't think you have "the other" in your life, ask yourself this, "What group of people would the world be better without?" Whoever that is, they are “the other” for you.

So, as a way to respond to the events in Orlando, I suggest we go out and find them and meet them, determined to learn something we have never heard before. And ask these humans questions we don’t already have answers for. (Which is much harder than we think, since answers are already ricocheting in the echo chamber of us.)

Maybe their answers will make us even more mad, since they themselves live in fear of us as well. But if we go armed only with respect and curiosity, it is likely “the other” will gift us with a different way to see. Human, but different.

We all can’t go to Orlando and express our condolences. But we can all go to our neighbors, acknowledge our ignorance, and then listen like we used to listen in the days of wonder when we did not have all the answers.

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