Do what I say, but not how I benefited

I saw a story about a guy in Nevada who won a court case about his license plate. His plate essentially gave the message for people from California to go back there.

I’ve seen yard signs that essentially give the message that if you come to this location, don’t try to change it, the people here like it the way it is.

I have heard people make statements to others to go back to where they came from.

People are interesting. In all of these examples, there is a large amount of irony. It’s probably a pretty good guess that the guy in Nevada doesn’t have a long family history in the state – go back a generation or two, maybe even three or four generations, and I’m willing to bet that someone in his family moved to Nevada from somewhere else.

The people who post yard signs inviting others to not change things when they come seem to forget that when their families came to that location, things changed from the way it was. I’m willing to bet the people who were there before didn’t like the changes.

And the people who tell others to go back from where they came completely ignore their own family history.

Oh the irony of do as I say and not as I have benefited.

But hey, why should we assume that the rules we cast down on others should also apply to ourselves. Right? That would mean we’d be equals. And lord knows too many people have a deep need to feel superior over others.

Political candidates and elected politicians score cheap quick political points with their base when they offer similar statements and policy proposals. How ironic is it when we have politicians saying that higher education is bad, while they themselves went to some of the best educational institutions in the nation?

How ironic is it that so many politicians speak out against immigrants when their own family history is a story of immigration?

How ironic is it to proclaim that people should lift themselves up by their own bootstraps even though their own wealth more often than not came as a result of others?

Education, immigration, monetary policies, social welfare, and other topics are legitimate topics to debate and discuss. They are complex topics with no easy solutions. Debate and discussion are important because they move us to better policies. But scapegoating and simplistic thinking that ignores the realities of how we benefit from something while making statements against those very things does not help.

Do these statements and scapegoating happen out of guilt? Shame? Do people need to have someone who is considered “below” them? Why? Is it about manipulation?

I don’t know.

What I do know if that there is a better way that is helpful. A way that is honest about how certain things have benefited some people. A way that allows us to examine the costs and benefits. A way that encourages us to look at others with respect. We could do that if we wanted to. But in order to do that, we have to set aside the scapegoating. We have to set aside the win at all costs mentality. We have to look beyond our own self-interest.

Human history shows this to be uncommon. But not impossible. If there is anything I have learned over the years it is this – expect the worst, but look for the best in people. And when you see it, point it out, proclaim it, highlight it, and encourage it. That’s the only way we can possibly tap into it. The habit of the worst is a long habit in humanity. But from time to time, that habit can be broken. Progress for the betterment of society and community is hard work and slow. But it can happen. We have to be vigilant and find people who also want a better life for themselves and others. They are out there. Be on the look out for them. Listen for them. And work with them to make society and our communities a better place. But don’t expect everyone to get on board. Don’t expect others to acknowledge the betterment. It’s not about getting everyone to understand or agree. It’s about doing the work anyway.


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