“We share the same biology
Regardless of ideology
What might save us, me, and you
Is if the Russians love their children too.”
This past weekend I was watching one of those “human interest” Olympics stories, that I actually found quite intriguing. Tom Brokaw was interviewing a former Soviet Cosmonaut, and a former American Astronaut, who had worked together on the Apollo-Soyuz Project in the 70’s. It was something I’d never heard of, and it was really heartwarming and interesting. After having worked together the two became close friends and remain so today, in their 80’s. Indeed, the two men say that they are as close as family today, calling one another “brothers.”
I found the story so remarkable…the Cold War and Soviet/US relations were of particular interest of me as a child. In probably 3rd grade I figured out what the reality of a nuclear war would mean for the world, and became a bit obsessed with the topic. I was a little odd for my young age in that I spent a lot of time watching the news and keeping up on current events. As I grew this interest would become one of the keystones in my love of history, and I took particular interest in the history of the USSR/Russia, taking classes both in high school and college on the topic. Most of my initial interest was grounded in abject terror of the possibility of a nuclear war, but even at a very young age I think I was aware of something that the recent Olympics story made clear to me: that at the core of ideological differences are people, humans who are more alike than different. I loved the song “Russians” by Sting for more than the fact that Sting is awesome, but because it humanized the people we were so “against.” It humanized the “enemy.” They were just people who loved their kids, too.
I don’t think I realized just how much hate and vitriol was directed towards people from the USSR, “commies” “Reds”, etc as a kid, it wasn’t until I became an adult that I saw that fear of the unknown breeds hatred. Think of all the “us vs. them” scenarios that you can in just a minute. Blacks vs. whites. The US vs. (insert current enemy nation here). Conservative vs. liberal. Gay vs. straight. Christians vs. other religions. Muslims. Japanese Americans in WWII. Rich vs. poor. Moms who breast feed vs. bottle feed. Parents who vaccinate vs. Parents who don’t. I could keep listing and listing and listing all of those people we claim to “hate” simply because our ideology’s don’t match up, we disagree about certain things. Do we really, truly hate them?
When I was driving to work one day I was behind a car that said “IH8DEMS” on their vanity plate. As a democrat that really irked me. That person doesn’t know me at all and yet they claim to “hate” me, enough so that they’d pay extra to be able to tell the whole world. We’ve gotten to a place in America where the people with the loudest voices are controlling the dialogue. The Ann Coulter’s, Bill Maher’s, Ahmadinejad’s and Westboro Baptists…they are the ones telling us in their loudest, most outraged voices, who to love and who to hate, who to trust and who to fear. Who is right and who is wrong. Is that who we want in control? Is that who we want defining us?
If we never know, truly know another person, we can never know their story. If we don’t know a gay person, we can continue to judge and fear them. If we don’t know any Christians, we can continue to criticize and label them close minded. If we don’t know a Muslim, we can continue to think they are all terrorists. If we don’t know someone on welfare it’s easy to label them as slackers. But what I believe most strongly is that, at the very heart of things, all of us are people who “love their children too”…we laugh at jokes, cry when we lose someone we love, worry about our kids, have favorite foods and bad memories of middle school, think we look fat and wish we were smarter. Feel good about our accomplishments and look back at certain events with regret. We are human. A little bit good, a little bit bad, a lot in between. Yeah, there are some awful people out there. They may be black or white, liberal or conservative, American or some other nationality. But are we going to let those few people define a certain group? Take away their humanity? Are we going to let the loud voices run this show??
I don’t want to do that. I want to be me, in all my (Thank you Glennon Melton) brutiful mess. I want to see you as you, not as some cause or label or political ideology or nationality or race. To appreciate the way all those things make you who you are. To be able to disagree without turning that disagreement into a Cold War.
Anne Frank wrote “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.” My god, if she believed that, shouldn’t we be able to do the same when we consider those with whom we feel at odds with? If Tom Stafford and Alexi Leonov can overcome the bitter hatred of the Cold War to become “brothers”, can’t we do the same?
I think our humanity depends on it.