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I cannot bring myself to a place of lighthearted, easy writing. Not today. Not this week.

The hatred I’ve seen, not just as it has been reported by news outlets, but within my own circles of contacts, has been nearly unthinkable.

I say “nearly”, because I have spent the last 24 years in the south. It’s where I was born. Where I was mostly raised. I’ve witnessed the attitudes of white supremacy from an early and impressionable age.

This week, I was reminded that these attitudes not only cause division in our country, but in families. Even my own.

It’s beyond “sad” as the President likes to say. It’s tragic.

And, as usual, I don’t have the answers.

Maybe the removal of confederate monuments would mark the beginning of something positive. Maybe it would cause more violence. But one thing is absolutely certain: hate, in its most raw and organic state, is alive and well.

I’ve read a lot of opinions this week. Many I agreed with. Many I didn’t. But there is no neat and tidy way to deal with the painful issues that divide.

So much of the problem seems to be the inclination of people to stop looking at human beings as human beings, and simply assign them a label. Group them together. And hate them.

Because that’s the easy thing to do. It’s much easier to stand up against a “movement” than to take each conflict as a personal opportunity to listen to individuals and their point of view.

By “grouping”, we don’t have to take any kind of personal responsibility for trying to understand. And by joining a “group” ourselves, we don’t have to necessarily justify our positions on these matters. We can hide behind the group. And let them bear the brunt of the conflict.

But it takes one individual to another, giving and receiving information in a clear, non-hostile way, before common ground can be reached.

At the root of hate, by anyone, there is always the refusal to listen. To open ourselves to the vulnerability of their opinions and criticisms. We fear much. And that, perhaps, is the root of hate itself: fear.

Fear that history will be lost? For some, yes. Fear that our country cannot truly be united unless monuments to the past are removed from public places? For some, yes. Fear that our opinions and ideologies are wrong? Many times. Why else would people be so defensive?

One of the arguments I witnessed personally this week was between brothers. One was trying to show a Christian perspective. One of Love. And humility. And peace. And he was confronted with hatred.

My defense mechanisms went into overdrive. They always do when people behave like bigots.

These are the divisions that the news doesn’t report. The ones that create a divide in families. Between friends.

They go deeper than just ideology. They go to our very roots. And when one person starts examining their roots and pointing to the problems in the soil, there are always those who are so deeply clinging to what they choose to believe, a resolution seems impossible.

I have seen what happens when hate drives people. And I have witnessed discrimination and unequal treatment of people because of who they are, who they cannot help but be.

And many times, I have said nothing. Because nothing I could say would change anything. Not because I couldn’t say something with relevance or truth to it. The simple fact is this: people who choose to believe something, whether it’s true or not, are usually resistant to anything that implies there’s another way to look at something, or someone. And some are resistant to the point of hatred for anyone or anything that dares to challenge them.

Violence should not be tolerated. And you cannot reason with the unreasonable. You can’t fix stupid. But you can educate the ignorant.

I cannot solve the world’s problems. So for many of us who are privileged enough, the answer is often to do nothing. Say nothing. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t stir the pot. Don’t invite that controversy to your doorstep.

I know many activists. While I am passionate, and I think collective efforts can reap benefits, I am also a huge proponent of personal responsibility.

I believe in taking ownership of one’s own thoughts and actions and trying to propel them towards good.

Because I think, if there IS an answer to some of the madness, it’s to be found there. In each individual. One at a time.

But that takes work.

I am, and most people are, impatient. We want immediate results. We want immediate satisfaction. And long standing problems do not have those kinds of answers.

In order to make our voices heard, we first have to make sure we know our facts. Not just b.s. we’ve been spoon fed by the media, or by politicians, or by bloggers, or by preachers, or by our parents, our friends. We have to be able to discern. Understand. See the problem as a whole. See it from someone else’s perspective besides the one we’ve held all of our lives.

Secondly, we have to continue in that quest for truth, and never be certain that we’ve figured it all out. It requires constant examination of our own belief systems, consciences, and motivations. It’s exhausting.

I, for one, am usually so tired from doing this that I don’t have time to point many fingers.

But most of all, I think, our personal responsibility means that we live our truth, and not just speak it.

We all fall short and fail and miss the mark. Nobody is perfect. But are you the kind of person, do you live your life in such a way, does your attitude reflect the light of a person who speaks from the heart? Who can think for themselves? Who has studied and observed and really looked at the WHOLE issue, and not just the part that pisses you off?

This is so hard. I struggle with it daily. I want to scream about the injustices I see. I want to call out people for hate all while displaying my own version of it, because MINE is justified. Right?

While the temptation is often to look outside and point at someone else, blame another, the only way to really begin a healing process in a family, in a church, in a country, is to stop looking outside. And turn our gaze inward. Stop calling out, and reaching in. Deal with what’s inside ourselves.

And maybe if more people did that, we’d truly begin to eradicate the monster. Starting with the one inside us all.