Sunday, November 22, 2009

Freedom Writers


Yesterday was a good day of training. Regular class in the morning and a four hour workshop in the afternoon. I watched the UFC with some friends last night. Some good fights. I was happy to see Forrest win over Tito. I would have liked to see him submit Ortiz, but it went to decision.


So, it's Sunday morning and I am watching Freedom Writers. It is such a great movie. It touches me in a lot of ways. If you haven't seen it I highly recommend it. Talk about teaching Universal Values.


The main character Erin Gruwell teaches at risk teens whose lives are torn by a war zone in the inner cities where they live. The real war zone isn't in our cities, it's not in the countries, it's not in our relationships, it's not in our religion, our race or in our families...It's in ourselves. It begins in the way we see ourselves and then those around us. It's in the way we treat those who we perceive to be different than ourselves. In the way we teach ourselves and others how to engage, interact and experience each other and the world around us. In the way that we externalize those fears onto other people, things, situations, countries, relationships, religions, races, ethnicity's, or anything else we can conceive to distract us from our own inner demons.


It starts small. We rationalize the behavior. We justify our actions. We create an environment that validates its self and the actions necessary to survive, saying the ends justify the means... How Machiavellian. We make it about us and them, this group vs. that group. This color vs. that color. This country vs. that country. This religion vs. that religion. This culture vs. that culture. This neighborhood vs. that neighborhood. This gang vs. that gang. This person vs. that person. etc.


It seems to be easier to take our internal struggle, externalize it, give it a name, a face, anything other than seeing the struggle for what and where it truly is. It's easy to validate this fear, there is enough evidence out there to support your perspective. You've heard it: Blacks are all criminals, Muslims are all terrorists, poor people are stupid and lazy, rich people are insensitive, self centered and exploit the poor, Germans were all Nazi's, our economic struggles are because of the Jews, or the Mexicans, or the Chinese... you get the idea.


Does this really happen? Yup, it does, every day. Some black people ARE criminals... and others like President Barrack Obama are leaders of nations; some Muslims ARE terrorists and some like Pakistani Ansar Burney have fought for peace and human rights their entire lives; some poor people ARE lazy and some like Oprah Winfrey overcome great odds to become successful and influential; some rich people DO exploit those less fortunate and others like billionaires Dick DeVos and Jay VanAndel have donated millions of dollars to build schools, medical facilities and research organizations, some Germans WERE Nazi's and others like Oskar Schindler helped hundreds of Jewish people escape from the Nazi Holocaust during WWII.


Different cultures have customs unique to themselves. Different races may have different skin color or facial features. Different religions may worship differently and call god by a different name. Different ethnicity's may eat different food listen to different music. But aren't all of these things what makes life so interesting? Aren't these the things that make our world so rich in culture and discovery? Our strength comes from our diversity.


But some say: "Let's face it we weren't all created equal in what we can do, what we have and where we were born." Its true, people have talents and skills in different area's. Everyone is not equally good at everything that's what makes this world so diverse and each of us so unique. Although we may not have been created equal in all the things that we can do, where we were born, etc. But we WERE all created equal in Who We ARE as living beings. Which not only gives us basic human rights regarding dignity and respect as a living being; I believe it also gives us the right to have equal opportunity to explore what we might be good at, what we have to contribute to ourselves and others and yes even the right, especially the right to fail as we set out on that journey.


Try to see beyond what your fears and stereotypes are telling you. Look for the similarities. See that others hurt just like you. They have families and friends that they love and care about just like you. They have hopes and dreams just like you. They can learn just like you. They have struggles that are just as important to them as yours are to you. They want dignity and respect just like you.


Our beliefs create the lives we live as an individual, a family, a neighborhood, a society and a global community. When we change our beliefs we will change how we live over time not over night for good or bad.


What belief are you going to embrace and spread?


All the best,

~Craig

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