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Two things to consider before expressing yourself

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It's December, and the major themes locally, nationally and all over the Internet seem to be messages of love, good cheer...and intolerance. As Sesame Street's game used to ask, "Which of these things is not like the others?"

The holiday season brings out the best and the worst in Americans. While we're "supposed" to be focused on joy, giving, family togetherness and various religious themes; consumerism, family expectations and self-imposed pressures make for some cranky folks. Given these variables, December is not much different from any other month in the year, except for the twinkly lights and massive crowds at the stores.

All around the Net, people are writing, publishing, posting and sharing pieces that criticize certain individuals, groups and actions that the authors/readers deem bad, hateful, irresponsible and/or corrupt. Everyone is absolutely entitled to their own opinions and the things that don't serve society do need to be part of responsible education for each citizen. However, there are two factors that need to be taken into consideration before tossing something negative out for public (or even person-to-person) consumption:

  1. By bringing attention to the undesirable, it gets more powerful. These wars on drugs and "terror" are not only vague, but the more money dumped into fighting them seems to make no difference. Political debates/arguments tend to make one side dislike the other more. The list goes on and on. When someone has strong feelings against something, the best thing he/she can do is focus on the "pro" side. Mother Teresa said she'd never attend an anti-war protest, but that she'd happily go to a pro-peace rally.
  2. When publicly condemning an individual or group, not only does it get more power and attention, but the basics are very rarely considered. "Crack whores" were once innocent babies and children, too. Their circumstances and perceived lack of choices most likely led them to their current state. The situation in which a person is brought up becomes "normal" to them, even if it seems absolutely crazy to someone else. When groups or individuals are considered on a human level, some compassion may arise. That does not condone the negative or illegal activities that group or person may have been involved in, but it can help take the "monster" out of them. There are many people in this country (and world) that honestly do not realize that they have choices.

These two points are applicable to every individual on a daily basis. Before speaking against someone, gossiping or sharing "news," ask what kind of impact it will have on the recipient(s). By remembering these two factors, perhaps folks (myself included) can cut down on spreading negative, critical things that lead to fear and actually start spreading good cheer!

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