I always wondered how we form our political beliefs. I realized for me it always stems from those closest to us or someone we have interacted with on a regular basis. The good old dream is to live in a house with a white picket fence. The fence is really symbolic of a lot of things if you dive into it. It draws a clear line of what is mine and what is everyone else’s. It alerts others by letting them know you are not welcome here.
A fence. A house. A door.It really doesn’t matter what analogy you use, they all can pertain to how we think and view life.
Because our opinions are shaped by the lives we lead and if we believe in fences and perfect houses that strangers shouldn’t come near then it will give us an idea of how our thoughts align with that fence. Truthfully, most people only care about what they have first hand experience with and that shapes their opinions and values. Which is true for everyone, including myself. I always wondered though why do people hide behind their fences and watch their neighbors? Why watch and not extend a hand to them if they need it? Especially if your neighbor is different than you.
Sometimes it is a hard concept to understand and it infuriates me often when I wonder why can’t this person seem to see the value in someone who is different. I try to rationalize with myself that it must be because they have no direct experience with such a person. Which is true if you live in the same neighborhood your whole life where no one deviates from the norm then the norm is the only type of person that is acceptable. So when and why do we start to change? When do we go from just looking beyond the fence to reaching beyond the fence?
For many people a friendly person will come by and maybe they just enter your life briefly. They might not be someone you would call up anytime of day or night, but you enjoy their company and you think they are a good person. If someone says something bad about them, I, for example would be like why? What is wrong with my friend or acquaintance? Someone might point out their difference. I can acknowledge the difference and say why does that matter? The truth is when looking beyond the fence we are curious. We wonder what is the problem with being a little different. We just never really ponder about it that deeply. So when the friend who is different, or an issue our friend might experience is mentioned in the media we get agitated. Now I must form an opinion. Do I support this person fully? Am I lukewarm about it? Am I somewhere who believes my friend is good and whatever is being said is bullshit? It is hard to say.
Whenever I think of myself, I try to be compassionate towards others. I remember the words, “put yourself in someone else’s shoes.” If I were in their shoes how would I feel? I would feel upset and want justice! I would want my friend to feel like me. I would want them to know they are safe, valued, and loved for who they are. That just because we are different there is no reason why they should be treated differently because of that said difference. In my mind the fence gate begins to open and my friend from beyond the fence now has the access to move freely into my space. I no longer have decided to close myself off from their issues, but rather I’ve opened the door and decided that maybe this fence really isn’t so necessary after all. So together the two of us can begin to dismantle the fence to allow us to move freely between each other’s space and freely sharing our thoughts and compassion with others.
I have moved beyond my fence. I’m no longer just looking at it, but I have decided to get rid of it. I’m a person who does this at a lower level than others. Many people will say that they have no prejudice or that they are very tolerant. But we all have our own fences in different ways. This is reflected in the way we are raised and the beliefs that are instilled in us. As we move through life and begin to experience things ourselves our lives start to change, our beliefs change, and those experiences build us into who we are. Some people have taller fences than others, and some people may have a tiny fence that they need to work on. We are all different and our fences will be different depending on what hurdles we need to encounter as a person. Each section of the fence we dismantle is representative of one more thing we have begun to acknowledge and become compassionate towards. I like the fact that my fence dismantles itself easily at the first level. While when I debate with others on topics that incur fury while displaying a fenced in life, I wonder when will that person begin to dismantle their own fence.
For many people this comes at much later level. Sometimes it has to be a person who has access to enter through the closed fence gate. Whether that be a close friend or a family member it will be someone with access to every aspect of the person’s life. So now this person has brought a storm inside a shuttered gate and the owner has to stare it down. How uncomfortable it can be to stare it down in your own space! We all have the thought that someone is violating our space, whether physically, emotionally, or verbally. We aren’t ready to cope and we want that person out. The sooner the better. That close person to us starts to walk away hurt and damaged from our unwillingness to accept them for who they are. They exit the fence closing the gate behind them, except the gate doesn’t really close as now change has broken the lock that once kept those things out.
The owner stares at the gate for a long time. They can go and fix the gate so that it keeps those things out, or they can go down and look at the broken lock and wonder why they locked it in the first place. Sometimes the seasons will change before the owner will do anything about that broken gate and still be pondering about things and whether the damn old gate really needs fixing. The thing is looking deep inside of ourselves and admitting that we each hold prejudices is a hard thing to do. It means admitting that our thinking is flawed and that we have been believing in things that might actually be hurting the very people we care the most about. So instead as a conscientious owner we decide that it is the time to educate ourselves. We don’t know anything about this battle, but we can choose to help you with your personal battle. That decision to join in the fight begins when we let the broken gate be taken down starting with the broken lock itself.
I know for myself when I can’t understand others I look around at the people closest to them and say, they just haven’t met that person yet. We begin to change when things start to mean something to us. It is one thing to be an owner and say who gives a shit about the noise next door that isn’t my problem. But when the noise next door is coming from our friends and family our hearts begin to open up and say, that noise is not okay. As one owner of a half dismantled fence to another I say look beyond the fence. We don’t need fences between us. We need understanding between us and even if it isn’t today. If someone comes into your life that is different open your gate to them and ask yourself,
” Would I want them to open their gate for me?”
No one said it would be easy or quick. It might be like shoveling snow during a blizzard where after working so hard you retreat back into your house for safety and warmth. But once again you will head back out to conquer the snow and ice and safely make it to the front of your drive way. And no matter how long that takes that is when you know you have decided to look that difference in the eye and say, ” I might never experience that, but I will support you.”
A world where we can lookout far beyond our fences is a day I look forward too. And I hope there are many more people in the world who feel the same way I do.