“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”—Maya Angelou
The chorus to Elvis Costello’s song Peace, Love, and Understanding has been playing on a continuous loop in my head over the past 24 hours since learning of the massacre in Orlando. I can’t wrap my head around the fact that someone can be so filled with hate to commit mass murder. But then history is filled with those people. And then I wonder, is it hatred or fear that motivates them to kill? How much is fueled by xenophobia and the fear of the unknown or the not understood?
A few weeks ago I led an online discussion with my students who had recently returned to their home countries. I asked them to post a picture and then write about its significance and something they learned from their experience in the U.S. One of my South African students, Sifiso, posted the picture above and wrote the following:
“This pictures reminds me that even with all the politics in our respective countries; racial, economic, educational or even stereotypes that allow the oppression of a certain group of people- our stories connect. All these things can be eradicated over time through exposure and interaction with different people and sharing in ideas foreign to ours. My conversations with Fransis, Alpian, and Harold (from Papua, Indonesia) made me realize that stories that I thought were exclusive to Africa, are shared by people of a country I didn’t even know existed before the program.”
But you don’t have to travel half way across the world to open your mind to new ideas, greater tolerance, and better understanding of different cultures, religions, and life-styles. You just need to take the time to talk to people and listen to their stories. There is so much that we have in common regardless of what color our skin is, what god or gods we do or don’t worship, what language we speak, or who we love. As Maya Angelou said, ‘all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die.” We’re in this world together and so I ask, what’s so funny about peace, love, and understanding?