Are We Born Hateful?

Are we born hateful-

My husband, who often likes to buck the consensus, started a conversation with me recently about hate, and if it was learned or if humans are somewhat inclined toward hate at birth. I immediately answered that it’s learned. He rebutted my ease at the answer with thoughts of how animals, and even humans, must fight to survive in many circumstances.  And that even if it’s not hate that spurs us to save ourselves first, there is this innate sense for self preservation

Nelson Mandela had an important opinion on this, stating, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion.” We tend to believe that we are born true of heart, and that hatred, whether it be based on race, religion, gender or any other element is learned. However, I don’t think everyone is taught to hate; sometimes it may be a consequence of sameness.

Looking at my own history and experiences, it would have been easy for me to be hateful and fearful of anything different. I grew up in a rural North Carolina town full of white faces. I never went to school with anyone who wasn’t white until college. In my first 18 years of life, I was surrounded by lower to middle class white Christians. I never met a Jewish person or Muslim person until college. It was by all accounts, a sheltered life. The only thing that made it different was my mother, who engrained in me that people aren’t skin colors or genders or religions. People are the product of their choices, their passions, their actions and their words.

This segregated world I grew up in isn’t from the 70s or 89s but actually the 1990s. There were people of other races in my town, black and also a growing Hispanic population, due to the apple orchards, Christmas tree farms and chicken manufacturing plant. My best friend went to another high school where things were more diverse. And on more than one occasion, girls were transferred from her high school to mine by their families because of their romances with young black men.

My mother may have been inclusive; however, my absent father still said the “n word.” My grandmother whispered the term, “black.” She was not in any way racist, but a product of her environment and life. Thus, in my sea of sameness, I did encounter different thought patterns that ultimately led me to discern what the differences were in each of us, and if they really did matter.

I know I wasn’t born hateful. But I’m not so sure there’s not some truth to my husband’s theory. Are we really pure at birth? Don’t we come with some pre-programming? Babies are born with fear, or at least two specific fears, that of falling and loud noises. They are part of our DNA, in response to the need to survive.

Interestingly, hate is often born from fear. Not understanding or not experiencing anything outside of our comfort bubble may make us more inclined to hate. Is it because we are bad people? Or simply the way in which we perceive safety?

There has been substantial research on the subject with no real clarity. Are these studies biased from the start? I’m not a scientist. My understanding of the human condition is based on my experiences. And those experiences took me out of that small town to other states, cities, countries and continents. My perspective is also tempered by loss. When your entire immediate family is gone by the time you are 20, your identity becomes a bit unstable. Differences, especially physical ones, have no real meaning. Maybe my compassion is greater or my tolerance for ignorance lower.

As I look at the world now, there’s so much conversation of them versus us. Who has the right to be here? Who has the right to marry? And will what is happening now change us? Transform our DNA to be born with more fears in order to survive? Time will only tell if the human race chooses to celebrate diversity or uniformity. Let us please find a way to love the differences.

Do Sh** That Scares You

do sh-- that scares you

Wise and revered First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do something every day that scares you.” This is good advice even for those who aren’t risk takers. Because doing something that scares you need not be solely concerned with the physical.

Because I’m not a risk taker or an adrenaline junkie. I’m not a thrill seeker. I was never a fearless child. Not that I have many fears. Heights I can deal with except in certain circumstances. While at the top of the CN Tower in Toronto years ago, I could not step foot on the glass section. It’s an area where you can stand and see straight down. It can hold like a herd of buffalo. But my leg wouldn’t stop shaking so I just looked at the view in front of me not below me.

I’m also fine in the dark except that I can’t see. Roller coasters aren’t so much scary as they are nauseating. So I don’t tempt fate on that one. I’m looking out for my fellow riders. I’m also not really scared of death. It’s inevitable so it does little good to waste energy being scared. And that prevalent fear of public speaking doesn’t apply to me. I love it.

But life is scary. It’s scary in that everything can change in an instant. I could walk out my door today and never come back. Accidents, crime, wrong place wrong time and a million things in between can 180 your life in a heartbeat. So why not do some sh** that scares you. If you’re scared of something then you actually do it; you win. More importantly, it takes away the power of fear.

As I’m out there living life with a capital L, I’ve pretty much had fear’s number. I zip lined a few weeks ago. No hesitation, just stepped off and went. It was exhilarating. It’s the closest thing to flying most humans will ever feel. Great experience and would love to do it again.

But I haven’t been really scared in a long time until I went down the Wenatchee River on a raft with four real rafters. I thought it was just going to be a laid back rafting adventure. Then we got there and started getting into wet suits and packing up gear. Then there was the safety review, which I paid attention to like my life depended on it (spoiler alert: it did).

Then we get in the water, and the fun begins. There were multiple occasions where my heart was in my throat, and I was literally shaking. As a city girl, I’m not super outdoorsy. To clarify, I love to be outdoors but I’m just not an outdoor adventurer. My many years of girl scouting or previous rafting experience did not prepare me. I was with people who knew what they were doing so I deferred to them. Even though I did fall in, I received a passing grade from the pros. And more importantly, I did something really damn scary.

So these are examples of scary situations. But I do things every day that scare me just as much, but in a different way. I bare my soul with words that aren’t always easy to write. I’m honest to others and myself. I walk away from circumstances and people that are toxic. I’ve lived every day for 20 plus years without my mom, yeah that’s still scary. I take chances on people and let myself be vulnerable, unimaginably scary. I love people who may disappoint me or leave me. I prepare for professional rejection on the regular because not everyone thinks I’m publication worthy.

So I guess these adventures are small potatoes compared to what I and many of you do every day. Being brave is different for every person and every situation. If you want to feel alive; if you want to feel your pulse, simply do something that scares the sh** out of you. Every. Damn. Day.

What I Learned from My European Vacation – Part One

 

european vacation part one

This is the first in a series of posts about my recent trip to London and Amsterdam. I’ve been obsessed with Europe since I was young. My mom planted this desire in me. I think her trip to Europe in the 80s was probably one of the best times in her life. So I thought of her a lot while I was visiting castles and famous places in London as she had 30 years ago. Traveling with her is just one more thing we didn’t get to share. But I was glad to be there with my favorite person.

For this post, I wanted to talk about logistics and my observations of how Europe just gets it right.

Trains, Planes, Boats and No Automobiles

We were never in a car the entire trip. There’s no need for a car in Europe. Transportation in Europe is really about getting where you need to go quickly and efficiently. In the US, transportation is intertwined with identity. Having a car is not just about getting where you need to go, it’s a symbol of your independence. I, personally, loathe driving and care very little about a car. So Europe is perfect for me.

We took the Underground everywhere in London. Our hotel was a block from a stop. London is a big city and very spread out. It would be impossible to go everywhere on foot. Although we did walk so much and for so long. Even with comfy shoes on, my feet were on fire.

In Amsterdam, we took the bus and trams. Amsterdam doesn’t really have that many cars. It has bikes. This is truly a bike friendly city. Everyone has their lane: pedestrians, bikes, tram and cars. You have to pay attention and stay in your lane. We didn’t see any accidents nor did we see helmets. Justin wondered how safe biking is in Amsterdam so we looked it up. The stats we found stated six to eight people die from head injuries in biking accidents annually. That’s a very small percentage. My take on why there are so few crashes is that respecting bikers and pedestrians is a cultural philosophy. Riders, drivers and walkers understand their responsibilities to each other. Whereas in the US, most drivers don’t have any desire to share the road or yield. They’ll happily run you over, honk at you and flip you off. Such an uncivilized place is the highway.

The Underground was not hard to figure out. The only tricky thing is that some trains go the same path but then split. So make sure to take the right one if your stop is after the split. The trams in Amsterdam were a bit trickier. The basically run in circles parallel to the canals, but it’s not so easy to understand what the stop is. They make announcements but they aren’t always about the next stop. And the trams stop a lot for traffic not just at actual stops. I ended up just standing beside the window where I could physically see the stop name so we didn’t miss our stop.

Getting from London to Amsterdam

We looked at several ways to travel, including by water. I chose a flight because it was quick and reasonably priced. We chose British Airways, as they don’t charge for the first bag. Plus, we were able to fly out of and back into Heathrow, which is where we departed from to get back home. We are lucky to live in a hub city with direct flights to many European cities. That’s what I always say when people ask me what I like about Charlotte. “It’s got a great airport.”

Interestingly, when checking in with American Airlines on our fight back, Justin and I were questioned about our trip. Separately, due the fact we have different surnames. I was asked what we did on our trip, how we would get home and how long we’d been gone. Justin was asked where he works, how he travels to work and where we stayed. But this has become part of the routine in the world we live in so I expect it. We had no issues at immigration or customs throughout the journey.

About the Stairs

Be prepared for stairs. At our hotel in London, we were on the fourth floor. No elevator just for flights of steep stairs. These were “feel the thigh burn” after one set kind of stairs. I only needed to go back up them about a 1,000 times and I’d have some fierce legs. We were on the first floor in Amsterdam so we lucked out.

Being Short is Not a Bad Thing

Europeans make good use of space. Think IKEA. The rooms are small. We upgraded to the double bed. We survived the small quarters. It’s easier to sleep in a smaller bed without three animals. Doorways are small. The subway is compact. So for all my tall friends, you’re going to have to crouch and dunk a lot. Shorties, this is when you’ll be glad to be petite. They make great use of their space.

English – the Universal Language?

English is, of course, the language of the U.K. They do add a u to many words in which the US does not. They also use an s rather than a z. In the Netherlands, you’ll find everything in English (UK not US) as well as Dutch. I feel conflicted about how most any country offers everything in English. It speaks volumes about the US expects everyone to conform to its language (although the US is still own its own with the imperial system). I wish I could speak lots of languages. I took four semesters of German in college and have little to show for it. Dutch is similar to German so I could read some things. But it’s hard to speak. It’s a language with long words difficult sounds. I appreciate Amsterdam catering to its visitors from English speaking countries and in turn apologetic for our ignorance in not knowing multiple languages.

I’ll end by saying I never felt not safe in Europe. We saw a much stronger police and military presence in London. But I was never fearful in any way. Since our return, the U.K. has experienced two tragic terror attacks. It’s hard to know what I can do in these times. I don’t have any solutions to thwart terrorism. I can only say that I love Europe and its people. I’d go back tomorrow and stay if that were an option. These attacks won’t scare me away. There are many more adventures to take! Next up – Italy.

My Heart is Even Bigger Now

It’s been a few weeks since my last post. I hate it that it has. But I’ve been busy traveling – new blogs coming on that – and working so sometimes what I want to write doesn’t get written. But I’m always thinking and trying to come up with unique things to say or write about that might be of interest. This is just a quick musing on love, grief, sorrow and joy.

 

my heart is really bigger