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There is a lot of toxic energy vibrating in the air.  It is toxic because it fed by hatred, fear, chaos, lack of knowledge, and other emotions that encourage our darkest demons.  We all have them.  We are angry.  Frightened and uncertain.  And sadly, there are professionals that know exactly how to feed them.  What buttons to press and how frequently.  Even more sadly, some of us need very little prompting and actually enjoy this toxic vibration because it creates a sense of feeling “alive” when in reality it is slowly killing us.

We’re convinced we’re on the correct side – regardless of what side of the chasm we are on.  And, yes, it is a chasm.  A big divide where the only way we can talk is by shouting at each other across it.  We need to be heard.  We need to be right – even if we don’t know all the facts.  Emotions are so pent up and high, we’re losing our ability for civil discourse.  Our ability to speak calmly, to listen, and find common ground.  To silence the demons and to encourage the better angels within ourselves.

Beyond not accomplishing anything, we are creating a toxic wake for our children – who are clearly watching, listening, and absorbing.  We are teaching our future generation and they will learn.

Our children can teach us, and we should listen.  We may come into this world with certain genetic likes and dislikes – but none of them are based on skin color, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, conservatism, or liberalism, where we learn to bias them along the way.

When I was about five years old, I remember my older brother had won a bowl of goldfish at the local bazaar.  I would watch these fish flutter their fins and swim around and around the bowl.  And yet, there was something not quite right with them.  Though varying shades, they were all gold.  They did not mirror the diversity of my Bedford-Stuyvesant Brooklyn neighborhood.  That blandness robbed them of their true beauty.

To help things along, I laid toilet paper on the windowsill.  One by one, I retrieved the fish from their watery home and placed them on the paper.  At first, there was little cooperation, but ultimately, they settled down.  Using my tin of Rembrandt watercolors, I lovingly painted each fish a different color.  I vividly remember the thrill of creating this accurate beauty – the needed diversity.  While my brother was not quite as thrilled with the results, he understood my intention and the lens through which I saw my world.

I wish I could say I clung to the innocence of that moment.  But ignorance, fear, a desire to feel superior, and other divisive experiences helped form biases.  It has taken time, education, exposure, and self-reflection to deconstruct the layers.  While I am still an imperfect human, it is at least now that I recognize the imperfections, the need for change, and the need for discourse.

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