“Opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge. It requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form of knowledge is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live another’s world. It requires profound purpose larger than the self kind of understanding.” — Plato

An opinion piece best serves readers when it encourages sharing ideas, creates thinking, and allows and honors room for both sides of an issue, whether they be simple or complex.

The “Me Too” movement made a lot of gains over the last five years, only to be interrupted by the freeing of convicted sexual assaulter, comedian Bill Cosby. The courts were clear his release was not based on his innocence regarding the crimes he was jailed for, rather the rule of law. You cannot renege on a DA’s promise without undercutting democracy. One can agree or disagree, but the casualties were the women who put themselves out there for the sake of their fellow women believing justice would be served.

The “Not Me” movement is something different. It is not exactly a movement; it is a state of mind. There is a large segment of society that believes because they are not racist and they did not take away power or land from people of color or other minorities, the discussion about systematic racism is moot. White male privilege is dismissed or minimized, and they appear to believe the gains of the civil rights movement leveled the playing field.

Whether we have come a long way since the days white men stole land from the American Indians or brought slavery to our country by buying African blacks is the subject. The debate is how far have we come, is it enough, and does systematic racism exist and should we continue to add gasoline to the fairness fire.

Shifting our values from greed and honoring our history, both good and bad, are some simplistic answers. What will it take for people in power and wealth to share with others are the question needing answers. The other question: Why are we unwilling to look at our history with honesty and humility?

We personally didn’t steal land or have a hand in keeping minorities down, but many turn a blind eye to avoid the reality. Just like a family of origin passes down traits, attitudes and wealth to those lucky enough to be born into it, there are the unlucky who get abused and used before they are teens, grow up in crack neighborhoods, or worse.

When in Germany, going to the Holocaust Museum in Dachau is chilling; it is a tribute to the German government that instead of hiding what the Nazi regime did, they had the courage to display its historical relevance with accuracy. In our country, we leave up monuments to Civil War “heroes” that fought to keep slavery alive. Why not take a page from the Germans and create museums that preserve what happened through facts; I suspect the “not me” culture thinks this unnecessary; nor do they believe teaching critical race theory needs to be part of the curriculum.

Perhaps we need a paradigm shift, a change of perspective. To understand this, think about a man on a subway in New York City, with his four young children on a Sunday morning. The car is almost empty, except for the elderly gentleman sipping his coffee and reading his newspaper.

The man is clearly annoyed as the children race back and forth, loudly playing, and their father, head in hands, does nothing to control the havoc. The man gets up and approaches him, saying, “Can’t you please control those children?” in an irritated voice.

The father looks at the man vacantly, issues an apology, and asks his children to sit down. They comply but continue to fidget and the father sees the elderly gentleman is still annoyed, unable to enjoy his Sunday routine. In a harsher tone, the father tells his kids to be quiet and sit still.

He then gets up and sits next to the man and begins to apologize. “I’m sorry my children are so disruptive. Their mother died suddenly a month ago and this was the first time I have seen them having a little fun and I didn’t have the heart to stop it.”

He rose and went back to his now silent children. The elderly gentleman went back to reading his newspaper and drinking his coffee. A tear formed on his face as he remembered the death of his own mother when he was just a lad, many years ago.

His anger turned to sadness. His attitude shifted to one of empathy and when he got off the train a few stops later, his day had been changed and his life altered forever.

Perhaps that’s what we need; we need to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes instead of needing to be right when defensiveness gets in the way of facts and truth.

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“What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness?” — Jean Jacques Rousseau, philosopher, author (1712-1778)