I am traveling on business this week, with one of our best clients. And in a workshop yesterday, I lived a sad convergence of business and current events. During one of the breaks, the participants in the workshop shared that one of the victims of the Orlando massacre had been their colleague. None of them knew him, because this company is a large organization. But nevertheless, he was a colleague, and that made the tragedy even more real for them, and by extension for me.
Even before this conversation yesterday, I had been thinking and reflecting a great deal on what occurred at the Pulse nightclub over the weekend. We all have. And as I sit in my hotel room this morning, watching the morning news talking heads express the standard responses to this latest shooting, I can’t stop thinking about it.
I am sick of stories like these. So are you.
But I am also sick of the culture of intolerance, judgment and outrage that, in my opinion, contributes directly to what occurred in Orlando. We all want to quickly place the blame for the Orlando massacre on the assailant, on the store that sold him the gun, on the politicians who have not yet passed comprehensive gun reform, on the NRA… Everyone is ready and willing to assign blame.
But we all own a bit of the blame for this. How? Because we all contribute, in one way or another, to a culture of intolerance for other ideas and other perspectives. You don’t believe me? Look closely at your social media feeds. If yours are anything like mine, there is a frightening amount of finger pointing, outrage over contrary opinions, and insults towards people with different opinions… “Obama is destroying America.” “Republicans are evil people.” “The War on Women.” And on and on and on. If you believe “a” you earn “b” label. If you vote for “x” candidate, that means you are a “y” kind of person. And then many of these same people preach tolerance and “pray for the victims” during times of tragedy, like the Orlando massacre.
We live in a world now where so many of us are regular contributors to an environment and a culture that points fingers, judges others, and places blame. And the nadir of this culture is playing out right now in real time, in the 2016 US presidential election. This will be the least “aspirational” election in my memory. Neither candidate is speaking to the hopes and dreams of our country, and what we can be. Neither is trying to lead us to a better place. Both candidates are trying to show you how much worse life will be if the other is elected. Both candidates, (and our President, by the way), are down in the gutter on a daily basis. I have been watching CNN this morning, just as I do every day while traveling, and the news cycle is filled with politicians from both sides throwing accusations, one-liners, and insults at each other.
No one tolerates anyone anymore. If you disagree with something, you are automatically stupid/bad/racist/misogynist/unpatriotic. Period. No discussion.
This is a business blog, so the business point today is simple. Each of us can contribute towards a better dialogue, and a better environment, by being more tolerant of other opinions and different perspectives. It is possible to disagree, even vehemently, without making it personal or accusatory. And this applies at work and at home.
The same culture of hate, outrage, judgment and intolerance that led to the Orlando massacre appears in every day life every single day, on social media and in the news. We all own it. We all contribute to it. The only difference is that Omar Mateen bought a gun, and used it.
Wishing you a good, tolerant, judgment-free day.