A couple of nights ago, something horrifying happened. I was on my way to see the play that I just costumed when my companion and I became involved in a hit-and-run collision. A vehicle was driving the wrong way down the street which resulted in another car being struck and spiraling out of control. As luck would have it, we narrowly avoided being hit, although the incident showered our car with quite a bit of debris. The driver who was at fault took off, leaving witnesses confused and a severely damaged vehicle containing two passengers stranded in the middle of the road.
When incidents like this happen, everyone reacts differently. When you’re dealing with a group of individuals, there’s no surefire way to predict every behavior. This is especially true when reacting to new or uncommon situations. There were several people who saw what happened and numerous others who stopped to help. I was in awe as complete strangers took the time to check for anyone who might have been injured, stuck around as witnesses, and did everything within their power to assist. The division of labor unfolded naturally and it was quite a sight to behold. I was amazed by the open communication that ensued between numerous people who had no relation to each other, yet worked diligently to improve a horrible situation. I can’t speak as to what everyone else walked away from that incident feeling, but for me, it was a jumble of emotions along with one glaring observation.
The most profound feeling I experienced was an overwhelming sense of appreciation. It also became apparent to me how effortless it can be to interact with others when we see them simply as humans. Nobody on the scene of that collision had any sort of criteria that had to be met before they cared about the others. There was no discussion of who voted for Trump or who voted for Hillary. Nobody based their concern on religious affiliation or race. All that mattered to this group of people was that everyone was safe and that the situation got handled in the most respectful and efficient way possible. This is the beauty of spontaneous order. This is the beauty of humanity.
If you distance yourself from the divisiveness of politics and internet fighting, it becomes easier to spot these incredible acts when they occur. I’ve seen situations where people have refused to accept responsibility for their actions, thus complicating the lives of others. I have also witnessed occurrences where people truly care about their neighbors, oftentimes at their own expense. I am in no way suggesting that one should ignore the current political climate, but merely pointing out how tempting it is to be consumed by all that is distasteful without acknowledging the areas that are flourishing.
I’ve been extremely disgusted by the behavior exhibited by so many over this last election cycle. As a libertarian, I’m consistently disappointed in government, so perhaps my expectations are lower than most. Even so, it has been shocking to witness how grotesque the current political discourse has become. I’ve watched as people I know have ended friendships over a ballot box, or held fast to ideas that they know are wrong, even in the face of overwhelming evidence just to maintain an ideology.
I have rather strong opinions about many things. Truth be told, there are very few people in my life who agree with me on most political issues that I hold in very high regard. There have been times when I have felt separated from the people I love because of things like disagreements over public policy and opinions about religion or lack thereof. It’s easy to fall into the trap of defining people in such a narrow terms, but humans are more complicated than that. As a seeker of truth, one of the greatest things you can do for yourself is to be exposed to ideas that you disagree with, to interact with people who make you apprehensive, and to actually listen when they speak. If your goal is to understand the world and approach it from a scientific standpoint, then you must swiftly escape your comfort zone. An echo chamber does wonders for ego, but will not encourage growth.
It’s undeniable that terrible things happen in this world and there are people who perpetrate unspeakable deeds. There are also people who will step up when they’re called upon, not because they are being ordered, but because it is the right thing to do.
Someone wise once pointed out to me that it’s easy to take inventory on everybody else, but the real effort begins when we acknowledge our own flaws and then work to correct them. By only focusing on negativity, individuals fall prey to an endless cycle of cynicism and fear. I have lived this way before and refuse to return to that place. By favoring constructive discussion over angry debate, it’s possible to develop a better understanding of others, and consequently, ourselves.