Emotional Health · Politics

True North: Re-Affirming Your Values in a Time of Conflict

While it is important to keep lines of dialog open, the challenge facing us is how to stay open to others’ views without compromising values that are important to us. For those who heard racist and bigoted rhetoric coming from the Republican candidate, it is hard to understand how a vote for him is not an endorsement of those views. Now that a hefty minority (though not, significantly, a majority) of Americans have voted him into office, worries about these issues have increased. Many are concerned that bigoted views will become “normalized” now that someone who voices them and is heartily endorsed by racist organizations, like the Ku Klux Klan, is about to become president.

One fear, which has already been realized in the past week, is that bigots will be emboldened to speak out or act out their views. Across the country, reports of hateful incidents increased last week. Time magazine reports that there have been 400 acts, mostly anti-immigrant, since Election Day. (). Meanwhile, The New York Times writes that parents are fearful that bullying against minority children, be they immigrants, racial minorities, or LGBT, will increase. Emily Bazelonwrites, in reference to a racist tweet sent around Maple Grove High School in New Jersey,  “At this moment, local civil institutions and all of us, in our communities, are being put to a test. We have to show heart and conviction. We have to ensure that our kids learn the values some leaders have forgotten.”

It is incumbent upon us, now more than ever, to reaffirm our values and make sure we act in accordance with them. When we are no longer able to turn to our leaders for guidance, it becomes all the more important that we stay true to ourselves, for our own sakes and others. Modeling the right kind of behavior, showing support for what you believe is crucial. In that spirit, a movement has started for people to signal their values to one another:

As a show of support, groups of people across America are attaching safety pins to their lapels, shirts and dresses to signify that they are linked, willing to stand up for the vulnerable.

“It’s a matter of showing people who get it that I will always be a resource and an ally to anyone and everyone who wants to reach out,” said Kaye Kagaoan, 24, a graphic designer from the Philippines who lives in Brooklyn. “When I saw it on Facebook, it was so simple. It resonated with me.”

A colleague told me that on Monday night she was waiting for a bus in New York when she heard a man shouting crazy epithets nearby, which is not uncommon here, but then she realized he was lying in the street. Though he was very hostile, he was clearly mentally ill, someone whose delusions were causing him to be irrational and had put him in danger. As a professional, she knew that he was probably more frightened than dangerous, and she tried to pull him out of the road. He became threatening, and resisted, calling her “racist.” She called 911 to help, fearing that he might be run over, and he started screaming that she was the devil and that he would kill her.

The other people standing at the bus stop urged her to back away, as they had, and leave him be. But, she told me, she felt it was her responsibility to look after this man. The mental health system had clearly already failed him, and as a professional involved in this system, she knew that things are not likely to improve for him soon, as a black, mentally-ill and probably homeless man. They may indeed get worse.

Afterward, on the bus, a lady who had witnessed the scene told my friend that she took a risk but may have saved the man’s life. Asking herself if she would have done the same thing a week ago, my friend said she would have, but this week there was the added motivation of wanting to show the other bystanders the importance of acting on principle by helping out one of society’s most vulnerable people.

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  • Karen McLeod Cox November 17, 2016 at 6:59 pm

    Thank you. This article may help me recover from my emotional devistation to the point where I can get out to fight another day…..and to fight for the rights of our most vulnerable.

  • Lisa November 17, 2016 at 11:34 am

    When I read ‘True North’ in your title, I was expecting to read something about Canadian values … the line from our national anthem is ‘the True North, strong and free.’ Stay strong, American friends. As our current Prime Minister’s father said back in the 60s, living next door to you ‘is like sleeping with an elephant.’ And try to have a Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Pauline November 17, 2016 at 10:17 am

    Thank you for writing about this. I think we all have to reaffirm our values and goals and try to stay grounded. Still, it will be harder for those groups that fear being targeted and we must do all we can to fight this and help them feel and be safe!