Tragic events happen every day and sometimes their effects seep into our collective consciousness. That’s what the events in Charlottesville, VA on August 12th have done. It’s raised issues beyond a man slamming his car into a group of people. It’s more complicated, deeper, and long-lasting.
Trying to make sense of a horrible situation
I admit I didn’t understand how the planned removal of a statue incited the outbreak of violence. I had a lot of questions.
Not just about the rally, but the white-supremacist ideology, the protesters, our First Amendment rights, and the Confederate statues – what they represent and what local governments should do about them.
After talking about these things with my husband over a quiet lunch, I felt heavy-hearted and discouraged. I wondered, What can regular people hundreds of miles away do to improve this situation?
We may not make a direct impact, but we can do small things to keep us from sinking into negativity and hopelessness.
As my husband and I discussed these issues, I wondered about white nationalists. What’s their platform? Who are they? What do they want? I found some answers at CNN.com: “Who are white nationalists and what do they want?” Asking questions and getting your questions answered helps you understand the issues.
Look at the big picture.
It’s easy to let the initial shock and frenzy of the moment linger, especially if you can’t pull away from the news coverage. When I read the answers to some of my questions I thought, How could people believe this stuff? I don’t know, but they do. And that’s out of my area of influence. All I can do is be a force for something positive in whatever ways I can.
Sharpen your critical thinking skills.
Ask questions about what you see and hear. Dig deeper. Don’t rely on sound bytes and headlines for the whole story. If you watch or read the news, find different sources. Just because it’s on the web doesn’t mean it’s true. And certainly, just because you see it on social media doesn’t mean it’s true.
Decide where you stand.
Peter Marshall, a Scottish clergyman once said, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” When you have a clear sense of your own values and beliefs, you’re better able to stand up for what you believe.
It takes courage to speak out for what you believe. Check out this inteview of a 24-year old pastor who’s name is at the heart of the current controversy taking a stand: Robert E. Lee’s Descendant On Confederate Statues
Align your actions with your beliefs.
There’s so much out of our control. What difference can one person make? We can only control ourselves and we can choose to act out of love and compassion.
In a Time magazine commentary, John Grisham: ‘Silence Is Not An Option’ published August 17, John Grisham describes Charlottesville as a quiet and peaceful place that was the center of the firestorm. White nationalists came from all over the country because of the scheduled removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. Grisham says Charlottesville was violated. He asks, “Who were these people? And why our town?…Charlottesville has proved that in the face of intimidation and hate, silence is not an option.”
Don’t give up hope.
When you look for the good in people, you’ll find it. But those stories don’t normally make the news. When current events make you feel awful, look for something good, something that you’re thankful for.
"Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness."
Get away from the media overload. Find a balance between staying informed and constantly checking the latest headlines. Put away the devices. Change the channel. Connect with friends and loved ones instead. Focus on the people right in front of you.
When the news and current events leave you feeling discouraged, try these small things to help you stay positive so you can continue to take care of yourself and do what you can to positively impact the people in your circle of influence.