We Are NOT Our Flaws

A day or two ago I was watching YouTube videos and I came to a video made by the popular YouTuber, Connor Franta. I’ve watched a fair number of his videos, enough to know that he’s overall a pretty thoughtful, caring, and intelligent person. While watching this video, I understand his emotions and I don’t necessarily think he was trying to reciprocate the intolerance, but he brought up an interesting topic. The video is entitled “My Homophobic Uber Driver,” and here’s the video.

Connor came out as gay about a year ago, so by entering this video I could already tell that this would be a more hateful video, and I was only partially mistaken. To summarize the video, Connor gets in an Uber driver’s car. He can tell it’s going to be “fun” ride because it’s a colorful car and a colorful old woman, whom he describes as “bubbly and talkative and Southern.” She can even read people and she describes herself as a seer. She sees things about people and proceeds to tell Connor things about himself, which he says is accurate, but kinda vague. Then things take a turn when she asks, “Have the homosexuals gotten to you yet? Have the homosexuals found you and started getting you into their ways? I’m a Christian woman and I’m just looking out for you.” He says he was “sad and taken aback.” Rightfully so if you ask me, but he didn’t do what I think he should’ve done. He goes silent and says nothing. He had gotten her number to call her again, but he got out of the car and “left that bitch behind.”

Now it’s interesting to note that up until this point, he’s been using the word “bitch” in a pretty slangy way. “Yes, bitch, you right!” is actually positive despite that words inclusion. Now though, he’s using it derogatorily. He ended up tweeting about the experience, but didn’t give out her number because, “I’m a good person, unlike that crusty, old, homophobic bitch.” This is where I got confused because 80% of the ride he claimed to be enjoying her company and calling her a sweet old woman. Suddenly with the revelation that she was a homophobe, she’s suddenly stripped of any good qualities she may possess and instead branded a “crusty, old, homophobic bitch.” Why the sudden reversal? Why did he do nothing about it and instead choose to slander her online? Let’s be honest. No, he didn’t give out her name or number, but he provided the woman’s age, general appearance, car color and model, profession, and local area. Now I couldn’t find her living in Colorado, but the video has been seen, as of the writing of this post, 1,714,891 times. The odds of at least a handful of those people living in West Hollywood is pretty high, and he basically slandered her right to them. Now if any of those people end up seeing her and getting an Uber ride with her, who knows what might happen?

I don’t believe Connor intends anything negative to happen to her, and probably nothing will, but it still was an irresponsible decision. I’ve done the same thing here on my blog and I was told how irresponsible it was. I agree, I made mistakes, and that’s one of the reasons I feel a need to address this problem, because it extends so far beyond this issue with Connor Franta and his Uber driver. We are very quick to slander others and it’s not okay. As a gay man, Connor is most likely a believer in love and tolerance, two words commonly associated with the LGBT community. He may feel justified in being intolerant to her because she was intolerant to him first (though she wasn’t really, at least not directly). But all this does is perpetrate a cycle of intolerance and hatred. Instead of speaking to her about what she said out of love, or even calling her and talking to her about it when he had more time (he seemed like he was in a bit of a rush), he elected to be hateful instead.

What really baffles me is how widespread this trend is. We see people as their flaws and not their merits. Instead of seeing people as honest, loyal, brave, compassionate, loving, intelligent, or anything else, we choose to identify people as the one bad thing they are. Bill Clinton was a successful president who had a budget surplus, resulting in the national debt shrinking for the first time in 25 years. Keep in mind he was a democrat, which many people accuse of being the party that increases debt while Republicans reduce it, which is an ignorant argument, but that’s beside the point. He created 6 million jobs in two years, signed the Crime Bill to increase the number of police officers, he signed the Family and Medical Leave Act, and countless other things. But say “Bill Clinton” and what’s the first thing that pops into your head? Monica Lewinski, or something surrounding that scandal. No matter how many good things a person does, they’ll be remembered for what they do wrong. It’s tragic and it’s a huge problem. It’s a lot easier to hate people when all they are is a racist, a homophobe, a sexist, a homeless person, or whatever “bad” thing they are.

What if we changed that though? What if instead of looking at people as the mistakes they’ve made and the bad traits they possess we saw them as humans? What if we saw them as somebody’s mother, father, child, brother, or sister? What if we saw Hilary Clinton as a proponent of peace and women’s rights instead of as a liar and a witch? What if we saw Donald Trump as a driven entrepreneur who brings attention to important issues instead of as a racist pig? Now on the political scale, this doesn’t mean that Donald Trump is suited for the presidency. We shouldn’t completely forget about someone’s mistakes, but we shouldn’t define them by their mistakes. People are complex and beautiful creatures, every one of us. Even the worst of us have good in us, and no matter how evil a person is, it doesn’t erase the good. Don’t assume that I’m saying we should ignore the bad, or that people like Hitler are good people. But if we stop painting everyone as awful, maybe it will start to reshape the way we think. Maybe it will inspire others to be loving and thoughtful instead of hateful and arrogant. I’d like to challenge you to think of someone you know who, for whatever reason, you hate. Make it someone you personally have met. Now, start to compliment them. Think of the good in them. Make a list of every good thing you’ve seen them do and every good trait they possess. Does someone bully you every day? Hey, they’re consistent and reliable. For me, I’ll use the example of my brother. He irritates me to the moon and back and often times I just wanna beat him up. But I’m gonna put that aside and tell you what else he is.

Thoughtful.

Generous.

Outspoken.

Sensitive.

Passionate.

Dedicated.

Imaginative.

Next, try to invent situations for why they are the way they are. Whether they’re right or not, give them the benefit of the doubt. Don’t use the word “maybe” either. Cement it in your head and refuse to believe differently. When someone runs a red light, assume they’re rushing to the hospital for the birth of their kid. Cliche maybe, but it gets the point across. Doing this will help you sympathize with them. For my brother:

Talkative: Nobody listens to him

Lazy: He’s made fun of for his weight. He has nobody to do active stuff with.

Stubborn: He’s always taken advantage of and lied to. He’s been told so many times that it’s all he has ever known. Everyone around him is stubborn.

Doesn’t listen: All he hears are insults so he tunes people out as a defense.

Doing those two things will help immensely. When you can see someone you don’t like as someone with admirable traits, it helps you believe in them. When you give people noble reasons for their flaws, you can sympathize or empathize with them. If you have both of those, hatred just melts away and you can move forward and build a stronger relationship with them. If you want, try to do it with everyone you can. You can’t change other people, but you can change yourself.

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