Craig Kyzar — As a young journalist, I often asked too many questions. As a seasoned international attorney, I learned to ask too few. But I never felt quite at home in either setting, and I have my suspicions as to why. While one profession sought to deliver the truth (occasionally tilted to one side or another), and the other sought to weaponize it, I never managed to deviate far from my comfort zone of unedited, impartial observance.
To be clear, I am no psychologist. My understanding of human nature springs not from texts or the evolution of theory but from hands-on experience, some of it ugly. Through many years spent sharing the trenches with the most vulnerable and conflicted aspects of humanity, I have uncovered two invariable truths. First, somebody is always wrong. And second, it is always the other guy. This is not to say I believe we are inherently bad, or even necessarily wrong … perhaps just a bit too self-assured.
As a species, we tend to be irreversibly stubborn and far too blinded by personal presumptions of righteousness to see the way we each categorize, dehumanize and even vilify others at every opportunity – typically along the lines that divide us ideologically. Ironically, those who claim to be crusaders for rights and equality are often the worst offenders, taking their causes to emotional extremes by waging a divisive and ill-conceived war against a generalized majority over the perceived transgressions of the few. In doing so, common ground is sacrificed and potential allies are alienated.
Following Congressman Todd Akin’s now-infamous, and deeply-disturbing, August 19th comments regarding “legitimate rape”, I found myself turning to social media – the cosmic arbiter of angry rhetoric – for gut reactions to the comments themselves. What I found instead was not an informed social backlash against the frighteningly ignorant words of one man, but rather an opportunistic sea of alarmist fear mongering about the unwavering GOP agenda. Yes, it would seem that Representative Akin, by virtue of association with the Republican Party, exposed in his ridiculous words a full-blown conspiracy to relegate the collective womb to a future of enslavement by a faceless amalgam of Bible-toting GOP drones. Instantly, in spite of the vast individual differences enjoyed among registered Democrats, every Republican from coast to coast was rendered guilty by association.
Once-rational friends became increasingly convinced that a supporter of the GOP believed in one thing, and one thing only: a return to a barbaric time of utter reproductive subservience. Cast aside were fundamental notions of fiscal conservatism and a limited government. Unheard went the immediate rush of rebukes from the rank and file. No, to many, it was simply easier to believe that Todd Akin is the Republican Party. Women were condemned by relative strangers for even considering a Republican vote – not for Akin, but in general. In the heat of the mob mentality, many of the loudest voices for women’s reproductive rights were also the most unapologetic in their ironic campaign to undermine any other rights with which they could not agree. Vitriolic generalizations overran peaceful discourse as ego was mistakenly presented as valor. Once again, that elusive human dream of coming together for universal betterment was cast aside in favor of an old-fashioned ideological brawl. Another opportunity seized … another opportunity lost.
Of course, I do not cite this experience to call out one political faction as inherently militant. That would run counter to my entire point. Splitting time between the Northeast and the Deep South, I have lived both extremes. I have seen intelligent conservatives go feral over the first mention of global warming, all too eager to liken the entire Democratic party to a commune of tree-hugging, hybrid-driving juveniles, hell-bent on bringing down industry with one-sided, heavily doctored science. The truly curious part is that none of these naysayers had evaluated the studies before forming their dissidence. Inexplicably, they simply “knew” it was reliant on junk science. After all, it was a theory espoused by those “other” guys. How accurate could it possibly be?
Granted, political affiliation is only one facet of the divisive nature that inhibits our ability to achieve a world of universal rights and liberties. I have seen the setbacks that a noble goal can suffer when met with a divide of gender, color, or even age. We all have our own view of the utopia that will arise from our success … and who wants to toil and labor, only to find himself in another’s perception of Valhalla. Invariably, from the spirit of cooperation rises a competitive aspect, as our “right” shall always be THE “right.” As an evolved species, we all long for the day when we can all peaceably assemble on the mountaintop. But, wait, we meant our mountaintop.
As long as we so effortlessly manage to segregate ourselves from our fellow humans, how will we rally together for the rights of those who bear different genders or, heaven forbid, subscribe to different faiths? We will always be different, but seldom in those essential ways that reside far below the superficial level on which we instinctively operate. We are at our most ferocious when filled with insecurity, not unlike every other man and beast on the planet. And yet, rather than embracing the uncertainty, we use it to fuel our delusion. We must be more righteous than those other men. We must be superior to the animal kingdom. We must be members of the enlightened minority. After all, just imagine the paradigm shift if we finally accepted that perhaps we are not.
There is evil in this world, to be sure. But it does not reside within everyone and everything that we do not understand. That man across the cultural divide has spent his entire life equally convinced that his view of the world is the correct one. He is not a two-dimensional amalgamation of his society. He is a living being with dreams and fears every bit as real as our own. And yet, as eager as we are to teach him the right way to live, many of us are amusingly unwilling to learn in return. Attempts to drag others across the aisle by force and intimidation simply breed further animosity. Perhaps someday we will step beyond the limits of our own preconceptions and, in so doing, we may finally embrace the benefits of a true middle ground.
About the Author
Craig Kyzar is a former journalist and international attorney, earning his Master of Laws degree from NYU School of Law. Upon graduation, Craig spent eight exciting years practicing law in large firms around Manhattan before turning his focus toward a much smaller clientele. Today, Craig is heavily involved in nonprofit work dedicated to enhancing children’s literacy skills and connecting economically disadvantaged youth with a life-changing love of reading.