Topper Steinman/Voices: Challenge yourself to some alternative thoughts

Topper Steinman/Voices: Challenge yourself to some alternative thoughts


You know about "alternative facts." Here are some alternative thoughts.

When is the last time you:

— Listened, just listened, to someone whose ideas are different from yours?

— Talked respectfully and openly at your dining room table or in a roomful of friends about those two taboo subjects — politics and religion?

— Respectfully confronted someone about a bias they have shown?

— Respectfully confronted yourself about a bias you have shown?

— Thought about a cop's point of view when you hear/read about the latest police shooting?

—Thought about a family's point of view when their African-American son is dead at the end of an officer's shooting?

— Changed your mind on a point of political impact?

— Refused to pass on an email that smacks of untruths and bias?

— Recognized that "I can't change their stereotype" and altered your relationship with said person?

— Watched TV news from a different perspective — be it Fox News or CNN — and made an effort to actually "hear" what they are saying?

— Reflected on the good things that Barack Obama brought to the White House?

—Reflected on something of substance that Donald Trump believes and pushes forward in his White House?

— Met a neighbor of different origin than you — and got to know them better?

— Held the hand of a newborn or a geriatric soon-to-die person and thought about the beauty of life in between?

— Dropped or fact-checked your social/other media accounts because they smack of rumor and innuendo?

— Actually wrote to or called a politician about a cause or stance of yours?

— Joined a march or volunteered for something of value to you?

— Said "I'm sorry" to someone you offended?

— Refused to apologize for something you said to someone you offended — in the hopes they would "get" whatever you said?

— Stopped using the words "always" and "never" when pointing out what you believe to be the errors in someone's ways?

I ask these questions in light of what seems to me to be our present political and human condition. We are stuck. We are blinded by our singular narratives, by our own biases, by our own constructs on how life and people and politics should work from our point of view. Any deviation from this construct translates to "you are wrong and stupid"; "I am right and smart."

We seem more divided, more contraire, more negative than we have for a while. And it should concern all of us. Not in a "get your act together" way, but in a "so what can we do to resolve this" way.

I would love to have some answers for us; some ways to improve our lot; some methods for bringing us together so we can truly focus on the issues that affect all of us — issues like environment, and health care, and our economy, and jobs, and immigration, and international relations, and our "isms" related to race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and class.

I am not sure I have those answers. In my view, we have created a culture that is very good at fixing blame. We need now to create a culture that's very good at fixing problems. Our personal and collective energies need to find a reframe and a reboot.

Each of us can create, out of that reality, some empathy, some compassion, some thought and idea on how we can take our personal and collective differences, work beyond them, and focus on solving some very complex issues rather than focus on the idiocy of each other. We need to right our paths of blame to paths of solutions.

I continue to hold out hope for our people and our country. It's the Pollyanna side of me that continues to resonate even in these difficult times of challenge and change. Join the cause, please.

Topper Steinman is an educational consultant in Champaign-Urbana. His email is