Overcoming your blind spots

Dear Editor:

This week I discovered that I have a blind spot. My father-in-law, Ray, with whom I disagreed politically and did not share his faith, offered sound advice to try and understand what you might be missing. If you found your own blind spots, you could avoid trouble, understand and relate better to others around you. I am a 55-year-old white male who has been fortunate enough to have a loving upbringing from parents who believed that my generation would have it better, a wonderful public and private education, a rewarding and stimulating occupation and the opportunity to work through trials and mistakes as I grew up without the fear that I was a target of people I didn’t even know.

Both Ray and my father, Tom, are often in my thoughts when I think about their advice on how to succeed in life, be a good person and how to treat those around you. Both served our country, were the first in their families to earn a degree beyond high school and were looked up to and loved by those around them. As such, they were two of myriad examples of the promise our country gave their generation

What is my blind spot? I did not realize that Lisa, my first girlfriend, Henry, my best friend in high school, Keith, one of my two best friends from college, and Betsy and Craig, my neighbors who we love and vacation with, were different than I am. Yes, I knew they were Jewish, some religious, some not. I never thought about this much except to think about the interesting history of their ancestors compared to mine and how their worship services compared to my protestant upbringing. Mostly, I just think how lucky I am to have and to have had them as friends and loved ones.

This week changed that. Nobody hates me blindly for being part of a religious category. I have never sat, after locating the nearest exit, as I sit in temple, as Keith told me he has always done. Any disagreements with others I have had to earn personally. It is still inconceivable to me that someone would come anywhere I gather in peace and attempt to kill me. For many of my friends, now it is not, nor has it ever been. My blind spot has been my lack of fear that others carry.

When my mother went away to college, she had never been outside of rural Indiana. She found out her roommate in college was “a Jew.” She didn’t know what to expect. Would she look different? What strange things would she do? Should she be afraid? No; she found out her roomie was a lovely girl who was just as nervous about being somewhere new and different; then both moved on and became friends.

I do not know the man who killed the people at the Tree of Life Synagogue, but I still know people who are afraid of, or cradle hate for people they don’t know. Some, like my mother, realized they had been sheltered, and were just not that well informed, then grew to meet, know, accept and like many new people. Others still live in their own blind spot of fear and suspicion. It is too late for the man who killed the people he did not know. It is not too late for the rest of us.

Surely, all of us are not very different. Instead of hating each other, let’s get to know each other better one neighbor, community member or supposed enemy at a time. Maybe we can talk, discuss and figure out how to solve any problems we have before deciding to maim and kill each other. No matter where we live, who we worship, where we gather or who we love, our current generations of Americans can do better and be greater.

Thomas Massey


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