Florida and a Call to Our Better Selves

Gary C. Harrell
4 min readSep 4, 2023
[Image Credit: Unknown]

This boils my blood. That such hate can parade around, untrammeled, in two cities in Florida, this weekend, pushes me to speak out.

Here are just two facts that we must accept.

First, more than fifty million people were killed in a world war provoked by this dangerous ideology. Fifty million! American sons spilled their blood all over Europe to stop the fascists following the murderous vision of a madman. It is summarily an affront to their memory that such an ideology could find even narrow acceptance in this country, only a few generations later.

Secondly, all humans - and I mean every single one of us - are 99.9% genetically identical to one another. It is only in that 0.1% of variations can things like eye color, skin color, hair color, and millions of other individualizing markers can be found. Indeed, Christian de Duve, a biochemist whose seminal studies of human cells won him a Nobel Prize, pointed out that this seemingly small dissimilarity in our otherwise-identical genetic composition gives us a 10 to the 3,480,000,000 possible letter combinations of 3.2 billion DNA sequences, making us unique individuals of the same species, in order to forward the evolution of our species through natural selection. (And before any of you say anything about evolution not being biblical, I am advising you now to shut up.)

That there are some among us who still think that some superficial variant like skin color represents anything other than a biological fluke speaks, both, to how dumb these people really are and how poorly we are doing as a society to discourage such stupidity.

The events in Florida speak to the fact that there is a lot of narrowness, bigotry, and general hatred in our world, right now. So much so, in fact, that it has led to broad confusion, distrust, and outright hostility. Indeed, we are living in a sad time, one wherein ill will and toxic dogma seem to flourish without apology, wherein our leaders retreat to the comforts of partisanship, and wherein good people are left misunderstood, divided, and scared.

Personally, I have never subscribed to any notion that left this world without hope or that turn its people against themselves. No, I lean largely on the ideal that progress is the true calling of mankind; that each generation should devise and build a better world for the generation that follows it. I have always believed that we would either grow and discover greatness together, or that we would certainly perish as we parted ways. There isn’t one of us that has the ability to effect change in this world without being joined in the effort by others. And to that end, it is our diversity, I believe, that gives that effort more meaning and creates a richer and inclusive world from it. To assume edgewise is not only foolish; it is flatly wrong.

When we are too busy looking for our differences - or seeking out the cues to label others - we are not just missing our commonalities. We are missing some of our best opportunities to grow our networks, to share our ideas, and to build a prosperous future, together. To be sure, some people cannot see beyond a world made cold and unhappy by division - and that is fine. They are entitled to their perspective, as is their right, however dated and wrong-headed that perspective might be.

And they should know this: cling too tightly or too long to the hallmarks of the past, exert too much effort to showcase trivial differences, and practice too habitually the limiting beliefs that result in discrimination - and you will suffocate on the gross, stagnate odor of your own intolerance.

I believe that the rest of us are better than this, and that we have the capacity to rise above the rancor. With that said, I want to challenge every one electing to read this missive to join me, by putting aside old and bothersome suspicions, beliefs, and ideals - to see the world through new lenses, if only for a short time.

First, give thanks for the amazing lives with which Our Creator has blessed us, and commit yourself to making the absolute best of your own. Then, take stock of your world. Look around you at all the beautiful people of many hues and from many backgrounds with whom you have been blessed to share this time and space. Take a step out of your comfort zone, by extolling a little love and unity through a smile, a greeting, a joke, and even a conversation with someone who you might have never thought to engage. Go further, by practicing kindness through a measure of patience and thoughtful acts. It doesn’t take much to make a new friend. Try doing so today.

In troubled times, it is easy to forget that we are all in this together, and that much of what divides us really is not as important as the things that unify us. In fact, in troubled times, it is also quite easy for the rational among us to discern the peddlers of this division and discord - and there are so many, as was demonstrated in Florida. Consequently, it is up to each of us to play a part in keeping our world on a good course. We just have to take it one day and one person at a time. And ultimately, together, we will make the difference that we all want to see in this world.