Eight years ago, when I was part-owner of a yoga center, I stood in my driveway facing my business partner. We were arguing. In fact, we had been arguing almost daily for about a year – everything from what kinds of classes we should offer, to how much to charge for classes and how much to spend on marketing. We had gone into this venture holding hands and I assumed, wrongly, that we would work through our differences the same way.
To demonstrate my commitment, as she was getting into her car I said, “I want you to know I am committed to this partnership.” She replied, “And I am committed to [the business].” And she closed the car door. While it took me several more months to pull the trigger and leave, in hindsight this is the moment I should’ve known there was no hope left. As long as she was prioritizing the business over the partnership, the partnership (and my human heart) would never get what it needed. As long as she believed that a business – something that lacks heart, mind and emotions – deserved her efforts and support but not me, her real and human partner, there was nowhere to go but out.
This memory and her words bring up all kinds of things for me. First, I think about the phrase “It’s not personal, it’s business.” Anyone who has ever been told that knows it’s not ever true.
Secondly, I think about how, in arguments against raising the minimum wage, we are asked to consider the “health” and “sacrifices” of the company. But we are not asked to consider the health and sacrifices of those who work for them. Yet by earning a living wage, employees will have greater health, have to make fewer sacrifices and have an overall better state of mind. This in turn will contribute to greater health for the company. But health and well-being of employees are not taken into account when measuring profitability. Rather, employees are treated like “widgets” that can be replaced, added and removed in and out of the equation. On the other hand, companies are often treated as if they have feelings, options and biases – almost as if they were people.
Remember the Hobby Lobby case in 2014? The Washington Post stated this:
“In a manner of speaking, these issues pose the question — a topic of energetic debate in current American political and social discourse — of whether corporations are “people.” The First Amendment protects the rights “of the people,” and the 1993 law protects the religious rights of “persons.” Do profit-making companies qualify as either?”
In quite an opposite example recently, when Michael Flynn invoked his 5th amendment right against self-incrimination, the Senate Intelligence Committee delivered subpoenas to his business instead because businesses could not invoke the 5th. Well, of course not. Businesses don’t invoke, people do. Business don’t engage in shady behavior, people do. Businesses are not people, businesses are made of people.
But businesses are not the only entities that are sometimes treated as though they were living, breathing, action-taking humans. Banks are, to my constant amazement stock markets are and countries are as well.
In the wake of our recent contentious American election (you know the one) we have seen and documented a marked increase in hate crimes that are likely tied to negative rhetoric about immigrants and minorities. We are seeing an increase in misogynistic behavior and woman-shaming and/or marginalization antics. I have already watched more hateful encounters and racist rants online than I care to recall. Some of this isn’t new. But we all still must realize that having someone in the Oval Office who speaks down to so many people, who divides the world into “good” and “evil,” who has little grasp of nuance – has a real day-to-day effect on how we see and treat one another.
Ironically, as the hate crimes are swelling, I have never before seen such an outward display of love for our country. I’ve never seen more American flags flying in front of houses (it’s like the 4th of July every day) and waving from the backs of motorcycles. But flags are also being used on social media to engage in hateful, vile language towards other Americans.
Two examples of this in recent weeks come to mind. First, Republican Greg Gianforte won a seat in the US congress. This came the night after he assaulted a reporter who was doing his job: asking him questions on the eve of the election about the health care bill. The assault was audio-taped and verified by several eyewitnesses. While early voting did come into play, I was horrified to hear that even after this brutal attack voters essentially shrugged and voted for him anyway. Only once he won did he apologize, to a chorus of “I forgive you’s” from a crowd of supporters who clearly were not the victims. As long as “the other guy” didn’t win, it seems anything can be forgiven. He even got away with calling his assault a “mistake.”
And last week two men were stabbed to death, and another injured, on a train in Portland, Oregon. They were defending two young women from a man shouting anti-Muslim rhetoric at them (only one of the women was actually Muslim). The Portland Mercury, a local newspaper, reported the accused as a “known right-wing extremist and white supremacist.” In pictures of him at a recent rally, he is draped in a Revolutionary War-era flag.
It took Trump three days to respond to the murders, and when he did it was lukewarm.
America is not a “person.” It is not one singular idea. No one owns the definition of America. It is not one color, or one religion or one set of beliefs. Countries are not people. Countries are made up of people. If we do not learn to love the people, then we only love an idea of a country. We cannot love this country and hate the people in it at the same time.
We need a new revolution now, one of love and generosity. Our leader for this revolution is not our current president. We are the leaders.
Our voices – those that speak of tolerance and kindness and acceptance – will rise like cream to the top. Each of us is empowered to make a difference. We can choose an inclusive love everyday. We can choose to let our love for country be a testament to how much we love the humans who live alongside us.
Through our love for our fellow Americans, we can show what it means to be true patriots.