What burns me

Daughter sitting by Solstice fire, December, 2008


What burns you?

Ignorance?  Stupidity?  Negativity?

I consider myself a rather mild-mannered person.

You’ll find me whistling Dixie long after your neighbor has lost his patience.

You’ll find me cheerful much longer than the majority.

But some things really, really irritate me.

And I am here to blog about it right now–just because I’m annoyed.

What, you ask, burns me?

After the fire

After the fire

What burns me more than anything is broad-based intolerance.

Intolerance for certain groups.

If you hate Muslims, Jews, Swedes, Arabs, Chinese or Australians.

If you choose a group of human beings and willy-nilly apply judgment.

If you willy-nilly apply judgment just because certain sub-divisions of the group have exhibited stupid or ignorant behavior.

Lake Superior campfire

Lake Superior campfire

Because–my dears–none of us belong solely to a group.  We might have been born to Caucasian parents, or Russian parents, or Indian parents–but we’re first and foremost individuals with unique characteristics.

We can’t help to whom we’re born.

Every group contains liberals, conservatives, positives, negatives.

Every group shines with glory and stinks with dung.

It hurts me to the utter core when friends–sometimes good friends–take a group and apply a single label.  They’ll bellow “BAD!” and refuse to see that every group shines with love, hate, joy, sorrow.

I sometimes sit and mourn.  Haven’t we seen enough of this?  Remember when Tutsi’s were all labeled bad?  And thus was born the Rwandan genocide.  Remember when the Jews were bad?  And thus was born Hilter’s holocaust?

Needles of fire, needles of sunlight

Needles of fire, needles of sunlight

Over the centuries this has happened again and again.  Tutsi’s or Jews or Native Americans or Pakistanis or Koreans…the finger points and labels “bad”…and war ensues.

What burns me is when a group of people is labeled “bad”.  And our minds do not see beyond individual horrors, beyond individual terrorists, beyond individual acts.  Then dozens or hundreds or thousands of peoples are labeled and categorized and eventually possibly killed because our minds refuse to see individual variants of good and not-so-good.

I want to beg the people who are labeling entire groups as “bad” to reconsider.  To see the truth.  To see the truth of individuals.

Yet sometimes this seems so hard.  A mind that can label a group of people as suspect, as “bad”, is already a mind that has closed a decisive door.

And my heart breaks.  Again and again and again.

Kitty drumming before the fire

Drumming for peace

Does this break your heart too?

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
This entry was posted in May 2019 and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

55 Responses to What burns me

  1. Carol says:

    This makes me alternate between tears, fears, and anger.
    Yet there are some truly evil people out there. I attribute them to being narrow minded or completely stupid.

  2. sybil says:

    I don’t know how to deal with the views of the “alt-right” … which I dismiss out of hand.

    • Kathy says:

      Sybil, are some of the alt-right people your really good friends? Those are the ones I can’t dismiss out of hand. Those are the ones that haunt me. Also I feel like if I dismiss them out of hand…that’s the same thing they’re doing to those others they’re judging. It feels like a catch-22.

  3. Kay McIntyre says:


  4. Robin says:

    Yes, yes it does break my heart. I’ve lost friends because of this. Or people I thought were friends but who now see me as the enemy because I don’t support the current agenda, because I don’t hate whole groups of people who are brown or people who are from so-called terrorist countries or people who wear pink pussy hats.

    I thought we’d be done with all of this by now. I thought we humans would have grown up by now, evolved by now, become better at living with each other by now. So yes. It breaks my heart, almost continually.

    • Kathy says:

      Robin, somehow I have known that you and I have similar views on this. Think of how much poorer we would be if we limited our love. (You have me smiling with the ‘pink pussy hat’ mention.) I said the same thing to Barry this afternoon–you would think we’d be done with this by now. Why can’t we grow up? Why can’t we find a way to celebrate one another? I am as clueless as you…but can’t quite give up hoping.

    • Grew up in the US Virgin Island and did not know what prejudice was till I went to college in New york and I still can’t hate because I was reared around every one black,brown, and when I want that feeling of love I go home love your comment

  5. Barb says:

    Judgement always labels – and people always seem to feel the need to judge. When I’m sure I’m “right”, I’m saying/thinking/feeling some very negative things about those who don’t hold my views. All people (that includes you and I) live in glass houses – best not to throw stones. A friend sent me a challenge to “do a good deed every day and not expect credit.” Think how the world might change if we all did that! Kathy, thanks for sending greetings on my birthday.

    • Kathy says:

      You are so right, Barb, about not throwing stones. All of us are imperfect in different ways. Yet it puzzles me how people can openly profess to hate and fear those of other races and persuasions. I don’t get it. And it scares me that my possible future grandchildren may be subject to such hatred. Hope you had a wonderful birthday. With love, Kathy

  6. If only all of us would teach our children that “different” doesn’t mean “bad” or “evil.” Sometimes I think we are hopelessly tribal creatures… I share your anger and frustration, my friend…

    • Kathy says:

      Barbara, thank you for your thoughtful response this morning. I have been pondering the phrase “hopelessly tribal creatures”. Perhaps you are right. It seems to me that first we develop a strong ego. Then we embrace the larger family unit as an extension of ego. Then we envelop our tribe. But if we keep stretching ourselves outward, might we someday embrace the globe? It feels like fear of “other” holds us back. It’s easier to limit ourselves to self, family or tribe. And to justify why the other is “bad” or worthy of distrust. Sigh…

    • sybil says:

      To me different is bad if it holds racist views

    • Kathy, maybe helplessly tribal creatures would be more accurate ~ we just cannot seem to help ourselves. Sometimes I think some of our brains are more evolved than others and in the future the stragglers might catch up. Maybe not in our lifetimes. Some scientists have found differences in the brain structure and brain activity of liberals and conservatives.

      Sybil, racists, misogynists, zealots and the like are ignorant. Education is the only possible way to change their thinking. People aren’t all bad or all good, although it’s tempting to lump them into categories like that. (I’m sometimes guilty of doing that, too!) But I have a few relatives who I love dearly and continue to see, although I find some of their views very problematic. Sometimes it’s better to bite my tongue and change the subject.

      • I’m enjoying this stream of comments. I like the term “helplessly tribal creatures,” although I’m not quite sure we’re helpless. As you say, education makes a HUGE difference. But can compassion and empathy be taught, or are we only born with it? I struggle with that question.

        • Good question, Pam. Now you have me wondering, too. I believe my father taught me compassion and empathy because I remember him making a point of it. And I made sure I taught my own children the same way. But who knows? Maybe we all had a gene that made it a natural lesson to learn and pass on.

  7. dawnkinster says:

    Husband and I traveled to Florida this spring to meet family members we didn’t know we had. The cousin, previously unknown to us was in his 80s and very sweet. His son, our age, was very nice, but one afternoon, while sitting around talking about nothing in particular he asked where Dearborn was in relation to where we lived. As we were explaining that he burst out, while not looking at us, that ‘all Muslims are terrorists.’ There was a shocked couple of seconds of silence from us. And then I said that, just like any religion, any group, there were many types of Muslims, some were extremists and many were not. For example, some Christians have extreme views too. He was quiet. He is Jewish, and I hope he was thinking about history…and what happens when we label people, especially based on what a few do. Anyway, though he settled down and sort of conceded that perhaps we were right, I still look at him differently now…which means I’ve labeled him…which makes me sad.

    • Kathy says:

      My goodness, you had an up-close-and-personal encounter with racism. It sounds like you were able to speak calmly from your heart and knowing and perhaps even open his eyes a little. Perhaps he’ll never see the world quite so categorically again. We can only hope. I find what’s the hardest is not labeling people once they’ve acted or expressed themselves in such a way. Then I always have to work on myself to keep the label from sticking too much. Have been thinking about your story all morning since reading it here.

  8. Thank you for saying so eloquently what my heart feels!

  9. Elisa says:

    YES! and then, moving into the solution, which is always ME!

    • Kathy says:

      Wondering what you mean here, exactly, Elisa. That the solution of how you respond is always up to you? The way you react? Feeling a little slow this morning and would love for you to say more, if more thoughts arise.

  10. I think one of the worst times I’ve had with this problem was before, during and after the last presidential election. I never saw so much hate-filled sentiment! And it really burned me when people tried to force others to read about their hateful opinions by posting them on social media.

    • Kathy says:

      Patty, sometimes I don’t see this trend ending. It was several posts on Facebook yesterday against Muslims which set me off. This is a very tender area for me.

      • Yes for me too. I have discovered the “snooze” feature where you can stop getting posts from someone for 30 days. Been doing that a lot.

        • Kathy says:

          I was going to hit “snooze” on the person whose post set me off. But then I didn’t. Because maybe there’s some value in being aware that many people think the same way she does. Maybe if I silence her (metaphorically) then I will somehow not be seeing the whole picture. However may change my mind at any moment!

  11. sherrysescape says:

    I love, love, love this blog post, Kathy. It really resonated with me. It was like you were speaking for me. I hope I’ll be able to share this on Facebook when I get home later.

  12. kevin says:

    Hi Kathy,

    I’ve been reading and enjoying your bog for a few years now, thank you! I read it mostly because I lived in the UP for a couple of years in the 70’s and never quite got over the experience. I’m a few years from retirement and have been seriously considering spending part of the year in your neck of the woods, so to speak.

    I’m commenting because of this post and all the comments. For the past couple of years, we’ve all, slowly but surely, become desensitized to all the nasty and unbelievable events going on around us. I don’t believe that it was designed this way, but it has had the same effect. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse, it has. The next couple of years and the upcoming 2020 election will probably be looked back upon as being one of the most important periods in our history, right up there with the signing of the Declaration of independence, the Civil War, Women’s Suffrage, and the Atomic Bomb.

    I view all the progress this nation has made, especially with Human Rights issues, in serious danger of being lost. I think we’ve all seen what happens when politicians use fear as their number one campaign tool. So many of our citizens are susceptible to this tactic. A few months ago I thought that people might finally be waking up. But I was wrong.

    The folks who read your blog and the commenters are all part of a growing group of Americans that are realizing that all this stuff isn’t going to go away. It’s great that the Democrats have retaken the house, but as long as the leadership in the Senate and of course the Executive branch of our government continues to ignore the law, accept a treasonous president, and refuse to allow important issues on the senate floor, we continue to teeter on the edge of collapse . That’s the collapse of our government and our way of life.

    Sorry for going on so long, if your still reading, just 2 more paragraphs! Allow me to say, it’s no longer about Republicans and Democrats. It’s about our country and our democracy. We are all a part of a decent majority of citizens who are finally waking up. It’s almost too late, but no longer can we sit on the sidelines and tolerate the insanity going on all around us. Personally, I’ve given up trying to understand Trump people. I especially am completely baffled by any woman or minority who supports him. It’s crazy.

    Currently, and as much as I hate to even think about it, I’m letting people I come in contact with what is going on in our country. It’s surprising, but so many don’t have a clue. I’m also putting my money where my mouth is as I’m supporting good people who are running for office, regardless of what state they are running in. Everyone of those races are important, and in 2020, they represent our best chance to get this country back on track.

    I don’t want to start talking about our environment and how we’ve taken 10 steps backwards. But people who tell me that climate change is a hoax, are no longer ignored by me. I take issue with their ignorance.

    Ok, better quit now. Kathy, thank you for your blog. Please keep them from ruining your beautiful UP!


    • Kathy says:

      Kevin, thank you for your passionate love of the environment and our country. It’s been a challenging time for many. I am glad you took the time to share your thoughts here and with others. I also appreciate your feelings about the U.P. It will be interesting to see whether you find yourself back up here one of these days!

  13. Ally Bean says:

    Willful ignorance is what burns me. It’s the juncture where negativity and intolerance come together. I agree with you about not stereotyping people into groups that you hate. So counterproductive and insulting. Such a lazy way of interacting with and thinking about your fellow human beings.

    • Kathy says:

      Ally Bean, it sounds like you are willing to go the extra mile to interact in a compassionate area with our fellow human beings. Thank you for shining your light in the world.

  14. Lori says:

    Hmm. It seems that not everyone gets what you mean. I certainly understand, and like you, I want to scream it from the rooftops in hopes the world gets it. This split up of people into groupings and then labeling them with a characteristic like “bad” or “victim” or “ignorant” is dangerous. Over the years on my blog, I’ve posted a few subtle hints about this very topic. In August of 2014, I posted a poem addressing it. I see you read it at the time. As my poem is titled, we are unique.

    • Kathy says:

      Lori, that is such a beautiful poem. The amazing uniqueness of what we are beyond labels! I don’t remember reading the poem–that’s not unusual–but it was good to read again today. It’s so interesting how everyone takes a blog that we post and applies his/her own filters and perceptions and beliefs. Sometimes it feels like people are resonating. Other times it feels like they’re moving off in a different unique direction. Sometimes the different parts of myself aren’t even on the same page. So much uniqueness even within a single individual human being!

      • Lori says:

        “Sometimes the different parts of myself aren’t even on the same page.” Ha. A conundrum of an oxymoron. I love it. 😀

  15. Great post Kathy. Ignorance is a big reason for this type of thinking and action.
    One way to break through this cycle, I believe is through education. When I went to college as an adult, I read, saw and felt things that never crossed my path before. And, I was able to form my own judgement away from what my parents believed. New role models? Thanks again!

    • Kathy says:

      MargeKatherine, thank you for sharing about education. You are so right about how leaving our childhood niche and forming new ideas and beliefs and judgments. We can sometimes grow wings and look at the world from new perspectives. I know I did, much to my parent’s dismay at times. *smile* May we all keep growing…

  16. Stacy says:

    Yes, it does. To expound on that, what burns me is when an entire group is deemed inferior, worth ignoring or denigrating because of (apply label here).

    • Kathy says:

      You summarized that up so succinctly, Stacy! I would have hoped we humans would have learned about celebrating differences rather than denigrating them. Sigh.

  17. Yes, this breaks my heart, too. I’m so often feeling torn between staying silent about something I care about, or starting an argument I know I won’t win (or even manage to change a firmly held opinion on the other side) or to distance myself. I see the divide as dangerous, too. If all we do is create warring camps, no opinions will ever change. We need the discourse. You’ve done it so very well here. Thanks, Kathy!

    • Kathy says:

      Hi Cindy, good morning to you on your little island. Thank you for saying I shared these thoughts in an OK manner. Afterward thought that perhaps it could have been shared better, but am not sure how to do that. Sometimes if we wait for our internal opinions to all agree we remain silent. Blessings to you! Hope it’s going to get warm down in your neck of the woods this week, too.

  18. Yes, it burns me too, Kathy. I think I generalize my “burn” by being upset at people who have no compassion for others – no ability to put themselves into the shoes of another, if you will. One of my friends – a minister at the time – did a study while writing a book about a German man who rescued hundreds of Jews during the Nazi era. So few of people of this German man’s stature did (wealthy, worked in a large company), but he said he had no choice, because he was raised by parents who constantly told him as a boy to put himself into the shoes of someone less fortunate than him, or someone with a disability, or in pain, etc. Those who have no empathy for others find it easy to “lump” others into a “bad group” and be hateful. If only we, as a human race, could rise above fear and prejudice, and just wear each other’s shoes.

    • Kathy says:

      To wear each other’s shoes…yes, my friend. I loved reading your comment here. So filled with heart. Please visit my latest blog, because I think I am wearing your socks (metaphorically) there. Smile.

  19. Tonya Green says:

    So true!

  20. Reggie says:

    What a beautiful, thought-provoking blogpost, Kathy. In my country (SA), the same tactics are used every day by politicians (ironically, sadly, frustratingly, mainly by those who originally fought for ‘freedom for all’ and ‘equal rights for all’, regardless of race, religion, gender, etc.) to alienate us from each other and whip up racial intolerance, distrust and hatred, in order to win votes. I so resonate with your suggestion of treating people as individuals, rather than stereotyping and condemning them. We are all in this together, and we can all learn from each other, if we’re willing to open our hearts. Thank you for reminding us of this, Kathy.

    • Kathy says:

      I am not surprised that you resonate with this, Reggie. I have felt such sentiments in you since we first encountered each other. May we all keep opening our hearts… xoxoxo

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