This post is a response to a blog by my friend, Leslie Farnsworth. You can read her original post here.
I was once privileged to attend a lecture given by Maya Angelou. If you ever get a chance to hear her speak, go. She is a mesmerizing speaker. She was on stage for what must have been and hour and a half, and it felt like 10 minutes. I can't remember most of it, it's been too long, but what I took away from her talk is "you make your own soundtrack".
The more you listen to petty, hateful, trashy stuff, the more it seems normal and right to you. I found this out for myself when I had a brief fling with a fashion site. It was funny, but it was catty, and I found myself being meaner as a result. Once I realized this I removed it from my bookmarks and haven't looked at it since.
But that's the easy stuff to spot. What if it's something you grew up with? We tend to spend time with people who think the way we think. It's easy, it's low stress, but it can lead to accepting things you wouldn't have if it had come from an outside source. After all, these are people you know, but sweet old Mrs. Johnson, who leads the church choir, can't stand Jews. Maybe you have a neighbor who hasn't spoken to his son in 10 years because he married a woman of a different race or religion. I have heard appalling misogyny, racism, homophobia, etc. from all sorts of 'upstanding citizens'. They may not be standing on the corner screaming "God hates fags" but they are still promoting hatred.
So what can you do? Be aware and listen. Really listen. Don't let jokes, or arguments with "because they're Jews/women/black/gay" slide. Say something, if you can. If confrontation isn't your thing, vote with your feet and leave. Don't hang around and try to excuse/ignore the bad stuff. By not saying no, you may not be agreeing, but you are saying you don't mind.
But when you leave, don't match their negativity. Put out a happy soundtrack. We may never eradicate the hatemongers, but by being tolerant, welcoming and inclusive, we can make their appeal (and thus their power) significantly less.
Friday Feel Good Video
Aretha Franklin - Accentuate the Positive