Julie Seedorf: Everybody has a choice in how they react

Published 10:00 pm Sunday, October 1, 2017

Something About Nothing, By Julie Seedorf

I am a reactor. At times that reaction can be nuclear. It can happen at any time. I read a comment I feel is outrageous, demeaning or divisive, and I erupt like a volcano. It happens online, it happens in my home and it probably has happened in public a time or two.

The past months I contemplated what happens when I react to something that rubs me the wrong way. It is divisive and it has far-reaching proportions if it goes further outside of my household or my online pages. My reactions can tend to have a domino effect and because of it, my knee-jerk reactions are passed on to others and my reaction has a tendency to grow whether someone agrees with me or not, because they, too, react and pass it on to the next person in their lives.

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We are a nation of reactors. The man at the top tweets, and we react almost instantly agreeing or not agreeing, feeling defensive if the tweet is offensive to us or others, or we react out of fear and negativity because we feel helpless or can’t believe certain statements were made. Then we react in a negative way to those commenting whose views are different than ours.

I wonder what would have happened recently if none of us reacted to the tweets about the NFL. The tweet was made; the media fed the tweet and everyone including the players, those of us that sit on the sidelines and people who do not care about football at all, reacted. All of a sudden we had another major divide adding to the things we are already fighting about, all because of one tweet.

I am not saying there are not valid points being made on either side. But because I am trying these days to not react immediately, I took a moment to listen. The person I listened to was a veteran and my husband. I was leaning toward the side of disrespect for the flag. He was leaning on the side of freedom. I did feel the peaceful protest was more about racial injustice then disrespect for the flag but my knee-jerk reaction was one of ire, because of the freedom our flag stands for and the veterans who fought for that freedom. And that freedom is exactly what my husband stood up for during this protest.

Though he did not agree with the protest he said he fought for the players to have the right to peacefully protest what they believe is an injustice in America. He fought for freedom for all of us to be able to stand up for issues we believe are wrong and not have our voices stifled. I hadn’t thought of it that way. Those freedoms are the reason I can write this column today.

During the peaceful protests of the NFL players, other things were happening that almost got lost in the shuffle, such as our concern for Puerto Rico. Thinking about it now, racial injustice is important, too. But the message of that got lost in our fighting for our own ideas of right and wrong.

Oprah on “60 Minutes” recently held a forum of those who support our president and those who do not. At first, there was divide and anger. Eventually, as she sorted out the feelings and got the people to listen to one another, an understanding between those divided began to form. At the end, the sides hadn’t changed their minds, but they changed the way they reacted to one another, coming together in understanding and respect, and respect for opposing views. They let go of their first reactions to take time to understand and listen.

I am not a fan of the president, and I react the same way many people react when those tweets send shockwaves across the nation. The president, too, is covered by the same freedoms when he tweets his mind. As much as I don’t like many of the words that are used and that I believe are divisive, I have to defend his freedoms, too, because by stifling him we stifle us.

Words that are spoken and blasted through the media tell us our country is now more divided than ever, and it is divided because of the administration. If I think about my reactor personality I can’t agree with that statement. I have to take responsibility for reacting to the statements and fueling the fire. We all have a choice. We can react immediately with words or we can step back and make a reasonable judgment before our reactions get out of hand. We react, we fuel the fire and we divide the nation too. We can’t blame it on one person or one administration. We have a part in it, and we have a responsibility to try and gauge our reactions and put out the fire.

I have learned this in my own life recently. Our home is much more peaceful if I don’t react to a perceived wrong immediately. It doesn’t always mean I let it go, but I am trying not to let words or actions put me on the defense so I don’t hear what is really being said. Usually, I react first which stops me from hearing or making a sensible judgment about the situation.

I have a choice to become a nuclear reactor or learning listener. Oh, and one more thing. You can’t force someone to have respect for something. They have to learn how to do that for themselves.

“Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies — or else? The chain reaction of evil — hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars — must be broken, or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. Send email to her at hermionyvidaliabooks@gmail.com.