Misunderstanding

by Martin Brooks

To my way of thinking it is incredibly frustrating to be misunderstood.

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I looked in my rearview mirror, and a young man in an old Lincoln Towncar was right on my bumper and really agitated about something. I looked at him in the mirror and he flipped me off. WHAT is going on with this guy? Eventually, I figure out that HE THOUGHT I had deliberately slowed up just as he was barreling down on my bumper. He thought I was being aggressive when in truth I was just shifting gears, oblivious to his presence. I wonder if he had ever driven a car with a clutch. He stayed right on my bumper. If looks could kill, I certainly would not be writing this! We approached another stop light, and I was wondering what he would do. I was waiting for him to race up to my car window and start yelling, or worse. He stayed in his car.

When I figured out what was going on, I began to laugh. I wish I was so mature as to say I was not laughing at him, but I was. He had gotten totally worked up over pure fiction he had created in his mind. We pulled away from the stop light, and I had to shift gears again. You would think he would figure out by now what was going on. He did not. He turned onto a side street, again flipping me off and racing away in a huff.

If this young guy had been riding in my car, walking in my moccasins so to speak, he would have understood (or learned) the mechanics of a manual transmission and probably would not have been upset at all. He may have even been fascinated and wanted me to teach him how to drive a car with a clutch (they really are fun on a country road full of curves).

So many times, we get upset about things we don’t fully understand. We assume the worst of others. We THINK we understand. We have an opinion based on our limited experience and perspective, but our lack of knowledge can be really dangerous. It can lead to some seriously wrongheaded conclusions and irrational actions. What if the young man had pulled out a gun and shot me at that second stoplight? (I am going to a police seminar on gang violence in a few minutes which is probably the reason my mind went there). He might have killed me for no other reason than his own ignorance.

When we don’t understand other people, maybe we should take some time to talk to them. Getting to know them is a much better option than anger or violence. I think of my Muslim friends who are so often misunderstood and the victims of stereotypes. Rather than listen to the news broadcaster trying to boost his rating by making us fearful, why not just get to know some Muslims as your friends. THEN if you have questions about why they do or believe certain things, you can just ask them. You will get much closer to the truth by doing that rather than buying a book that sensationalizes events. I mean, who wants to read a book full of boring stories about Muslims going to work and trying to send their kids to college? They have to do something “radical” if you want to sell books! And all of this hype has caused some serious damage.

Here's my suggestion. Let’s tone down the rhetoric and get to know some people who are different from us. Let’s learn to look beyond the agendas and learn to live together in peace. So far as it is possible with you, live at peace with all men. It's true that some people do not want peace. Let’s just be sure that does not describe us.