I rode an Uber car to the airport the other day . The driver, a guy named Majed, asked me where I was from. Encouraged that we shared the same mother tongue, he struck a conversation: "Beautiful country, Lebanon," he said. "I visited once many years ago before the war. The Paris of the East, they used to call it. Too bad religious divisiveness destroyed it. Why can't people learn to accept and respect each other and their differences and live together in harmony?"
I was impressed. Not too often in today's polarized world do we find open-minded people anymore. They're an endangered species.
"Religion is between a person and his or her own God," Majed continued with absolute fervor. "No one should try to impose his or her own views on others."
Amen, I thought, my admiration growing by the second. Way to go Majed, how refreshing! I love it when I find someone who shares my exact views, particularly on a sensitive topic.
But, I had barely blinked and as if I had shifted cars and drivers. There is no way teleportation could have become reality since the last time I paid attention to the breaking news... And yet, the monologue had very quickly taken on a totally different turn. "The people should live and let live" rhetoric had metamorphosed into "but these people (referring to a specific nationality in the region) are bad people. I loathe them. And that sect (referring to a sect in the region) is made up of sick, ignorant people with no loyalty to their country. I can't stand them."
I could not believe my ears. What had just happened! How did he get from there to here?!
The sad thing, come to think about it, is that Majed may really truly think he is this open-minded accepting person he portrays himself to be. He is open-minded and accepting "except towards these and these and those, but who could blame him," he undoubtedly thinks. "They are sick and bad and ignorant and that's a fact. Would anyone argue with a fact?"
That got me thinking. Is Majed a unique specimen? Aren't we all guilty of the same crime to varying extents? Are we truly respectful and accepting of all others? Honestly now...
May be my Uber driver's thoughts and words are harsher than any of his actions would ever be, and true, they say actions speak loudest, but never underestimate the power of the former, today more than ever...
"Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions, they become habits.
Watch your habits, they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny."
- Frank Outlaw