By Scott Westerman
“A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.” – Gandhi

The last pre-game event I visited during the 2010 regular football season was Sparty’s Middle Eastern Tailgate.  It was a co-production of the MSU Jewish Student Union and the MSU Arab Cultural Society. The food was terrific. But that wasn’t the miracle.

What I saw were Arabs and Jews hugging one another, interacting and working on ways that they can improve the larger community together.

It blew me away.

If these kids can figure out how to coexist and perhaps even love each another, why can’t the rest of the world do it?

There is no doubt that the world is rife with complicated problems.

There are still knuckleheads in this country who think that people who don’t look like they do don’t deserve to be equals. Generations of killing begets generations of revenge as two cultures fight over a strip of Middle Eastern land 146 square miles in size. Thousands of people who don’t see a productive future will turn their bodies into bombs, rather than reach for their dreams.

We all chafe at the new TSA procedures that require us to walk, virtually naked, through bomb detectors. If we decline, TSA employees in rubber gloves get to grope us. This degradation is supposedly for our safety, because a small number of people who hate us can’t get along.

Heck, watch any of the vitriolic, misleading and downright cruel political ads that aired during the most recent election cycle from the perspective of an alien. You’ll conclude that our two parties have evolved into machines that exist to destroy one another.

It’s tempting to retreat into negativity. Demagogues feed on fear, uncertainty and and distrust. It’s much easier to tear someone down than it is to build someone up. Tyrants rise amid hopelessness. Bad news sells newspapers.  And on TV, priority is often given to violence. To quote a news director friend, “If it bleeds it leads”.

What can we do to move this global hate-fest away from self destruction?

It can only happen one person at a time. And -you- have to model the behavior.

If you are what others consider successful, seek ways to bring the least of them along with you.

If you have abundant resources, become a philanthropist.

If you happen to identify with a particular race, religion or ethnicity, make it your life’s work to interact with and understand those who are different. If you do, it will encourage them to try to better understand you.

If you are taught that someone else’s politics or sexual preference is bad, open a bible to Genesis 1:27 and realize that God created ALL of us in His image. And you might do well to read Matthew 5:44, where Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”.

Don’t let political correctness stop you from being who you are. Speak out.  But be sensitive. Be aware that what you say and how you say it can be discomforting and hurtful to others.

Protect those you love from harm, but never intentionally injure someone else.

Seek to understand the things that hold people back from becoming the best that they can be. Be a catalyst to remove barriers and provide the tools to help others envision their dreams and become their best.

Don’t give in to fear. If you do, the bad guys win. As Susan Jeffers writes, “Feel the fear, and do it anyway.”

Act peacefully. Dr. King and Mahatma Gandhi moved mountains with non-violent force.

And be patient. This pain we all feel has deep roots. Change takes time. It may not happen in your lifetime, but you can push the flywheel. Time and again, history shows us that one person CAN transform the world. Others are watching. If your motives are genuine, they will join you.

And even if they don’t, consider tolerance. Acknowledging our differences is the first step toward understanding.

When more people see a hopeful future, fewer people will be attracted to the unhappy minority who would destroy it.

I recently had the honor of chartering the MSU Latino Alumni Interest Group. I told them, “Tenemos sólo una raza: La Raza Humana.” We come from many places but in the end we are all part of only one race: The Human Race.

If we can discover and debate from a place of diversity, there is a much better chance that we will make the right decisions when we act as one.

Keep all of this in mind as you go about your daily activities this week. Seek to understand. Model the behavior.

And watch what happens.