Today, I went to lunch with a coworker of mine. Usually the group of us lunch-goers is three or four deep, but since the others are out on vacation, it was just the two of us. Me and a coworker who I usually get along with smoothly. Let's call him 'Bill'.
Bill is in his late sixties, has kids older than me, and has been working for our company for over 30 years. I've known him for almost ten years now without a single hiccup.
When I got in the passenger seat of his car as he graciously drove us to lunch, the radio station description caught my eye. Fox News.
I am not a Fox News person. I have no problem with Fox News, in theory. It's just their history of perpetuating hateful stereotypes and inaccuracies through fear mongering that is not my cup of tea. Maybe Bill had just been listening to it for the weather forecast, so I decided to ignore it to enjoy our lunch outing.
Since it was noon on a Friday, the sandwich shop we visited was filled to the brim. As we sat there, in the middle of the crowded restaurant, eating our sandwiches, Bill brought up the latest mass shooting. One in Germany not even hours ago. As of right now, the news is reporting at least nine people killed.
"I can't believe a religion would promote killing like that," Bill said out of nowhere.
I hate talking politics and religion, but here I was, trapped in the middle of a sandwich with no way out. With my coworker who might be blaming the entire Islamic religion for yet another mass death. But maybe not? It was loud in there, maybe I had misheard him. To give him the benefit of the doubt, I tried to clarify.
"Yeah, it's terrible what these tiny, extremist sects are resorting to."
"No," he whispered back, "the whole religion promotes killing people who don't believe."
At least now I had established what I was dealing with.
"No, the religion doesn't promote that," I said, wanting not to argue, but needing to correct his ignorance.
"I read an article that said they did."
"Not any more than any other religion does. I took an Islam course in college. All religions have these small groups of extremists."
"That's not true. You don't find groups in other religions. Like Protestants," he retorted.
"What about the KKK? The Bible promotes violence, liking stoning people for their sins. There are these groups in any religion."
By this point, he became quiet. Either he was considering my points or he had realized that I wasn't going to agree. We both went back to our sandwiches and eventually went back to small talk as well.
I don't like to talk politics, even here. But the reason I chose to document this story was because I am worried. I'm seeing more and more people who are refusing to be reasonable. People who are afraid to see the best in the people around them. People who believe their problems are caused by strangers. People who stereotype and blame.
Once the conversation became light-hearted again, Bill and I discussed the fact that humanity has only survived this long because humans looked out for each other.
We work because we work together.
It's something I have a hard time remembering, but I'm trying to become more conscious of it. And maybe everyone else should, too.