Dear America,

There’s no easy way to say this, so I’m just going to be frank. We stink! I was going to say YOU stink, but speaking in the second-person separates us all (myself and you as the reader), from OUR problem. Saying YOU absolves US from our responsibility for creating, perpetuating, and even attempting to fix our problem.

The truth is WE are America and WE stink! We stink like a 13-year old boy that has spent the entire day playing outside when it’s a sunny and humid 90-plus degrees.

With back-to-back mass shootings that occurred in the first weekend in August, there’s been a lot of talk and finger pointing going on in the news and on social media (which is the same as the news for some people). Some have blamed the president, mental health, lax gun laws, white nationalism, drugs, etc. The truth is some of those things may be contributing factors, but they’re not the source.

Here’s the ugly truth … this IS America. WE are the source of the problem. This is our ugly side, the skeleton in our closet. As Dr. Eddie Glaude Jr. stated recently on MSNBC, “This is the ugly underbelly of the country.”

I believe he’s right. This is the reality of who America is, the hidden Mr. Hyde we battle with when Dr. Jekyll is who we present for the world to see. We are a country with a long and pervasive history of turning a blind eye towards the two things at the root of all our problems: hate and power mongering, but mostly hatred. In fact, as Dr. Glaude stated, we’ve played politics on hatred.

Our history is full of lynchings, bombings, internments, and race riots that we’d soon forget because that is a bygone era. We may have legislated away those behaviors with hate crime laws, but not the ideology.

We actually stoke the flames for extremist behavior when we passively allow temperate hatred (e.g. stereotyping) and moderate power grabs (e.g. gerrymandering) by putting pretty-colored lipstick on those pigs. In fact, in our effort to pretend that Mr. Hyde doesn’t exist anymore, we make it bad to call them out for what they really are, thus the relabeling with kinder and gentler terms.

It starts out simply, almost innocuously, as we find ways to differentiate ourselves from our neighbors because of their skin color, their religious beliefs, their political beliefs, their sexual orientation or whatever makes that person a “them” and “not like us.” However, as we swim in it and let it fester, it becomes a cesspool of hate that must be acted upon.

For those of us who call ourselves “normal” we take simple actions, like moving away from them or separating ourselves from them. For those of us who are “extremists” we write a manifesto, drive to a highly populated gathering spot, and take out as many of them as we can. At the end of the day these actions are two branches connected to the same tree.

This is why we stink, America! Yes, WE stink of hatred! Yet, we’re the 13-year old boy that refuses to acknowledge our stink. Not only do we refuse to acknowledge our stench, we deny it. We deny it so much, that like the 13-year old boy, we’d rather change clothes and pour on Old Spice (or thoughts and prayers) because we’ll do anything to avoid what’s necessary … a bath.

America, we’ve tried to cover the funk of hatred long enough! America isn’t a 13-year old boy. We’re a 243-year old nation of people. It’s time we address our issues and deal with our hatred, for other people and for ourselves (individually and collectively).

The truth is hatred for others may cause a man to kill indiscriminately, but hatred for oneself is the real source of the malice that gets cast onto others.

It’s time we bathe our country and pour on actual love with outstretched arms instead of holding “them” at arms-length while we send positive thoughts and hold moments of silence from the safety of the four walls of our segregated churches.

If we don’t finally bathe our nation, our history will continue to repeat itself. As Dr. Glaude stated, “Either we’re going to change … or we’re going to do this again and again.”

Tricia D. Teague is a speaker, founder of The Trep School, and trained coach with the Coaches Training Institute. She can be reached at tricia@thetrepschool.com. To schedule a free coaching session by going to www.thetrepschool.com/coaching

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