How ironic that we vilify black men and Muslims for their violent tendencies, when between 54 and 63 percent of the mass shootings in the U.S. since 1982 have been committed by white men.  White men make up the majority of males in our country.  Some might say statistically that makes sense.  Some might say white men are the enemy.

I say let’s stop exclaiming that all people who share the same ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, and religious beliefs are the same.  They are not, any more than all white men are the same.

But I’m not looking to make sense out of senseless acts of misplaced rage and vitriol.  I just so desperately want us to be a united nation, embracing our differences and learning from them.

How many Americans take the time to get to know their Muslim neighbors? How many Americans are fearful when they get into an empty elevator with a black man?  How many people have been wronged by someone not like them, only to then lump all of those people into one category? How many people judge others because they are gay, bi- or trans-sexual, wear tattoos, eat meat, go to church, don’t go to church and on it goes.

For the last two years, there has been an uptick in hatred against those different than us white people.  The divisiveness that now exists is killing us -– not in the same way as being gunned down — but in spirit.

Even in our own families, we have difficulty discussing issues when they are polar opposite. And so we avoid topics that are uncomfortable.  How then can we learn? Accept our dissimilarities?

I spent time today with my grandson’s wife who fervently believes in the right to bear arms and feels that it is not guns that are problem. While at this moment I don’t agree with her, I am grateful that she shared her views with me.  I respect her for her honesty and the research she has done to back up her viewpoint. And I realized that I am coming from pure emotion not intellect.

If each of us takes a moment to learn more about those who are different than us and to listen to those who share opposing views, perhaps we can come closer to healing.

Suzanne L. Heise of Andover is a fund-raising consultant. 

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