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In our opinion: Everyone must call out hate for what it is

To move forward, the country must get comfortable having uncomfortable conversations — about the past, about present challenges and, most importantly, about the future of America

A police car set on fire by protesters burns in downtown Salt Lake City on Saturday, May 30, 2020. 
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Editorials are filled with words — usually between 500 and 700 of them. Sometimes words are exactly what the nation needs, and sometimes words completely fail.

When George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis, senselessly dies with the knee of a police officer on his neck; when protests turn violent in cities around America; when politicians across the spectrum, including the leader of the free world, foment anger, fear and frustration; when buildings burn, looting begins, riot gear comes out and loved ones grieve, there are simply no words.

When words fail, it’s action that will heal the nation’s hearts.

Hate has always been the driving force of destruction in societies and nations. Hate in all its forms — contempt, prejudice, discrimination, petty slurs — leads to fear and frustration. Fear and frustration beget rage and violence.

Every American must call out hate for what it is and work to elevate their dialogue, create common ground and end prejudice.

In the Declaration of Independence, a document designed to simply list all the grievances the colonists had against the king, it’s no accident the phrase “all men are created equal” was prominently placed. America has been engaged in the conflict to bring the nation’s behavior up to this ideal ever since.

To move forward, the country must get comfortable having uncomfortable conversations — about the past, about present challenges and, most importantly, about the future of America.

No one who plants thistles in the spring expects to harvest fruit in the fall. No one should ever think that those who perpetually plant hate are expecting to reap love and kindness later.

If the nation continues to plant seeds of hate, intolerance, bigotry and contempt, America’s communities will reap bushels of it.

More than a political polarization problem, America faces the consuming challenge of contempt — the belief in the utter worthlessness of another individual. When Americans plant contempt, they reap the justification to treat others inhumanely.

What is the cure? Stop the shoulder shrugging. Bury the “it’s not my problem” attitude. It is time for citizens to square their shoulders and play a vital role in freedom’s history.

It’s in times like these the country quotes words of giants like Abraham Lincoln and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But America really needs to stop talking about them and start acting like them.

Looking at the current crisis, all should agree that words fail. But hanging your head in defeat and slouching into a corner is not an option for the United States of America.

What can be done? Act on these questions:

What message am I sending in my words and rhetoric?

Do I treat those different from me with respect and kindness?

Am I engaged in elevated dialogue?

Do I listen with an open heart and mind?

Am I willing to call out hate, injustice and prejudice?

Will I admit when I am wrong?

If everyone would act on just one of those questions — today — America would begin, even in a very small way, to heal the wounds in families, neighborhoods and the nation.

Government is not, cannot and should not be big enough to solve these issues. “We the people” must square our shoulders and do it together.

The color, size or strength of those shoulders does not matter. What matters is that each person is willing to square them and work as one to lift this nation toward the fulfillment of the nation’s motto: “Out of many, one.”

When other words fail, perhaps those four words will begin anew the quest to prove that all who have been created equal by God will be treated equal by each other.