I Walked That Mile

August 2, 2012
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“To understand a man, you’ve got to walk a mile in his shoes, whether they fit or not.” –Moslem Proverb

Until today, truthfully, I have never truly understood those words.

All of the time, we take things for granted. Usually, it’s the simple things. Our ability to experience things using all five senses, our home, our food, to move about our daily lives, our rights as humans. Do we ever stop to think that not everyone enjoys these?

Not really.

The United States of America constitutionally guarantees many freedoms, such as the freedom of religion, the freedom of speech, and the right of petition. Every day, Americans take for granted the fact they can exercise these rights. If you want to create a petition against a company that uses animal testing, you are free to do so. If you want to elect one man as your president and not the other, you can. If you wish to believe in Buddhist faith, you are also free to do so. The Bill Of Rights is broken up into various amendments. Each deals with a different section of these rights. The First Amendment, the one exercised most, guarantees you freedom of religion, speech, freedom of the press, and the right to petition.

Canada has a similar set up. The Canadian Charter of Rights dictates the freedoms Canadians have, and is not all that different from the Bill Of Rights. It states that everyone has the fundamental freedoms of conscience and religion, the freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression including media, freedom of peaceful assembly, and the freedom of association, as well as many other freedoms democratically, mobility, and legally.

Either way, you’ve got it made.

But some places simply don’t have these rights. Even though the United Nations share common rights, such as everyone has the right to live, no one shall be held to slavery, no one should be subject to abuse, some countries are not part of this and do not enforce any of this. Amnesty International is one of the many organizations that attempt to fix this problem.

What do our soldiers do? They fight for our freedoms and rights so we are not silenced. And then they go over seas to fight for others’ too.

“What doesn’t kill you makes a fighter, footsteps even lighter,” –Kelly Clarkson, Stronger.

I always thought soldiers enlisted for the guns or the travel. But now I believe I know the real reason. Soldiers are people, like you and I, who see injustice in this world. And they want to right the wrongs. They want to bring other countries a voice. No matter if you’re Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Atheist, Asian, Caucasian, they will fight for you. Because something in their heart tells them to. My most favorite teacher has been involved in the army for years. To me it just meant he got a leave of absence every now and then from his job to go experience things some of us will never see. His son was stationed in Afghanistan before. He would send home letters to his father who read parts out to his classes, trying to give them a sense of what’s really going on behind the scenes. Everyone thought he did it to make us laugh, and nobody realized what he was trying to do. His son came back, and unfortunately an accident took his life. But that could have been him on the front lines, dying for you, just like so many others.

Something happened to me today that made me change my mind about everything; that made me want to actually do something.

I walked in someone else’s shoes.

I got to see discrimination first hand. Sure, I’ve read about it, watched it in movies, but until now I didn’t realize that it even existed at home. But it does. I also didn’t realize how devastating it can be, and how it makes the most innocent people feel like they’re not worth a dime. I was online, just like any other day. As a teenager, I am a member of many online social networks. I’ve made my best friends via the internet. I logged onto one particular website just for girls to check my messages. The day before when I visited, I created a religious group titled “Allied Atheist Group” after noticing many users were a part of their own Christian Groups which made me feel out of place. My only intention was to show other users that there are other religions in the world that are practiced and are just as right as theirs.

You can argue against me about that if you would like. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinions, but this is solely based on mine.

So I created the group and filled it with welcoming and diverse content. Within a few minutes I had gotten three users that joined the group. Very soon, many messages began to pour in from various people. Some of these messages included things that should never be repeated out-loud, let alone in a message sent from a children’s website. In the past 24 hours, I’ve been told everything from “Go to hell” to “Your life will suck because God thinks you are a loser”.

First off, who is teaching today’s children that it’s all right to say such things?

Because of my so-called “derogatory actions” my group was removed from the website. Sure, I could probably click the button and make a new group, but who said that wouldn’t be deleted too? I thought I was an outsider before, but I was wrong. Suddenly I was the target of all hate, and I was excluded from all website activities.

You can’t tell me this was fair.

It took me over an hour of research and sweat over the keyboard, but I finally drafted up a letter, and a blog, about discrimination. I made it clear how I felt, and what was happening. It wasn’t soon after they realized what they were doing and gave me my group back.

Before then, I didn’t know much about The Charter Of Rights, The Bill Of Rights, or the First Amendment. What’s the big deal if you’ve never run into trouble?

This is the big deal.

Now I understand. I understand why soldiers fight, what it means to walk in someone else’s shoes, and how it feels to be the one put on the back of the bus. I’ve experienced just a piece of what some experience every single day of their lives. I changed that for myself, but nobody has the power to change that for them.

Who says discrimination doesn’t happen in our modern day society?

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