What do a stop sign, the death of Ferguson’s Michael Brown, the Israeli/Gaza situation, and the price of tea in China have in common?
A Google Earth view of Oz shows that there is not a single stop sign anywhere. And that makes sense since there are no cars in the Land of Oz. However, in the real world in 2009, there were approximately 856,373,373 metal stop signs posted on US roads in the continental USA.
If you’ve ever watched drivers at or approaching a stop sign, you are observing a microcosm of human nature. Some drivers come to a complete stop that lasts a full five or six seconds before proceeding while some sort of stop before stepping on the gas. Then you have drivers who barely slow down before going on their merry way. And of course there are those drivers who totally ignore the stop sign.
Forget the official rules that govern a stop sign. It’s all comes down to perception. And we all know that perception is reality…for most of us. But I think there’s more to stop signs than just perception. I think what we think about stopping at a stop sign is an indication of how we think about most things. It’s called rightful thinking which means whatever we think…is right. And the rest of the world be damned.
We apply stop sign-thinking to most everything in life, from the big to the little. Take Ferguson, Missouri’s Michael Brown. Some people think of him as a tragic victim of racism. Some think of him as another Rosa Park, sparking a revitalized interest in civil rights. Some people, on the other hand, think of him as a troublemaker.
There probably isn’t an American who doesn’t have an opinion on Michael Brown’s death or murder. Most opinions are just that. Opinions. And while there is nothing wrong with opinions…in fact the exchange of differing opinions often leads to a better understanding of a situation…opinions are often a matter of perception. Like stopping at a stop sign.
The same stop sign-thinking can be applied to the world’s opinion on the current fighting going on between Hamas and Israel. People think that what they think is right…and end of story.
And the price of tea in China? What does that have to do with stop signs, Michael Brown and the current Middle East conflict? Well, consider the etymology of the expression: Usually when someone does not think your current statement has to do with the conversation at hand they can ask, “What does that have to do with the price of tea in China”?
That’s usually what people say without saying those exact words when discussing important issues. People usually think other people’s opinions are either irrelevant or wrong. But how will we ever move forward unless we are all in agreement with the way we come to draw conclusions?*
Until that happens there will be other Michael Browns, continued fighting in the Middle East and people who carelessly race through stop signs.
* We don’t always have to agree on something, but we do have to agree on how we agree or disagree.