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Not everyone thinks the same as you

In my daily conversations with friends from back home — via my blog, e-mail or the phone — I am often reminded of all the things I miss about living in southern Alabama. The gorgeous sunsets, the nearby beaches, the warm weather, catching fireflies (“lightning bugs”) and the sound of frogs and crickets at night are things that I will always remember fondly. On the other hand, there are some things that I definitely don’t miss. And thankfully, I live far enough away that those things aren’t realities for me anymore; however, they are the daily torture of several of my friends and family who still call Alabama home.

I regularly talk to many of my friends and family from Andalusia, and although most of them love calling the area home, there is one complaint I hear more than anything else. It seems that some of Andalusia’s citizens have made the assumption that everyone around them is conservative, Republican and Protestant. This group also seems to assume that everyone around them should seek to convert all Catholics and Jews to Christianity (not to mention the Muslims, but that is an entirely different letter). They also seem to think that everyone enjoys receiving ill-meaning forwarded e-mails that probably aren’t even true.

Even living almost 2,000 miles away, I experience this frustration myself on a daily basis. I constantly receive forwarded e-mails from friends and family back home about deadly spiders, government conspiracies, Obama’s spinner rims and hydraulics on his presidential limousine, and most commonly, how Obama’s administration (and those pesky liberals, of course) are going to take over and destroy our country.

The problem is that regardless of how you feel, or how you think others feel, not everyone is of the same opinion. It is not only inappropriate, but also discriminatory and harassing, to send your coworkers e-mails at their work addresses discussing how members of a certain political party are stupid or how homosexuals are going to destroy the earth. It’s also inappropriate to publicly berate your coworkers for not wanting to pray with you in the office, or to try and convert non-Christian coworkers to God. And finally, by sending the racist, bigoted, closed-minded e-mail forwards, you’re not persuading anyone to take your beliefs; instead, you’re only further dividing our country’s people and creating hostility due to your lack of respect.

This country was founded on the principles of freedom — freedom of its citizens to worship whomever or whatever they choose, vote for whomever they choose and love whomever they choose. Without those freedoms, our country could be likened to any one of our enemies in the world. But that’s the beauty of the United States — our forefathers fought and died to give us those freedoms. You might argue that our forefathers created our nation to be a nation of God … but of course, there is an opposing viewpoint to that scenario, too. My point is, everyone has a different opinion, and the workplace is not the place to convert, ridicule, ostracize or denigrate others for theirs.

So, before you click “send” on that e-mail, go to www.snopes.com and perform a quick search on the subject matter. Or just Google it. You’ll likely find that it’s either a complete hoax or a much-edited version of the original. (Remember the game “Telephone” from your childhood? Things tend to get distorted after passing through thousands of inboxes.)

Before you ask a coworker to pray with a group about something, and then mock them when they refuse, consider that they might attend a different church than you every Sunday (or Saturday, or whatever). And before you blame gay couples and liberals for causing the downfall of all society, consider that the person you’re sharing your ideas with might have a homosexual or liberal son or daughter.

And last, but not least, consider that just because someone’s different than you does not mean they are a bad person. In fact, you might be able to learn something from them. And no, that doesn’t equal abandoning your beliefs.

Lauren Yant

Salt Lake City, Utah