In the midst of the chaotic news surrounding our lives, let us not forget that context matters. As one headline is followed by another crisis, one individual takes the lime light to only be distinguished by decade-old childish acts, and another person is accused of another wrongdoing, let us at least try to keep context in mind. For context is essential to what we understand, who we judge, and everything we believe.
As a society, we are currently stuck in a quagmire of searching through past social media accounts, recalling events from decades ago, and pulling up 20 second clips and half complete statements to make quick judgements. We actively search for the negative in those around us and share anything harmful we have found once they succeed. We hold onto any half-baked sentence or blurry picture we we believe can affirm our preconceived notions. And we don’t take the time to validate the truth behind what we see. Our lack of search for context is not only irresponsible. It is downright dangerous. A lack of contextual understanding surrounding actions of others leads to hypocrisy at the least and the destruction of innocent individuals at the worst. We must return to the value in searching for the facts- beyond what we see in a 20 second clip.
To demonstrate the importance of context, consider yelling “fire” in a crowded building. Is this a good thing or bad thing to do? Well, whether it is good or bad depends on the context surrounding the shout. If there is no fire, it is certainly bad. But if there actually is a fire, it could save lives. This may be a simple example. But I think it demonstrates the importance of context well. A word is not bad unless the context makes it bad. A person is not evil, unless the context of what they have actually done backs this up. An image can’t make us uncomfortable unless context makes it so. For every word, scene, or sentence that exists, context should guide how we judge what we see and hear.
When it comes to how we judge, keep in mind that context will indeed sometimes prove someone innocent or right. Sometimes it will prove them guilty or wrong. But not always. And saving judgement until context illuminates our understanding is essential to a free country’s ability to be free. In a country where we can believe anything we want, let us choose to believe in using context to decide what it is we actually believe.
–Written by Sandy Heights