I sat down in church Sunday morning. I looked around the room as the band began to play. I saw people of all ages and backgrounds and ethnicities. A couple hundred people, Americans mostly with a few foreign visitors too, I am sure. We all gathered together in fellowship. No one cared about race or how we got there. We were in church and sharing a common bond of humanity. This is the America I know and have always known. A community as varied as any in the world with common bonds and uncommon good.

If you watched CNN or CBS or any of the other major news outlets these past many days you would think there is rioting and hatred in the streets of America on display for all to see but it just isn’t so. America for the most part is a nation that is peaceful and where neighbors of all backgrounds work together and respect each other.

Our pastor said it is up to us to fight back against bigotry and hatred no matter is it comes white people, black people or Hispanic or Asian. He was exactly right. He did say one thing that I disagree with however. He said these past few days have shown that the kind of bigotry that was on display was something most of us thought was in the past. I don’t really believe that. I think there will always be biases and those that want to stir up hateful conflict. They are small pockets of divisiveness in my estimation. Whether that thread of darkness of heart comes from neo-Nazis or the Nation of Islam there has always been that kind of vitriol bubbling somewhere.

I was born in 1965 so I am a little bit young to remember open segregation or the riots of 1967 in places like Detroit. I am however smart enough to know I have never personally seen a bathroom that said ‘whites only’ or a restaurant that had a sign posted ‘no coloreds’. So to say we haven’t achieved much is not giving proper credit to our nation. That negative view however does seem to be a theme these days for those in front of the camera. Instead of talking about all the things that bind us together and make us a great country those in Hollywood and in news departments all over this country look to magnify and exploit our differences. It seems to me they get more money for their commercials and their bottom line by screaming ‘Fire!’ all the time.

The pastor did cite the words of Martin Luther King Jr. who adopted an old saying from the early 19th century that rings more true today than ever before. Violence begets violence. You cannot destroy hatred with hatred but only with love.

Dr. King put it this way according to numerous sources; “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy, instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact violence merely increases hate. Returning violence for violence adds darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Truer words have never been spoken. Just like my mother taught me “don’t encourage them by responding, just ignore them and they will go away.” That is the advice I have for anyone thinking it best to battle in the streets against racists or whatever perceived evil they are trying to stop. By adding to the violence you are not solving the problems you are only enhancing them.

Showing up with bricks and ballbats allegedly to combat bigotry is only encouraging those with repugnant views to act out more. It becomes a vicious cycle that feeds upon itself. And it is a cycle that has a tendency to pick up momentum. The more you fight back against bigotry and hatred with violence the more attention you give to such groups and encouragement to stir things up even more.

Just stop.

In the meantime, take a moment and say hello to your neighbor. Visit a local church or senior center and learn about people. Don’t jump to false conclusions about America because race baiters on the internet are enticing you to do so. Please think for yourself and trust what you see in person far more than that you see on TV with people telling you what to think.

You are far smarter than CNN will ever give you credit for.