Setting the Table
I’m sure I am not alone when I say; I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting over the past few days…
Thinking about fear. Thinking about civil rights. Thinking about mob mentality and what unacknowledged pain can do to the human heart and mind (red, blue or otherwise).
I’ve also been thinking about hope and patriotism, the later being something rather new for me. To be honest over the past several years I have avoided politics and even worked to distance myself from my American identity. I realize to some of you that may sound appalling. I understand no country is perfect, and in spite of being often ashamed of my country’s behavior, I am grateful to be an American.
In a lot of ways a country is like family. I may find myself annoyed, embarrassed even furious with them, however the sight of them being threatened has awakened some tribal voice within me that screams “Oh hell no! These are my people!”.
What I mean is this. I am currently battling a fierce sense of disillusionment, for at least two reasons. First being the realization that like it or not, lots and lots of my neighbors have elected a man who behaves in racist, sexist and generally despicable ways. But what I find almost equally frustrating is the response against his victory.
I admit, I’m terrified of what he might do; of how his policies may affect my LBGTQ friends, Latino friends and refugee families I worked hard to bring to this country. I am worried about what will happen to the environment and foreign policy. But he was fairly elected. Protesting his win is not only futile; it ignores (again) the voice of others who elected him likely because they felt ignored.
Suffice to say, I think most of us are acting out of a place of feeling wounded, angry or scared. Please know I do not take the concerns of violence against minority groups lightly. Those concerns are not unfounded. However, I have been dismayed to see some advocates for minority groups become perpetrators of violence.
Do I support protest? Absolutely! I encourage it heartily and have participated in it regularly. But we must protest issues in an intelligent manner, advocating, networking and listening. –Because simply being angry at the other gets us nowhere.
For all the things I vehemently disagree with our new president elect about, he has made at least one statement I agree with. “Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division.” While I seriously doubt his ability to actually contribute to that binding process, I am absolutely certain that it is the defining need of our country.
Again I do not write these words lightly. Unity is a high, high goal; if we hope to clear this hurdle we will all have to put forth herculean efforts. What I mean is this. For me, it is easy to identify with the pain and needs of the LGBTQ, Muslim, Latino and Black communities. These are some of the people I am closest too. I have, and will continue advocate for and celebrate them every chance I get. However that action alone will not heal the divide this country is suffering from. If we hope for restoration we must reach further.
It is easy to demonize and blame those we do not know. I feel the blow of ignorance every time I see or hear a comment about “the gay agenda” or “black on black violence”. But if we are to move towards unity, I have to be willing to admit my own ignorance of the concerns that led half the country to vote for Donald Trump.
Desiring peace and healing for this nation should unequivocally be the goal of all Americans. The work of achieving this goal is not complicated, but it will be unfathomably difficult. It will require listening. Listening not just to the people who’s pain we currently identify with but also listening to the ones we blame for our pain.
We are at a unique point in time when all of us are baring the wounds that have felt hidden for so long. We are waking up to the pain that festers in every red and blue state; in every neighborhood, country farm, trailer park and urban block. What will we do in response?
What if America really does have the chance to become great over these next four years? To swallow the bitter medicine that is acknowledging we are broken, divided and have ignored far too many, for far too long. What if some of us refused to perpetuate division and instead chose to set the table for those we disagree with most? Will it work? I cannot say, but I think we must try.