I wrote this yesterday morning, after the election.
“I feel quiet and tired. Relieved and hopeful. Wishing it were possible that the other “side” (as if there are actual sides, and woe unto us if it gets that bad) could understand us, wishing understanding was enough. Maybe we do understand each other, but truly see something terrifying in the view of another. Last night seemed to me to be a call for diversity, for adventure, for pleasure and happiness, for a kind of freedom we have not felt in this country for, well, ever. Freedom is what America is supposed to symbolize yes? Why not the freedom to marry, the freedom to make choices about your body, the freedom to let skin just be skin and not a line of race. Why not freedom from religious tyranny? Why not freedom from superstition? I won’t go too far and ask why not freedom from corporate greed but you know I’m thinking it.
Little steps 😉
And responsibility comes with that hard fought freedom. To the environment, to each other, to our very land. But especially to each other-that the poor are clothed, that the sick are healed, that the weaker are helped to be strong and protected.
I’m still feeling quiet and tired. Likely because I know that with this win comes hard fighting back. Fear will continue to rail against love. And we will be called upon to continue to stand.
I’m pleased though.
Perhaps my only wish is that we can use some of that love, that hope to work with people, not against them. I’m as prone to snark and mockish fun as anyone else, but it felt really hard to get into last night. Well, save for the booting out of Akin and Mourdock etc, even then, it felt like the snark was still emenating out of an anger and terror that those folks could even get on a ballot. We can’t keep bouncing into the polemic, in an eternal moebius strip. Can we? Have we? Maybe that’s the biggest test for all of us.”
I got a little pushback from an acquaintance who mentioned that I shouldn’t use my own rhetoric to label Republicans as fear mongers and Democrats as bringers of hope. He suggested we should find more ways of meeting in the middle, to find common ground.
Here was my response:
“I never said I was perfect. Far from it. I’m as bound into the polemic as anyone, thus my wish to find some way out. I’m not at all sure though, at 43 years of age having watched this particular dance since my mother had Watergate on, that any of us (or very few of us) are capable of that.
In it’s worst case it turns into Rwanda, In our case it’s polite and bloodless warfare. How does one stand for that which one believes is true and good (as I call “love” while maintaining and seeking that common ground with one who holds a 180 turn but also believes in what they think is “love.” Is it moral relativism? Or is there an actual correctness.
Is a conservative evangelical church (with it’s stance on women and gay marriage and Christ as a macho dude) as equal and fair and good and loved based as that of Jim Rigby’s St Andrews? I do not believe so. There is where I may be stuck, but there I am. What does the most good in the world? What does the least harm? How do we define each? If you can tell me how to get there to those places of understanding, I’d be very appreciative. It’s extremely messy work (as our President just said-here’s the transcript). Hard and often exhausting work. And it means never being comfortable, I suppose. And it means being willing to live, on a daily basis, with cognitive dissonance.
I’m not always capable of that and I can admit it. And I still hold that what I see as “love” is a love based in compassion, empathy and altruism, rather than (what I perceive as) fear, control and greed. I’m well aware there are millions of people grieving today. And I’ve read and talked to and asked questions of many people on the “other side.” I know they believe hard and strongly. I don’t understand though, not enough to have the compassion I want. And the compassion I do have is painful.”
There was some tense discussion about how human rights are what is at stake in many of the different viewpoints-LGBT marriage issues (and safety issues), women’s reproductive rights, racism, poverty, and how fear plays a role in that.
We all are affected by fear. I am not immune to that, which is why I think the fight for equal rights is paramount so the conundrum for me is that there are people who feel real valid fear about the Right’s stance on gay rights. And there are people on the Right who feel (they believe) real valid fear about the Left’s stance on gay rights. We may believe they are being silly in their fear, or influenced by religions we don’t believe etc. They may believe we are being foolish in our beliefs. I perceive that there are many who believe as fiercely as I do. As if their lives and souls nearly depended on the outcome, yes? And we can say, “Well, ours do!” and they can find some justification for their fears as well.
This article by The Stranger’s Dominic Holden exemplifies this. He called the top donors rejecting gay marriage in Washington State to ask them why. What they said was fascinating and their own belief that they are not hateful is even more so. Can we believe their belief? Does it matter what the person believes if it is unjust? Can we live and work in peace with our neighbors when we hold such divided views? Peace, not meaning kumbayas, but grace and compassion even while standing firm?
The individual questions are hard to grapple with. The global ones even more so.
Two things come to mind at the global condundrum:
1) What kind of nation are we overall-one that believes in human rights (that is that there will not be oppression of a group or class based on difference of gender, religion, color etc) or are we a nation that believes that oppression and discrimination is justified? Are we a nation focused on humans and the nurturance of or on capital and the acquisition of? Can those things be in alignment?
2) Are the leaders in real power truly concerned about those rights and issues or are they (and the people who believe in them) used as pawns in a greater political game that continues to keep an oligarchical power structure in place, while manipulating either side.
Interestingly, this article popped up in my feed from moralist Jonathan Haidt, who seems to feel that fear is a good unifier after the election. I’m really not so sure. It’s an easier unifier, but it is so easily used in manipulation.
The “love” and “fear” thing that I sense/believe in/discuss doesn’t have to do so much with party lines as it does with those questions above. I don’t think having compassion for the “enemy” means rolling over and not fighting for justice. Turning the other cheek doesn’t mean you accept that the strike is right. It simply means not striking back while bearing witness to the violence and calling it out.
Hope or fear? Is it a choice? Is it an eternal moebius strip? Is fear of some “other” a feature of our species? How do we learn to do the work past that fear if neither side thinks they are fearful or hateful? If we both believe we work from love, what does love even mean?
My husband, so brilliant and pragmatic, offered this to the questions, “The genius and difficulty of the American system (and other constitutional republics) is that they recognize the inevitability of conflict and the constant threat of bloody confrontation between the many interest groups in society — they don’t offer solutions, only a method to keep the debate going, channels for the push and pull of conviction and ideology in tension that (hopefully) hold back the tendency toward dissolution…Keeping people in the conversation and off the battlefield is a victory of sorts. Every peaceful election is a victory”
And that is a very good start.
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