Even among family members, it is rare to find a person with whom we are in 100% agreement about every like, dislike, issue or belief. Our differences are what form a rich relationship, and that furthers our opportunity for growth. Nevertheless, in the current climate, it seems that there is little to no room for us to “agree to disagree,” or to accept that others are entitled to thoughts, positions, and opinions that differ from our own.
I know of spouses, parents and children, siblings, and treasured friendships whose relationships are torn apart because of conflicts arising from differing views on a range of topics. Civility suffers, and rancor abounds. This quote reminds me that there are other options should we chose to look at them.
Each of us is an amalgam of the different experiences, roles, challenges, and ideals that we’ve encountered on our life journey. Both the good and bad has formed the person that we are today. The same holds true for others.
In most cases, it is doubtful that there is not some common ground between any two people. We are multifaceted individuals with much to share with others. Perhaps, if we chose to look at those aspects of others that enrich us and open us to new ideas, we can discover common ground upon which to base a strong relationship. We needn’t agree on everything to enjoy a close and loving connection. Respect is essential to that connection. At least, that is my hope.
Just yesterday, I was released from the ICU of a local hospital after a fall that resulted in a couple of brain bleeds, “Praise God, ” they only required monitoring, and no medical intervention. Frightening though it was, it was not as serious as it could have been.
As a way to distract my mind from the intractable headache (One that made some of my migraines seem like a walk in a park.), I mindlessly checked out a website, www.nextdoor.com to see what is happening in our neighborhood. It is a nationwide website that allows over 180,000 local neighborhoods to interact with one another, and to share both vital and run-of-the-mill information. I am not on the site very often, so I looked forward to see what was happening in the 29 neighborhoods surrounding me.
I came across a rather innocuous post about a missing political yard sign. The person who posted it made the “mistake” of identifying it as a sign supporting a politician from a certain political party. (I am not even identifying the politician or the party, because those facts are immaterial.) The post resulted in many comments, some of which rife with undisguised rancor, and unfounded accusations, which devolved into an “us” vs “them” environment. Although I was so exhausted that I could barely keep my eyes open, I was incredulous as to how a benign post (except for the word naming a certain politician) could cause seemingly intelligent human beings to stoop to discrediting, trivializing, and condescending another human being, simply because of their perceived, or even real, different belief. It appeared that the animus is directed largely at people that they don’t even know.
After reading that post and some of the replies, I was compelled, in spite of my exhaustion, mental confusion, headache, and overall crappy state, to dictate this post, no matter how long it took. In response to the obvious digression from an unintended partisan discussion, to a series of unsubstantiated and unfounded jabs against the opposing party, the original postor offered to meet anyone, regardless of his or her political persuasion, for a sit down, face-to-face, heart to heart discussion and exchange of ideas. Until I choose to stop reading, the curt, obviously partisan, off topic, and mean spirited replies vastly outnumbered those agreeing to the offer.
As I have for the past few days, while lying in ICU, I thought of my grandchildren, and in this case, of the rancorous environment that we, as adults, are exposing them to, and my heart ached. Is this the new normal that I wish them to inherit? Do I want them to believe that those who think and look differently, are evil, and are to be reviled? Do I want them to believe that they are in it for themselves, and should not be concerned about the plight of others? Do I want them to believe that they should do anything that it takes, regardless of the harm to others, to achieve their goals? Do I want them to believe that they are more special, more precious or more important than the child seated beside him, or do I want him to know that, in God’s eyes, we are all made in his image, and loved the same? As I answered these questions, my tribe, my community, became clear.
I seek a group of diverse (i.e., based on, among other things, gender, race, national origin, sexual orientation, religion, ideology, political preference, marital status, income, age, disability, rank in the social hierarchy, beliefs and more) individuals, who desire to interact with one another in a civil, non-confrontational or accusatory, and most importantly, respectful manner. I seek those who have no need to surround themselves with clones or carbon copies of themselves, but who long to grow, learn and expand their horizons through interactions with those from cultures, backgrounds, beliefs, lifestyles, and life experiences that differ from their own.
I seek others who believe that there is no reason that those who hold different views should be unable to sit down to peaceably and amicably engage in discussions, even about weighty matters, without the need to resort to the denigration, belittlement, ostracism, or disparagement of others, simply because of opposing beliefs and views. I seek those who believe that we are equals, who are entitled to her/his own beliefs, and that we are free to exercise and express those beliefs without fear of being subjected to wanton criticism, vitriol, physical, mental or emotional harm, or any other adverse action.
I seek those who remember that this country was founded by a band of immigrants who sought refuge from oppression, and for the right to practice their chosen beliefs. They sought freedom. Our ancestors were not the original inhabitants of this country, but that is a topic for another day. Everyone of us is borne of immigrants. I seek those who believe in the protections afforded by the First Amendment, though initially intended to allow each of us the right to practice our chosen religion, affords us the right to express our beliefs in a legal, amicable, and peaceable manner. I seek others who long for the times when we were able to do so without fear of retribution or the loss of treasured relationships. I also seek those who strive, as the Second Commandment states, to love your neighbor as you love yourself, which should be practiced universally, and not solely by the Christians among us. Admittedly, it is far from an easy undertaking, but one worth pursuing. Finally, I seek a community of those who abhors the current division, the “us” vs “them” environment, in favor of one that proclaims “we the people,” which is all inclusive. I seek a community who refuses to accept the current environment as our “new normal.”
I am still a bit confused as a result of my head injury, but I felt compelled to dictate this right now, because it is much too important to put off. When my end arrives, and as for us all, it is inevitable, I have no intention of being remembered as an intractable proponent of views that served to tear down, instead of build up, and that stirred dissension for the wrong reasons. I have no desire for my children or grandchildren to model hate, division, lies, fear, or any number of other negative qualities, for the sake of politics — any politics. I have no intention of leaving behind such a legacy.
I am a perfectly imperfect person who struggles every day to be a source of light, love, and hope. I make mistakes, and do and say things that I shouldn’t, but I regret them. As a Christian, I am a sinner who strives to do and be better, and the politics of the day, plays no role in those efforts. I intend to leave a well of love, compassion, fair dealing, empathy, community service, trust, honesty, sensitivity, action, and more for my children and grandchildren to inherit. I want to teach them to stand for what is right, even though they may be ridiculed or stand alone, and to speak for those who cannot do so for themselves. For that is what it comes down to, doing what is best for the greater good.
God is not interested in how much money we earn, the clothes we wear, our spotless lawns, our net worth, the car that we drive. or the lofty position that we hold. None of it matters! It all comes down to our good thoughts and acts, and to the degree to which we strive to be and do good, for others. Having been recently reminded of the brevity of this life, I do not chose to meet my maker, trying to explain or justify my bad behavior towards any of God’s creations, for any reason, especially, politics. Party politics should never be allowed to supersede our basic humanity.
Initially, I decided against writing this post because of fear, retribution, threats or ill will, against myself or those that I love. Yet, how can I teach my grandchildren to do the right thing, cowering in the shadows? In dictating this post, I have tried to walk the middle path. Yet, I have no doubt that some will take issue with what I’ve said, and how I’ve said it. Although I have firm beliefs and clear opinions, I wrote this without the inclination or need to point a finger at one side or the other. The thing is that they are wholly irrelevant when speaking of qualities such as respect, civility, trust, honesty, compassion, love, and selflessness. Still, I am well aware that if one searches long enough, they will find what they believe supports her or his stance, but I cannot allow that to sway my actions.
Although I am charged with rest to promote healing, am unable to drive, as soon as possible, I look forward to a gathering of everyone who believes as I do, party affiliation aside. Until we are able to meet one another face-to-face, I wish each of you good health, peace of mind-body-spirit, happiness, laughter, unity and love. I remind you to “love your neighbor, as yourself.” Imagine how that would change the climate in this country? If you are like me, you will undoubtedly stumble, but then, you pick yourself up, and begin again.
“This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.” ~Martin Luther King
I have been sick for the better part of this week, so I am listening to my body and taking a brief blogging siesta. For that reason, portions of this post are from an earlier post, one that I feel so strongly about that, over the years, I’ve posted it twice, (You can read the posts here and here.) It saddens me that there remains a need to revisit the topic.
As an initial matter, I could not allow more time to go by without mentioning and recognizing the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which is described as:
“a landmark piece of civil rights legislation in the United States that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and by facilities that served the general public (known as “public accommodations“).”
In the interest of brevity, I discussed more about the Act in this post. In brief, the Act was the culmination of a tumultuous time in American history when this country was torn apart over matters of race. Inequality reigned and the Act served to place all citizens on a level playing field, each with the same rights promised by the United States Constitution. The intention of the Act was, among other things, to begin the extraordinary task of healing the wounds of a divided nation. However, as I celebrate the Act, I find that I am not thinking of all that the Act has accomplished and that yet to be accomplished. Instead, foremost in my mind, I am reminded of the very real problems currently facing our nation.
The problems about which I am speaking is the vitriol, rancor and hatred that has permeated American society during the last decade. It is commonplace to see references to “red” states and “blue” states, Republicans and Democrats, but these labels serve nothing more than to further divide a populous that is already dangerously separated. It’s “us’ verses “them.”
For a large segment of this country, agreeing to disagree is akin to an accusation of a heinous act. Differences of opinions are now regarded as personal attacks, and in some cases, may lead to such. Families are torn apart, friendships are irrevocably damaged, and in some instances, employees, fearing for their jobs, cast their votes as instructed by their employers. Ironically, those who are the first to scream and shout if it seems that their First Amendment rights are even slightly infringed upon, are the very people who shamelessly denigrate the beliefs and points of view of others, all the while championing their own.
On a grand scale, there is no simple or quick fix to the angry, hateful climate that has festered for more than a decade. We cannot look to the media, politicians, or anyone else for that matter, to address the problem, because in some cases, they participated in stirring the pot of discord that has boiled to overflowing. The answer lies within each of us.
Of course, there are many actions that we each can take to make sure that we are not part of the problem, but a part of the solution. The first and most important step is to recognize that there is indeed a problem. Doing so, allows each one of us to take responsibility for our own actions, and to set a mindful intention not to add to the divisiveness.
One suggestion is to begin each day with this affirmation:
“Today I will attempt to see anything I am involved with from more than one perspective. If I feel myself getting stuck in the way I see things, I will say to myself, “I wish to see this differently,” and know that my sincere desire will result in a shift of awareness. There is really no one right way to see anything. To allow my point of view to shift will not only produce insight and relief for a particular circumstance but it will give me practice in letting my mind move freely and independently. I will allow myself the luxury of relaxing my rigid point of view and letting new light and fresh awareness come into my inner sight. I believe that it is possible to see things in a variety of ways.” ~Tian Dayton, Ph.D.
How you choose to deal with the problem is up to you, so long as your solution is positive, and does nothing to add to it. Listening and treating others and their point of view with the respect that it deserves, does not mean that we must change our point of view one iota, but who knows, we might learn something. The important thing for the health of this country is that we “transform the jangling discord of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood,” as Dr. King envisioned. Let it begin with you.
Have a great weekend!