As a rule I really haven’t gone out up until now. I go to church once every two weeks to record services, and that’s been pretty much it. We order our groceries and other things that we need. We go for walks around the neighborhood for exercise, but always wearing masks and avoid people by crossing the street when we encounter them. I haven’t even seen my mother or my sister during this entire time, though they live right here in the Bay Area. Extreme caution? No doubt. But I am prone to lung infections – I don’t get colds, I get bronchitis; and David has a whole host of other issues that make him vulnerable. Additionally, I just don’t want to be the cause of anyone else getting sick, ever.
But today, for the first time since all of this has happened I went to a non-partisan “event”. I joined a few other clergy and we went and stood on the corner of a fairly busy street (with our masks on, spaced out) with signs that read, “Thank you to the poll workers!”, “Thank you to the postal workers!”, “Every vote matters!” That was it.
And it was interesting. We got a lot of support – people honking and giving us thumbs up. We also got a surprising number of thumbs down. And I had to wonder, what were they saying in that? Seriously! Are they protesting that we are thanking the poll workers and the postal workers? Ridiculous. No, they were showing their hands. They were protesting the idea that every citizen of this country has a right to vote. They were protesting the idea that every citizen should be able to have their vote counted. They were owning their racism and prejudice, without apology.
As a country we are more and more divided. Or perhaps, as a friend mentioned to me today, we are not in fact more divided, just more aware of the divisions between us. Perhaps. There was a time when manners, kindness, and common courtesy kept us connected, even to those with whom we disagreed. But this is no longer the case. We no longer feel we have to practice common kindnesses, common courtesies. Kindness and courtesy are no longer “common” at all. And so people are unkind. People are unafraid to act out their fear in angry and even violent ways. Those who do not resort to violence often practice other ways of bullying… such as passively aggressively icing others out. People no longer feel they need to self-reflect, to challenge their own fears and prejudices and work to be better. They no longer recognize the need to talk with and to those with whom we disagree, working to build bridges of understanding and healing. Instead, folk feel free, for example, to admit their unapologetic prejudices in the form of protesting that those who are different or “other” from “us” should not even have their votes counted.
I do not know the way back from this divide. I do not know how, if we listen to different news stations and believe different basic truths, and feel that the ways we do things are only the way we will do things when they suit us, but that we will challenge and ignore our laws and our processes when they don’t suit us, how we will find common ground and how we can repair and rebuild the damage. I do not know how we will learn to talk to those with whom we disagree if the only ways we are willing to engage them are through violent words, attacks, or by cutting them off and refusing to engage them at all.
I think we MUST learn a new way to relate to one another. We must remember that we are all connected, that we are brothers and sisters to one another. We must go back to seeing ourselves as family, all children of one God. If we are to heal this divide we must start to talk to one another, to listen to one another. We must work on building relationships, taking the risks to be together in kindness and compassion.
Until we can start to do this, I think there is little hope of healing for our nation. And if we can’t even learn to hear each other within this country, there is even less hope of healing for our world.