The other night, I watched Oprah lead a discussion with Trump supporters and Trump detractors. I sat with hope, wanting – truly – to understand how people could have voted for and then still support the current president. I didn’t hear anything that helped me understand because, well, because everyone there was so angry, so settled into the seats of their opinions (much as I am in mine) that it was just a shouting match. I couldn’t finish watching – it was just too agitating for me. Maybe they came to some place of understanding by the end? I pray.
I’m seeing that same dynamic play out all over social media these days – as people, again me included – are steeped in arguments about Colin Kaepernick’s protest about police violence about black and brown bodies. Somehow, here, the flag and the national anthem have become the focus, as has patriotism and respect, and I’m seeing a whole lot of vitriol about honoring our nation . . . and very little about honoring all our nation’s citizens. (There, see, there’s my perspective.) But more, I’m just seeing fighting. So much fighting . . .
And we need to fight. We need to disagree. We need to discuss. I just wish we would speak more on the discussion end of things.
But more and more, I think we’re settling into enclaves of belief, unfriending people who disagree with us, publicly shaming those who don’t take action the way we think they should, dismissing other human beings because of their perspectives and, yes, still because of their skin color. My heart breaks over this because I know that the more we segregate ourselves, the more our divides will grow.
You’d think we’d learned this from our entire national history, but, alas, we haven’t. We have forgotten – perhaps deliberately – that healing and unity come from knowing one another in a real, daily kind of way. When we see our neighbor hanging his laundry on the line or watch the woman down the street walk her children home, when we are more focused on helping the family whose house has just burned down than we are about who voted for whom . . . that’s how we become allies and then friends.
One of my goals for the rest of this year and into the next is to really listen, at least once a day, to someone whose perspective on the world is different than mine – either through nationality, through ethnicity, through political affiliation, through gender, through sexual orientation, through the ability of their bodies. I want to listen, to try to understand, and to let their perspective change mine.
I’d like to invite you to do that with me, not because we are wrong – I certainly think I’m right; if I didn’t, I’d change my mine – but because healing only comes through knowing one another. I truly believe that. (And also, we may be wrong.)
To encourage us in this small journey of healing, I’m giving away two copies of a wonderful book called Gather at the Table: The Healing Journey of a Daughter of Slavery and a Son of the Slave Trade by my dear friends Sharon Leslie Morgan and Thomas Norman DeWolf. The book tells the story of their literal and figurative journey to find out about their families and to look honestly at the history that harmed both of them. Sharon and Tom are each giving away one copy, so if you’d to be entered to win, please leave a comment below and tell me how you will attempt to listen to someone who is different than you in the coming two weeks. I will select the winners using a random number generator on Friday, October 6th.
Or if you’d like to buy a copy of Sharon and Tom’s book from their publisher, Beacon Press, the Press will give 10% of the proceeds to the powerful anti-racism organization, Coming to the Table.
This isn’t easy work, friends, but surely none of us want us to divide so strongly into factions that we never hear one another and never heal ourselves.