Draw the Circle Wider9 December, 2016
I do not like having to be political. I do not like drawing “us” and “them” lines when it should always be a collective us. I want to find common ground and shared hope. I believe that all people can work together for basic human rights regardless of their background. We are made more human by our willingness to listen.
I am heart-sick over the increasingly antagonistic posts I have been seeing friends make. Instead of working together to hold administrations accountable despite differences in politics or opinions, people are digging metaphorical moats to divide themselves. Instead of looking at actual actions taken by those in charge and rationally questioning their choices and motives, people are pointing fingers, calling names, and inflaming the aggressive fever ripping through us. Posts are becoming more polarised and less humane. In denouncing the other’s dehumanising actions more and more of my friends are resorting to stripping the other of humanity. Words like “libtards,” “croney-conservatives,” “sheeple,” and “brown shirts” are common place on my news feed. These words divide us from the humanity of those who have disagreed with us. These words divorce us from the reality that we are speaking about real people, with real struggles, and real fears. These words do not invite discussion or compassion or healing.
Now I am seeing people whose politics were in general alignment and whose interests paralleled one another flinging accusations at one another and blaming allies for what went wrong. Accusations of being too “politically correct” or too “moderate” or too “divisive.” People who should be comforting each other are instead othering their neighbours and blaming them for what has been lost. Our culture is becoming so fractured that we cannot even see the humanity in the very people we say we are trying to help. We carve up our country into camps of “rational” and “irrational,” “white collar” and “blue collar,” “urban” and “rural,” “queer” and “normative;” then we label those camps “righteous” or “self-serving,” “all progressive” or “all regressive,” “wise” or “foolish,” “heroic” or “villainous.” We drive equality from our nation because we no longer see all people as deserving respect and dignity.
I am put in mind of the Gospel of Matthew. The Jesus we see in Matthew is different than the Jesus in Luke and Mark and radically different than the Jesus in John. This Jesus is angry and draws lines. He divides people into two camps: those worthy of heaven and those not worthy of it. He says to the crowds, if you do this you are not worth to enter my father’s house but if you do that you are. Then, a while later, he says to those who were deemed worthy, if you do this then you shall be cast into the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then he turns to those who remain saying, if you do this you are fit only to the pit and the never dying flames. Soon he is even drawing divisions in his disciples and then he is saying even to those left they have failed him by falling asleep while praying. And then he is alone but, in the end, even he is unworthy of God’s kingdom and love “for it is written ‘cursed is he who hangs on a tree'” and he cries out to God asking why he has been forsaken. He dies and in the story Matthew’s pen tells what happens is love. Love that reaches out past the tree and the forsaking to extend to the outcast, to extend to Jesus, but the catch of that love is it must then be extended to everyone else, it must be extended to everyone that Jesus’s lines excluded. There is no middle ground. All are worthy of respect and dignity or none are worthy.
I do not know how our nation can pull itself back together or even if it can, but I can offer a small example from my life. It is not an example of success nor is it an example with a happy ending, but it is an example of making the attempt:
My brother and I had a falling out several years ago and we are on very different paths politically and socially. He does not read what I post and I do not read what he posts. He no longer shares his political opinions with me and I do not share mine with him. But, in spite of all that is between us, I still hold his humanity at the fore. I still send him texts asking how he is, expressing sympathy when something bad happens, or just saying I love him. Sometimes he responds and sometimes he does not, but I do not let that interfer with seeing him as a person with struggles and concerns. If I allow my dislike of his politics to prevent me from recognising his heart and humanness than there will never be common ground between us and there will never be a potential for reconciliation between us.
I cannot bank on a person’s politics because politics are fleeting and change when convenient. I cannot trust in their understanding because their ability to offer understanding is so dependent on their experiences. I can only look for the common threads. I can only weave love with these threads and offer a garment of peace. If I polarise my life on the political alone, I create new enemies everyday. If I seek to build relationships on shared humanity, I open myself to potential allies and friends. Accusations and hate cannot bind our wounds, but maybe love and respect and basic dignity can.
As the song says, Draw the circle wide, draw it wider still. Let this be our song; no one stands alone (Gordon Light & Mark Miller).