I had another article I wrote to share this week, and I’m still posting it today. But after last night’s presidential election results, which were devastating to myself and so many people I know, I had to address it here and now.
Dearest friends and fellow “woke” folks: We have a big problem. And (as gently and as kindly as I can), I must tell you that we are a part of that problem.
A huge reason I started this blog is because I feel like we humans are forgetting how to communicate, how to be compassionate. More and more, we’re getting in the habit of shutting down, blaming, and numbing. We’re full of divisiveness.
We do it to ourselves, internally. We endlessly critique and tweak ourselves, filtering away our ugliness with curated selfies. We numb out with social media, food, and alcohol.
And we do it to others, writing off entire swaths of the population with dismissive remarks and provoking hashtags. Talking at each other instead of with. Sharing articles, declarations of what we know is right, and shaking our heads in disbelief at the crazies who seem to believe the opposite.
None of this is creating any more understanding, any less racism and hate, any better solutions.
I’ve found it hard for decades, now, to watch presidential debates because it always felt like each candidate was just spouting rhetoric, talking at the other person. There was never actually an exchange of ideas, a conversation, any attempt to persuade or really communicate with the other side.
But more recently, it’s not just at the debates that this happens. It’s on Facebook, in online comment threads, at work lunches, at dinner tables. It’s everywhere, and it’s coming from all sides.
We’ve created bubbles, echo chambers for ourselves of like-minded folks. The left hand has not been talking to the right hand. We’ve pushed away people on the other side like a bad dream, swept them under the rug. Shook our heads and said, “I just don’t understand how these idiots and bigots can think that way. #icanteven”.
And last night, we were shocked to find that they didn’t just disappear, but grew stronger, strong enough to change the distribution of power.
And so, here we are. A nation divided.
The other article I wrote for today actually dovetails well with this one. That article is all about releasing blame for the ugly parts of ourselves. By stopping the accusations, the hatred, we can see those parts with new clarity. As impossible or anathema as it may seem at first, we can see the mechanism behind those harmful actions. We can find kindness and compassion. And from there, we can find ways forward that serve our whole selves. I know this, because I’ve experienced it for myself time and again.
The same goes for blaming our enemies. Blame is what got us here. We have to do different.
A few necessary caveats here.
First–I’m not at all saying that finding compassion for enemies makes their ugly actions okay or justified. It doesn’t mean they’re not causing harm. It doesn’t mean they’re making the right choices. It doesn’t mean they might not destroy the world, literally. And it definitely doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do what you have to do to protect yourself from being harmed by them.
But that compassion is, I believe, the only path to better choices in the future. To right action. We need to find a way to talk to those “ugly” parts (of ourselves, or of others), and say, “I get you. I see your fear. I see why you’re acting this way.” And then from there, to guide, to educate, to shift the strategies and the narrative.
Second–while I am asking you (and myself) to step up and change our approach, I’m also not saying that what’s happened is your fault. Something I often hear from fellow progressives is, “It’s not my job to educate the ignorant. They need to teach themselves.” You’re right, it’s not your job. You’ve suffered a lot already under the actions of the ignorant. It’s hard–it takes courage, patience, a willingness to be with and create space for things that DO NOT feel even the slightest bit okay with you. It can feel extremely draining, honestly. It’s a very long road, one that lasts lifetimes. And it can feel thankless to try and take the high road, when others might not be.
But…if not you, who? If not now, when?
Finally–I’m not asking you to smile and be perfect and always say or do or feel the right things. Making space for people and things that feel scary, threatening, and dangerous is not easy, and it’s not a straight path. I don’t find it easy talking openly with people whose views are wildly different from my own. And I’m definitely afraid for the health of our planet, the stability of our world, the wellbeing of disenfranchised people, and the potential for the reversals of many hard-won battles for rights and freedoms by our forebears. And I recognize that as hard as it is for me to be with what’s going on now, I have it incredibly easy compared to folks without the same privileges as me. You get to include whatever it is you’re feeling right now. And to eat those bonbons if you want to. And take whatever time you need.
And then, when you’re ready, I’m asking you to make awareness, communication, and compassion a priority. While it might feel righteous to wash your hands of this election, to blame the uneducated, to blame the protest voters, this doesn’t give you any more influence over what will happen going forward. The fate of our world stands on the edge of a knife. We need to rise up and meet these times with fierce, gentle hearts.
With trepidation, hope, and as much love as I can muster,