I wanted to write about anything other than the election this week. Maybe my kids. My marriage. A fabulous song I want to share. The change of seasons. Anything but the elephant in the room.
But my heart still feels a bit raw more than a week after the election. I thought that once the actual voting was finished we would feel a collective, national release of tension, but obviously that was wishful thinking. It seems blaringly clear now that whoever won, it would have been a difficult transition for our country, since half of us feel one way and half feel another. A drastic split down the middle – at least according to those of us who voted. Sadly, we’ll never know what the rest of our countrymen/women wanted. We’re left with the reality of a jagged tear in the fabric of our country. Not a clean cut, even, but a fraying, ragged mess of threads that must somehow be patched together if we want it to be one nation again.
The first step to healing is what is always the first step: empathy. To see the humanity even in our enemies. To actually go so far as to imagine what it feels like to be another person. It takes work. It takes stopping for a moment and considering. Playing pretend – with more significant ramifications than it had in our back yards as kids. It’s crucial to knowing how to respond to others. Even in our anger, even if we believe it’s righteous anger, we must take care in our reactions.
I know some will find fault in this way of thinking. Fight power with power. Don’t back down. We can’t let the bad guys win. And there is certainly a place for self-defense. Super Man and Captain America are heroes for a reason: they fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. Against those wanting only to harm. But most people aren’t out to harm everyone, but rather, acting out of what they view as self-defense. If we can understand what they are defending, we can work toward changing their views. It takes longer than striking out, and sometimes there’s not time for time (i.e. the Holocaust). But I believe that empathy is powerful. It changes hearts – yours and, like a benevolent virus, others’. It’s even logical – if you want to change something for the long haul, you make it attractive. Forcing others to agree never, ever works. Appealing to their interests and, eventually, their humanity does.
A song by the band The Brilliance says it like this…
When I look into the face
Of my enemy
I see my brother
I see my brother
Forgiveness is the garment
Of our courage
The power to make the peace
We long to know
Open up our eyes
To see the wounds that bind
All of humankind
May our shutter hearts
Greet the dawn of life
With charity and love
Being known for what you are for rather than what you are against will do wonders. On both sides. If you are for small government, get involved with or help support charities that solve the problems you don’t think the government should. Help your church house homeless people, or feed the poor, or support women with unwanted pregnancies. If you are for civil rights, get involved with or help support organizations that work toward them, or peacefully march in favor of something, or write on your blog to promote a way of thinking. We tend to think that little actions don’t matter. But the whole of history is built on small action upon small action – one moment plus one moment.
I’m starting here: writing this post. Then I’m going to write a meager-but-something check to Family Promise of Lawrence, KS. Then I’m calling my state representatives about a few things. Then I’m showing my son the movie Selma.
And most importantly, I’m going to try to remember that empathy rules the day. Each day. Even right now, when everything feels out of control and the us and them mentality is so rampant. Even if I’m not given the same respect and thoughtfulness. It’s a decision to act this way. It’s the harder route. But it can effect actual change-of-heart, which is the end goal. Jesus, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Theresa, my grandfather have all been examples of this. Love your enemies. Even pray for them. It’s so awfully hard, but so very worth the deep breaths it takes.
May we have this sort of empathy toward those with whom we disagree. Even those who seem the enemies of everything we are for. It’s a challenge – for me and for you. For all of us.
To see the wounds that bind
All of humankind.
Now watch this to get the song’s full effect…The Brilliance – Brother