Why We Can’t All Get Along

Scenario 1:

“It’s time to put aside our differences and come together as a nation,” say people in power.

Translation: Sit down and behave. Don’t give us any trouble.

Nah, nah, nah. While my hopes were crushed in November, my memory wasn’t magically erased. I remember how y’all acted from 2008 until November 7, 2016. I remember the bloomers and tri-cornered hats. I remember all the names the first family was called. The now-POTUS was the face of the birther movement. ‘Nuff said.

Scenario 2:

“The Democrats haven’t learned the lesson of the election,” say the pundits and gloaters.

Nay! We learned. Our neighbors either endorsed Trump’s bluster and bravado or didn’t think it was significant enough to disqualify him. Whether a person voted for him because of his outrageousness or despite it is a distinction without a difference.

I used to believe that we all wanted the same thing, we just believed there were different ways to go about it. I’m not so sure anymore. I suppose if you dig deep enough, the common urge toward happiness is there, but move beyond that very base level and it seems I’ve been wasting my time. I’m afraid I’ve done little more than soothe myself by clinging to the belief that we share the same core values.

Another lesson learned? America, which markets itself as a democracy, actually has a system that can put the minority party in power. Folks find that unsettling. There’s nothing childish or spoiled bratty about it. It’s an affront to our learned sense of what this country means.

Scenario 3:

When toddlers are first becoming socialized, it’s typical to see them playing side by side instead of engaging each other. They’re doing their own thing in the same vicinity. As they mature they start playing together – learning to give and take, to win and lose, to negotiate rules.

 

These cries to “get along” seem to be cries for thicker coats of veneer. We don’t want harmony, we want the appearance of harmony. People are demanding politeness. One lesson I learned during the Obama administration is that politeness has its limits.

While we go about pretending everything is alright, resentments burrow and grow in the fetid darkness of hushed silence and rot a person from the inside out like a blight. We’re just placing a thicker, penetration-proof coating on our comfortable bubbles. Thick bubbles let us take the easy way out – creating two-dimensional caricatures out of people who disagree with us and demonizing the dreaded other.

What fixes this more difficult and uncomfortable than plastered on smiles. Deep listening, engagement, “love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

We can continue to live like toddlers play – side by side. Or we can begin the real work of healing. It’s is risky and hard and scary and guaranteed to change you.

If you want to make this country great, take the risk to change yourself. If you want the country to stay on its current path stay in your poo-flinging corner. Call people who disagree names that strip them of their humanity, insist that they sit down and shut up, blame them when things don’t go well.

If you’re ready to be the change, here’s a familiar place to start. It’s out of my usual wheelhouse, but it’s a prayer I remember well from parochial school youth. Whether you believe in the same dogma of the writer or not, I challenge you to stay open to the deeper, unifying truth.

Peace Prayer of Saint Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.