I am also not watching the inauguration – the timing of my sitting down to write this is deliberate, to the minute. I will be finishing it as the ceremony begins.
I have been on the right side of the fence. I have been on the left. I have dear friendships with people on both sides.
I am watching them yell at each other across the fence.
I am watching them yell about the other side to those on their own side of the fence.
I am watching both sides believe that the other side is full of false media, ulterior motive, and manipulative posturing. I am watching both sides assume the media they trust is correct about the other side. I am watching both sides get upset when people on the other side rely on their own trusted media.
Both sides believe the other is nefarious in its desires. Both sides get angry when the other side does not recognize the complexity of their opinion.
Both sides are treating each other exactly the same way.
The language is different. The means of calling the other side out is different. But the treatment is the same.
Of course I have my opinions. Of course I am not neutral. On some issues, I think the right is correct. On other issues, I think the left is correct. On most issues, I think it will take a complicated blend of both approaches to find the true solution.
This is my protest.
I protest the division. I protest the name-calling, the posturing, the unproductive way that we are pushing each other further and further away. In doing this, we are pushing each other deeper into the opinions we disagree with. In doing this, we are making productive compromise less likely. In doing this, we are ensuring that no one on the other side will ever listen to our side.
This is my protest.
I commit to building bridges. I commit to listening to people who disagree with me. I commit to treating them with dignity, even if they do not afford me the same dignity. I commit to being a conduit to productive conversation.
I am not neutral. I have very strong opinions, and seeing people who don’t seem to “get it” makes me as angry and frustrated as anyone. And this is why I need to build bridges. Because their opinions are just as complicated, just as based in their own life experience and knowledge and careful reflection as mine. Their opinions are based on the information they have access to, just like mine are based on the information I can access. If I shout, why would they listen? If I call names, why would they trust my good intentions? If I treat them without dignity, why would they treat me or my ideas with dignity?
I will do my best not to allow my own behavior to hurt the progress toward what I believe is good and true and right for our country.
As long as no one is listening to each other, we allow the political machine to progress unchecked. We may think we’re resisting injustice, but the other side believes they are resisting injustice, too. All of us want justice. That’s our common ground. Our biased press allows each side to forget this common ground. Our definitions are different, but perhaps not as different as the press wants us to believe. Our means of achieving it is different, but combining the best of both sides will work much better than dismissing anything good from across the fence just because it’s part of a complex idea that involves some things we don’t like.
Neurologically, the right is concerned with protecting the self; the left is concerned with protecting others. The truth is, we must have both protections. Giving everything out until there’s nothing remaining leaves us unable to protect anyone. Hoarding all protections for ourselves keeps us from advancing by endangering those who might have important contributions. We must have a balance of the best of both sides.
This administration threatens just about everything I believe is essential to maintaining what is good about the United States. I will protest it. I will protest it by recognizing that the people who voted this into being care deeply about our country. I will protest by refusing to deepen the divide. I will do my best to recognize and speak balanced, impartial truth in order to protest the way the press on both sides has usurped our ability to speak with each other by prioritizing ratings over balanced, impartial truth. I will recognize that no one, including myself, is completely impartial, and I will make room for others to broaden my ideas and understanding.
Shouting my deepest beliefs from the rooftops will not convert a single soul. No one likes an evangelist unless they already agree with the sermon.
I will honor my own convictions by doing the hard work of building bridges. I can say what I believe while leaving space for what others believe. Perhaps I will grow through this – is that so scary? And perhaps my opinions will evolve into something even more complex – I am open to this. It doesn’t threaten my understanding of truth when facts come together outside the party line. I will seek the good, the true, and the beautiful in each person I encounter. And even if they refuse to show it to me, I will doggedly believe that it is there, anyway.
I protest this divide. I invite you to join me.