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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

maybe it isn't you...maybe it's just a broken window

This is not a political post. Promise.

This is a post about moving forward, stitching things back together, and finding our way back to humanity.

I have been in a post-election retreat for the past few weeks. I haven't been able to stomach the news, the banter, the fear, the gloating and the flat-out hatred that has been circulating.  It feels like the world has been poisoned.

The landscape of our nation has been greatly impacted by this election and would be regardless of who won. There have been things said, words written, insults slung and dormant belief systems reinvigorated and the lid doesn't go back on easily. Nor would I want it to. I prefer that we as a nation bleed out all the nastiness that was seeping under the surface, the philosophies and beliefs so many of us thought had a minimal presence in our modern society. Let's turn the dirt over and see what is underneath once and for all.

Only then can we be free of it.

As I retreated, I have looked around my little world and seen that things are mostly the same. I am immeasurably blessed to be surrounded by love and goodness, kindness and safety. But it is not that way for staggering numbers of Americans who have been targeted during this election and will continue to be in the aftermath. I am aware that as a privileged person, it is my job to be a custodian to those whose lives are profoundly marked by the division and hatred that have grown large as of late. I am not always sure how to do that but I am a writer and, as such, can at least give a voice to it. I can at least say I will stand up for you because I will

I know it sounds impossibly trite to say, "Can't we all just love each other?"

But, really, truly, can't we all just love each other?

And by love I don't mean all-out adoration. I mean acceptance, allowing, kindness, freedom to be. I'm talking about seeing yourself in someone else, recognizing the universal experience of suffering in other human beings. I'm talking about more transparency between us, less devices acting as intermediaries in our relationships, more open acknowledgment that being a human being is a lovely, exhausting, messy, beautiful, humbling, glorious, terrifying journey for everyone.

We don't all have to agree on policy, on leaders, on diet, on parenting, on taxes, on styles, on sports teams, on education, on money or on religion. That would be ridiculous and futile to attempt such homogeny. It would also demolish all the rich texture that makes our nation diverse, inventive and dynamic.

Our society thrives on difference. Sameness should never be the goal. I once heard the expression, "We can't all like vanilla ice cream." And what a bland world it would be if we did?

But there is something we do need to agree on and we need to agree on it soon before we do any more damage to each other. We need to agree that we are all human beings, radically diverse though we may be, and we are all made up of the same basic elements.

We divide, position "us" against "them"and make lines in the sand to serve the purpose of protecting ourselves, our individuality, our freedom, our bonds. What if there was no "us" and no "them"? What if we are all just "us", trying to figure out this life together? If that were the case, if we didn't need to guard against the threat of people who are in some way different than us, then we would be able to recognize the humanity in everyone.

We would so freely recognize that every human being is entitled to basic kindness. That we are all equal and we all deserve a space, a place, in this great nation of ours.

One day at school drop off I was passing the car of a friend. I put my window down to say hello but my friend just waved and didn't roll the window down. I am not proud to admit that I was immediately offended. You know what I found out later? My friend's window was broken - broken -and would not roll down. It was not personal, offensive or excluding. It was just a broken window.

What if the barriers between us are based on misunderstandings, unfair expectations and seeing things too narrowly through our own lenses? What if everyone is walking around with a broken window and, in response, we take offense, put up walls and make assumptions?

All human beings are walking around with the same basic pieces: joy, misery, fear, love, anger, pride, wonder. What if we didn't judge the pieces of others but instead recognized them as the same ones we have, just presented in a slightly different form? Acceptance of each other would get a whole lot easier.  Humanity would return to our country.

What I have learned from this election is that it is easier to hate than to love. But easy has never been our style. We are Americans and we love a challenge.

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