“What has Martin Luther King, Jr. ever done for this country?”
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The moment that question was posed to me last year -- by someone I’m related to -- may have been the moment that I fully realized the severity of the divide in this country. Because, pray tell, how do you respond to someone you love when they ask something like that?
I keep reaching for the bridge metaphor lately, wanting to find one or build one. That’s the way of the life coach. Or see some light seeping in and try to step into it and bring clarity. I keep delving in to make sure I understand the viewpoint completely. I strive to make people feel heard. That’s vital, isn’t it?
It feels like maybe, just maybe, some progress is made on occasion.
But then I turn to my Facebook feed on our nation’s inauguration day and there is a roll of toilet paper with President Obama’s face on it – posted by someone I’m related to – and I recoil again. What to do with that? If I’m searching for ‘bridge’ material, what exactly is going to hold up and cross that chasm?
It’s going to have to be sustained love, isn’t it?
How effective is admonishing? Come on, who likes to be admonished? Severing ties isn’t always an option. Sometimes resignation is, though. It might sound defeatist, but I find it is quite the contrary. Being resigned to the fact that others hold views we find appalling – and plenty of people have mine in that category – is a healthy acceptance. There is little we can do but live our truth and do our best to respect them living theirs.
“Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life,” President Obama said in his second inaugural speech. “It does not mean we all define liberty in exactly the same way or follow the same precise path to happiness. Progress does not compel us to settle century’s long debates about the role of government for all time, but it does require us to act in our time.”
And so act we must.
If we feel our rights are being threatened, we must speak up and join like-minded others in strengthening our message. But we must also be responsible for what we say, write, pass on. Facts are facts. Creative Photoshopping might be fun, but snark rarely carries weight. Inflaming is not convincing. Mistruths do not further a position. Pouting is pointless.
If the National Rifle Association or Planned Parenthood or Greenpeace is speaking your truth, then put your resources behind it. But that doesn’t mean blindly so. We are citizens, not cattle. We can bring nuance to an issue, agree with part but not all, be at odds with our party on some things. Imagine that. A liberal who likes guns. A conservative who doesn’t get what all the gun fuss is about. They both exist. I know them personally. The liberal who pays little heed to the environment. The conservative who is a stickler for conserving. Yep, I know them, too.
Let’s be bigger than the nonsense. If you can’t stand Barack Obama, then let that be fuel for your passionate action in causes that call you and challenge yourself to act in a humane, smart and productive way. If you love Barack Obama, see if you can soften and listen and hold positive energy for the nation – all of the nation -- in this challenging time.
We owe it to ourselves and to each other to try, don’t we?
The yelling over each other is exasperating. We all feel it.
Richard Blanco captured it so beautifully in his poem, One Today, written for the 2013 presidential inauguration. He speaks of one sky, one light, one ground, one moon, one country. We need not be poets to understand the piece is about our shared humanity.
We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always -- home, always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop and every window, of one country -- all of us -- facing the stars hope -- a new constellation waiting for us to map it, waiting for us to name it -- together
Only we can map it. Only we can name it.
The differences will continue to exist. Those are what make us so special. Even the seemingly inexplicable ones.
We’re not going to agree. We’re not.
“You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course,” President Obama said.
Your life is yours. Based on all you know and feel, what are you called to do?
Something, I hope. Something thoughtful.
Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is www.nancola.com and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to FOXGamePlan@gmail.com.