It's 3:30 am. The
house is still and quiet except for my husband's steady snoring on the bed
behind me and the clattering of my keyboard keys as I type. I wish that I was asleep, curled up next to
him and our dogs. However, I awoke with an
urgency to write. I tried to push it
down, close my eyes, and fall back to blissful unconsciousness. But the pressure only grew, spreading from my
heart into my fingers. I knew there
would be no rest until I laid out what has been heavy on my heart.
Like so many of you, I have been concerned and heartbroken
by our country's tumultuous state. The
past year has only served to spotlight the division, which has been growing
within our nation for years. In many
ways, my marriage is a microcosm of that great divide. My husband and I exist on opposite ends of the
political spectrum. To say that this
election year has been strained in our house would be an understatement. We have tried to erect a firewall and avoid
all political conversations, but that has become increasingly difficult. The issues at stake are so important, and our views
and opinions are so strong on those issues that staying quiet feels like a
betrayal of our beliefs. Certain words
are sure to trigger a rousing "debate" between us; words like 'Trump,'
'Portland,' and 'pandemic' are off-limits according to our kids, who are tired
of hearing the same old arguments from us.
We are disconnected on a deep level and have each gravitated
towards groups of like-minded people. Sometimes
you just want to be heard and understood.
You don't want to have to defend your position or argue the merits of
your beliefs. You want the comfort of
someone to understand. And so it begins,
the quiet and insipid seduction of sameness.
What we are experiencing here on a micro-scale is
happening all over the country on a massive level; more and more people are
leaving the public debate and sequestering themselves among others who are like
them. It isn't only one side doing this;
it is all the sides. We are taking our
toys and going home, so to speak. We are
segregating ourselves more and more.
Relationships that were prized above politics are now torn
apart; husbands and wives, parents and children, brothers and sisters, grandparents
and grandchildren, and loyal friends have vilified each other. Those relationships are replaced with a
cacophony of like voices on social media and the news outlets we choose to
believe. We have exchanged relationships
for echo chambers, and the divides between us grow.
The draw to sameness is strong. It is reassuring; it is comforting, and it is
toxic. A look back at our not so distant
history teaches us the dangers of segregating ourselves. The Jim Crow years and the hard battle for
civil rights and racial equality should have taught us how devastating it is to
surround ourselves with only those who think like or look like us. When we only hear our own thoughts and
opinions repeated back to us, we develop an us versus them mentality. The "us" is always right, even
righteous, and the them is always wrong, even "evil."
We all want to be understood; to have our opinions
valued and validated. We are tired of proving
our point and arguing our position, of hearing the rhetoric of the "other
side." It is so much easier to vent
to those who agree with us.
But we forget the fundamental truth of life; real
relationships take work. They are not
always easy. Most of the time, they are challenging
on some level. But it is that tension,
that struggle, and that hard work that causes us to grow together. This process changes us as people and helps
us grow in our compassion and understanding.
Proverbs 27:17 says, "As iron sharpens iron, so
one person sharpens another." We need each other to grind off the rough
edges and to sharpen and focus us. Yes, there
is a seduction to the ease of sameness. In
the difficult struggle to understand those unlike us and the fight for their
understanding, we will change ourselves and our nation.