We Are Not Each Other’s Enemies

We are living in a time of dichotomies and it deeply troubles me.

Before I begin, I want to say that healthy disagreement is productive.  It is at the heart of democracy.  As much as I dislike conflict, I appreciate the opportunity to dialogue and hear alternative perspectives.  While the final result may not be changed opinions on either side, there is productivity in conversation, in humanizing beliefs that are not our own, in understanding who another person is, what their beliefs are based upon and how their core values can be strikingly similar to one’s own (or not), but manifested in a completely different way.  Because I assume that most people are good, in conversation and dialogue with others, it’s not hard for me to find common ground and connect with humanity, even when one’s beliefs are very different from my own. But I have to come from a place of willingness to engage, not from a place of defending my own long-considered core values.

The problem, for me, is that many of us rarely have conversations with those with whom we disagree anymore, and few of us are critical of the perspectives that we tend to agree with.  We have one-side conversations in echo chambers and beat up on people with opposing views. We speak in dichotomies as if people who are advocating for their beliefs, their rights, their perspectives, are our enemies.  I’m not tone policing here.  I know people are angry when they are misinterpreted, when they are living in systems in which they feel helpless, unheard or unrecognized.  I know that there are real consequences for many people (individually and because of their group membership) when civil and human rights are threatened (and I mean this on both sides, in a non-partisan way right now–parents of students with disabilities are on both sides of the aisle; people with pre-existing health conditions; people of color; veterans; the homeless; Muslims), but what I’m saying is that even in advocating for those among the least of us whom we have a heart for (the unborn; refugees; the homeless; children; the people of Flint), we face criticism and dichotomy.  Comments like wishing that people who cared so much about immigrants and refugees cared about homeless veterans.  Who made up this dichotomy?  Who said that people can’t care about both?  I have been asked why I run for clean water for children in Africa when the children of Flint don’t have clean water.  I can advocate for clean water globally and domestically, actually.  Comments like saying all people who are against abortion also don’t care about providing options for children, women, and families who need social supports.  One can be pro-life and mean more than pro-birth.  One can also be pro-choice and believe in the sanctity and beauty of life.  One can advocate for Veteran’s rights while believing fundamentally that the military system needs to be scaled down and that unjust war is wrong.  One can believe in gun control measures without wanting to take away your personal firearm.  And, we can agree to disagree on these issues. But we can also be passionately angry in respectful ways that aren’t personally attacking.

And, we can all do our part in spreading good instead of ugliness.  When did your neighbor become your enemy?  I have a lot of disagreements fundamentally with people because I have strong beliefs, but I’m still going to advocate for what I believe is right in a positive way, and if you’re working towards what you believe is right (as opposed to critiquing someone’s else’s donation, contribution, not doing enough, doing it wrong, whatever it is) while, of course, being critical and thinking through what you believe is right and wrong, good for you.  Why are we wasting our time arguing with people we don’t know when there is so much we could be doing?  Yes, protest. Yes, call.  Yes, join movements.  Yes, state your beliefs. But if you don’t agree with these things, don’t poop on other people’s rights to exercise their democratic rights. Be proactive instead of reactive.  Advocate for your beliefs in your way.

I am a passionate advocate for human rights.  All human rights.  I feel pretty consistent there.  I’m for government supports AND for non-governmental relief organizations to support what the government doesn’t provide to those in need. I protest. I donate. I educate. I listen. I vote. If you do those things too, awesome.  If you don’t and you do something else, great! Stand up for what you believe in. Start where you are. Do what you can. When you can.  I genuinely believe that most Americans are good people that are trying to do the best they can with the information they have. I’m happy to provide more information when asked or resources that one can click on.  But I’m also happy to listen because it helps me to gain perspective, whether we agree or not. I hope you’ll accord me the same respect.

Even reading over this post, it feels like I’m trying to tell you readers what to do or make people wrong for what they’re doing.  I’m not.  You do you.  I will love you no matter what.  But, I just hope that we might consider that injustice as an enemy shouldn’t be a partisan or religious issue and that we might challenge ourselves to have conversations that may be uncomfortable.

These are strange and divisive times in our nation, and in these times, we need community more than ever.

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