Many of us woke up the day after the election either ecstatic or saddened, but even so, life goes on. True, our neighborhoods are no longer comprised of people who look the same or speak the same languages. Many jobs will never come back and the soil under our feet shakes with unrest. While our tendency is to resist change, our only real option is to accept diversity is here to stay. We may not like it, but the genie is out of the bottle.
President Obama, in his farewell address, challenged us to fight the monsters of hatred, violence, and exclusion that appear to be deeply planted in the soul of our nation. We thought we knew each other, but fear and other divisive events have shown otherwise. Now it is up to us to find a way to work together, which we will eventually do, because that is who we are, and because democracies exist only when everyone works for the common good.
How do we do this? By letting go of our longing for a simpler past. Those days are gone. We must acknowledge the hard reality that our economy will never go back to the 1950’s, that we are caught up in the inevitable changes that come with the technological and instant communication revolution.
Perhaps the most important step we can take is to stop seeing anyone who disagrees with us or belongs to a different political party, religion, or race as “the enemy.” Instead of exaggerating our differences let’s focus on our shared goals and dreams, our shared humanity. Let’s start by letting go of the illusion that in order to be happy and safe, things must go my way.
Acceptance and cooperation doesn’t mean we agree with or condone everything, but instead of trying to turn back the clock, retreating into nationalism and isolationism, we can seek ways of working together for the common good. We can find viable solutions to the many problems facing our nation and world. Ironically, blaming “the other” or immigrants for the economic upheaval and social unrest only creates more unrest and fear.
We can start working for change here Adams County by insisting that our local, state and national elected officials work together to find solutions instead of blaming the other party and playing party politics. Instead of focusing on fear and exclusion, we can demand a positive dynamic of cooperation that will ripple outward from us. By fighting for changes in the ways voting districts are gerrymandered, we open the way for better voter representation and less bitterness, no matter who is in office. We can become good neighbors, especially to those who speak a different language or practice a different religion. By welcoming newcomers or “the other” into our communities, we not only help them feel wanted, safe, and secure, but we create an environment where we will feel safer ourselves….because the stranger has become a friend.
Democrat or Republican, white, black, brown or yellow, straight, gay, legal, illegal, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu, we can do this. We can affirm our common humanity, our shared hopes and dreams for a safe and sane future for our children and ourselves. It won’t be easy for it will require forgiveness and even admitting we are wrong, at times. But we can do this. The fate of America and the world depends on it.
Joyce Shutt is the pastor emeritus of the Fairfield Mennonite Church. She also has a blog at stepstohope.weebly.com