One lesson to take away from the amazing ongoing story of the Chilean miners is that under the worst possible conditions, they unified and continue to present a unified front to the world. They have forged deep bonds and looking out for each other, agreed among themselves that their stories are not free, to split all proceeds from what they regard as a collective story. We should hold that phenomenon of unity up to ourselves as the golden fleece to which we aspire.
Who knew that there was even a writer in the mine who kept a journal from the beginning, taping it shut at the end until someone pays him enough for it? Writers have always been opportunists, even in the worst moments.
Meanwhile, The Episcopal Archbishop of New Hampshire yesterday put up on the Huffington Post a cogent piece on the suicide, stigmatzing and bullying of our gay children as he views these things it to be perpetuated by mainstream religion and the view that homosexuality is a sin.
I had mixed reactions to Robinson’s piece. He states that “the theology of sexuality must be changed,” making an elaborate point that this will save gay kids. I believe that it will be a cold day in hell when that happens. I am a cradle Episcopalian and I have seen my church fall apart around this issue. I have also watched those to the right on the issue senselessly and chronically attempt to use the Bible to shore up their arguments and those on the left cave to their own emotionalism. When I was teaching argument at the University of Colorado, we called the appeal to scripture a logical fallacy– a faulty appeal to authority. Why not make the argument on the basis of reasonable personal conviction and a few credible studies, et al?
Meanwhile, the inability to agree to disagree permeates all discourse, the Left dropping words like Islamophobe, racist, fascist on those shouting Idealogue (in reference to President Obama), socialist–and let’s not forget that last year Republicans went so far as to call Obama a “liar” when he was speaking to Congress.
No one is going to change my or your mind about certain things, and Bishop Robinson is not going to reform the Episcopal Church by guilt-tripping people into the posture of inclusiveness. It is unlikely that conservative heterosexuals will ever sanction homosexuality and that liberal heterosexuals will not continue to privately struggle with the issue while paying lip service to reform. It is unlikely that Republicans will get behind Obama and it is unlikely that Obama will further appease Republicans after his overtures were rebuffed last winter and spring.
In short, we are not going to get each other to agree that there should or should not be a mosque near Ground Zero, that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell should be repealed, et cetera.
We are and will remain, a house divided, wistfully looking at the isolate moments of unity around things like the Deep Water Horizon disaster, the plight of the trapped miners and their heartening rescue, and perhaps– perhaps, setting aside our profound differences with each other to agree that it is wrong to harass, shame, intimidate and wound anyone– particularly children.
With others therefore, I find myself seeing and now believing that at this time there are at least two Americas. I believe that there is no purchase in party affiliation and that what is required is independence of thought and coming to terms with one’s conscience, one’s morality, one’s personal politics.
Why the Political Becomes Personal:
Above all, it appears to me, we have to stop the blame game. I’ll share a skill I have been trying to learn and have not yet mastered: when someone close to me upsets me or does something I vehemently disagree with, I am trying to withhold any reaction whatsoever as opposed to raising my voice and ratcheting it all up. I need to do this until I can present my case without calling names.
As a moody Irish poet and daughter of a mother who was up in arms morning noon and night, this is nice work if I can get it. But consider how powerful that is. What if Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar, who walked off the View last week to protest Bill O’Reilley’s comments on the WTC attacks, had simply looked at him, and not dignified his statements with any response at all? What if one of them had said, “That’s your opinion; I have mine,” refusing to be baited into an argument? The dialogue might have been sustained and not degenerated into yet another impasse on the subject at hand.
Doesn’t it all start with the individual, this business of tolerance, acceptance? I have miles to go before I personally think well of how I handle disagreement and conflict. I am despserately alone in my community because, when my civil rights to inclusion, to be emotionally and physicaly safe have been violated, I breathe fire and invoke the Americans with Disabilities Act, among other things. To my credit, I stand up for myself– but it is a lonely promontory on which I stand, and there is nothing like mentioning the ADA to set people back on their heels.
There are no bridges back at this time in my own life to the Church, to certain support groups, to certain longstanding friendships gone awry, to the local university and the writer/mentors I thought so well off for so many years. I have not built these bridges and I have lost interest in building them because when I have tried, I do not get any apologies or overtures coming back from the other direction. Not one person has said to me, “We are sorry for our behavior,” when the same has been demanded of me. So be it.
But we all owe each other many apologies, publically and interpersonally. We must extrapolate from ourselves to see what’s happening to our ability to communicate with one another. There were certainly things in Robinson’s piece, hell-bent on conversion– that pulled my chain. The comments posted by gay rights advocates clearly came from feeling under personal attack and were as filled with blame and vitriol as those defending the sanctity of Christian doctrine. Sadly, while Christianity appears to advocate love, forgiveness, tolerance and inclusion and is in a position to advocate for listening and responding strategies in all venues in this country, to mediate argument, hostility and misunderstanding, in practice the Church cannot live up to its own idealism; it eats its own and drives people who most need community and redemption away.
Never has it been clearer that we will not become a united country until we collectively agree that we cannot change one another’s hearts and minds except, perhaps, by example and that we need to engage in a discourse of compromise. We have not accepted each other’s differences when we beat the drum of I’m right, you’re wrong, asserting that one of us is a homophobe and the other an abomination, as Robinson notes. Thus far, few of us appear to understand that we cannot force one another to do anything, and can only, with our own lives and conduct, exemplify that which we would like to see transform human affairs.