I know that it can’t be easy to be my friend, either in real life, or on Facebook. The past five years of deep political turmoil, societal inequity, and racial reckoning have been traumatic for me and I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut and my Facebook profile focused on pictures of my pets. Partly because of the times we live in, partly because of my career in education, and partly because of who my kids have grown up to be, I care DEEPLY about social justice issues. This year at Alfred I am teaching one of the “Common Ground” classes for new students in which we struggle to come to terms with our differences and to discuss them with civility. I applaud Alfred’s efforts to do on a micro level what we desperately need on a macro level in our society. 20 years ago, the Sept. 11th attacks historically brought us together. Now, the greatest–and far deadlier–crisis we have faced since then has only served to divide us more bitterly. We have prolonged the pandemic because we cannot even agree on if it exists and how to best survive it. We have responded by shooting minimum wage clerks trying to enforce mask policies; by plotting to kidnap, try, and execute the governor of Michigan over COVID restrictions; by punching schoolteachers in the face; and by distrusting and vilifying the very doctors, scientists, and health-care workers who are trying to save us. When our capitol was invaded and vandalized earlier this year, and police officers were beaten with American flags, despite endless video footage and multiple deaths, we cannot even agree on whether it was an insurrection or loving and patriotic tourists snapping pictures. There is little or no “united” left in the United States.
If you are reading this post it means that, unlike many, you have hung in there with me through my various rants, angry posts, anti-Trump vitriol, and sarcastic memes. I have lost a lot of friends and even family members. I have never unfriended anyone on Facebook because of politics, (although I did unfriend two over abusive treatment of my friends and me.) I try, and I desire to be, quite willing to put up with different political viewpoints and to consider the validity of counter arguments. This road of deep division and distrust leads to nowhere good, for us, for our communities, our schools, and our society. While I want to remain open to input and reasoned arguments from the other side and respond with civility to differences, I cannot “agree to disagree” on racism and homophobia. I know that my liberal views put me at odds with many other believers. I can only offer that I am trying my best to live out my faith in the way that makes the most sense to me; the Jesus that I understand means that I envision a very wide and inclusive path to heaven.
Even though I am likely “preaching to the choir” here–because most of my Facebook friends who disagree strongly with me have unfollowed, unfriended, or in some instances, blocked me–but I want to thank those of you who have stuck with me. I always tried to instruct my own kids that, “no one gets up in the morning and plans to be a jerk.” We are all doing the best we can with the cards we’ve been dealt. My concern is that families, churches, communities and indeed our nation, is in danger of unraveling over these divisions. Human beings have always solved our challenges by coming together. When I taught high school Social Studies, I always asked my classes to remember “A Bug’s Life” and to watch for “strength in numbers” as one of the most significant and recurring factors in history. We need strength in numbers more than ever today. I’m not referencing nationalism, but rather, the human community and our need to save the planet, defeat COVID, overcome racism, end gun violence, and live in harmony with one another. To be honest, I have little or no optimism that this will ever happen. And yet–from time to time–I see little glimmers of hope. I see it in Alfred University and its Common Ground course, in the self-sacrifice of the members of the local Fire and Ambulance Company that I have joined, I see it in believers who are trying to live out Christ’s message of transcendent love and social justice. I see it in the next generation of teachers I encounter in my work at Alfred, and I want, desperately, to see it in myself.
And so, today, I want to thank you for hanging in there with me and I want to know that if I have offended you with my posts and yet we are still friends, that we are—together–a tiny part of the solution to all of this. Peace.