A Week After the Election . . . Can We Be Civil?

Regardless of who you voted for, whether or not you are pleased with the results, I'm sure - like me - you are weary of the harsh words, the negativity, the tension in the air, the increasing divide in our country that has been shown so clearly in the election process finishing with last Tuesday night.

People of color, the GLBTQ community, women - all people who are left scared and uncertain of their place in this country, uncertain of their safety. I have students and clients alike who have expressed to me their anguish, their fear, their pain. They are afraid the country they love - their home - will no longer be a place in which they can live and be their truest selves. They do not want only themselves to be safe, they want all Americans to feel secure. It is clear that many Americans do not feel secure.

I have heard some say "We get what we deserve." But who is the "we" they are referring to? The "we" who have no voice? The "we" who have been treated as second-class citizens? And, mind you, the "we" who have felt treated as second-class citizens are Republicans, Democrats and Independents -- no political party is free of this. I don't believe the lines are able to be drawn so simply that we've now gotten what we deserve. And I think that lets our politicians and the media off the hook. We all have responsibility as citizens of this country. Clearly, we need to do better than we have.

And doing better than we have means that we must put away hateful, divisive words about each other. It is appalling what has been unleashed in the U.S. under the guise of "freedom of speech." What people have decided is their "God-given right to free speech" is neither God-given nor a right to be hateful, disrespectful, demeaning of another human. (A human, I remind us all, that is made in the image of God . . . since God has been called upon.)

Our response to the hateful, demeaning words and name-calling cannot be in like manner. It helps no one to respond in kind, rather, we stoop to a level that we have just said is unhelpful and wrong. I believe we must choose civility. ALL OF US - each one of us. Do not assume civility to mean that we shrug our shoulders and let pass horrible words and actions. Rather, we stand up to wrong and hate with manners, with the attempt to speak to the humanity in the other. We must not let stand the hateful, vitriolic and divisive words and actions of our fellow citizens and those in power making decisions that will impact our country.

There is no place for name-calling - that accomplishes nothing. There is, however, a place for standing with our sisters and brothers who are living in fear, who are not safe, who can't sleep for anxiety that gnaws at them. There is a place for bearing witness to others' pain and loss; there is a place for bearing witness to our own pain and loss. This "standing" that I refer to will take many different forms from a cup of cold water to activism. The thing is this: we don't have time to engage in name-calling. We don't have time to harm others. Our country, our communities, our neighbors, our selves - we are in crisis. Are we willing . . . we must be willing to do the hard work of engagement, of truly listening, of speaking out against hate and wrong-doing, of sharing words of comfort, action, and peace. 

This engagement I'm calling on is not easy . . . it's uncomfortable, it's time-consuming, it's scary. We no longer have the privilege of taking the easy way out, of thinking this doesn't affect me - I don't need to act. There's too much at stake: our people, our environment, our lives. Will you join me in this hard work of engaging? Will you start by sharing your thoughts on my post? Let's have respectful dialogue that encourages, challenges, that sees the human across from us - the human who has worries and fears and family and loss, just as we do.