Step One – Question

“Is there only one way to understand this?” I asked.

“Yes,” she quickly responded, doubtless and wonderless.

I asked the question as part of my pre-holiday check-in to determine if it was safe to visit. Safe, not in a physically harmful way, but emotionally and verbally.

I completed the phone call, repeating my mother’s words. I wanted her to know I heard and listened to what she said. I had no reason to believe she would listen or hear what I had to say. That was clearly not in her ability. After repeating back her words I simply stated: “I won’t be visiting for the holiday.” We ended the call, my mother resolute in her belief that I was wrong, absolutely, and me aware of yet another lost opportunity to honestly get to know each other.

I think now, of my country, and the lost opportunities due to the absolute division of individuals and groups believing they have the one and ultimate truth. My heart breaks as I wonder what needs to happen to eradicate the barriers that divide the USA. Being aware of the absolute hatred and fear that is currently driving and destroying democracy is overwhelming. Each time someone blames, accuses, diminishes another, we are all damaged. It is the opposite of the tenacious civil rights leaders, the radical pacifists, who lived and expressed Love In Action.

I am awed by the preparation of the civil rights protestors, to practice and be ready to confront hatred while holding on to and expressing Love In Action. I think back to my mother, and how powerless I felt to develop an honest, authentic relationship with her. Being aware of the level of hatred in my country, the alternative facts being used to dehumanize ‘others’ is paralyzing. Usually, that’s a signal for me to start at step one. Ask questions. Then, ask more questions. Be open to wonder, to doubt, to be willing to listen and hear. Engage in an actual dialogue instead of proselytizing. Remove the hatred, blame, and accusations from the dialogue. Invite humor, vulnerability, and reason. Be prepared to face hatred, self-hatred, and the hatred of others, with radical pacificism. Avoid littering the landscape with toxic words and actions. Life is beautiful and short. We each have opportunities to get to know each other honestly or build hateful walls to divide ‘us’ against ‘them’. Begin with the question, Is there only one way to understand this?

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