Monday, November 21, 2016

Fear And Promise

A lot of known and unknown friends and neighbors, within this country and across the globe, are feeling very fearful these days. It is fear that crosses political ideology, racial identities, economic status, and national borders. In some instances it is a fear from certainty: bombs exploding all around (Syria); a loved one who has been shot cradled in your arms (major cities); an empty plate on a dining table (across America). In other instances it is a fear from uncertainty: a vague sense of dreams and ambitions escaping away; of known, unshakable truths being challenged; of security being threatened by forces unseen and unimaginable; of a comforting way of life eroding and disintegrating.

In light of recent political events, many Americans fear that sixty years of cultural/political movement towards the realization of “Liberty and Justice for All,” yielding accomplishments achieved against continuing resistance and barriers, is now under threat. Old battles are having to be refought against a seemingly perpetually recurring foe. Other Americans fear the loss of cultural identity, a way of life embodied in 1950s America of set family roles, unambiguous church teachings, job and economic stability if not upward mobility, clear social and legal rules, and American world dominance. Our fears of loss may be different; fear itself is shared.

The parent Fear creates the child Anger. And Anger in turn creates an environment of separation from each other. So we have in our land today. Not “One Nation, Indivisible,” but a nation separate and not equal.

Numerically, we are separated right down the middle, 50/50. Middle America separating two costal populations. The division, fueled by our anger, is exemplified by increasing acts of physical violence against persons and property, social violence in name-calling and indiscriminate insults thoughtlessly and casually tossed about, and spiritual violence in our rejection of each other based upon our unacceptance for no reason other than “they’re different.” A difference we typically know little about. A superficial difference that masks a shared commonality.

In our collective existence as one tiny sliver of the vast Universe, we are regularly called upon to face disruption due to changing times, and to face our fears that arise out of those occurrences. We have a choice to act out of our fears, if not perpetuate and expand them. Or we can discover the challenges that the fears provide to us, and commit to meeting those challenges and transcending those fears.

The Universe always conspires to sever the past. The past is simply past. It is not the present, certainly not the future. (Stripped of the fog of selective nostalgia, the 1950s were not all that great anyway!) The Universe also conspires to wake us up when we get too complacent, and remind us that social progress towards our spiritual brothers and sisters requires constant effort and vigilance. Such are the Universe’s conspiracies occurring in these current times.

It does not take much skill or creativity to tear things apart. In the Universe’s grander schemes, we will be measured by our ability to transcend division and see truths on all sides of our divide, and judged by our ability to give voice and create reconciliation across that divide. We should take heart that our even divisions also give us our equal choices. They make the questions to be answered, and the decisions to be made, an imperative to address, impossible to gloss over and bury in cheap rhetoric. The substance of our divisions is also the energy for our search for answers and understanding.

Underneath the anger we hear is the fear we seek to hide. We need to expose and acknowledge those fears, because only out of that naked exposure can come the direction and reconciliation we seek, working together rather than against each other. We need compassionate listening and respect for each other, because each person’s perspective is their own truth, and some measure of truth is found in every pocket of humanity. With thoughtful effort, our diverse national makeup can work for all of us, a nation Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All. That is the Promise awaiting us.

©   2016   Randy Bell