This weekend, I was wandering through a newly-discovered antique shop in Chattanooga. It was my Un-Wedding Day and I was looking for something – anything – that held some meaning. So, just before we made our way out the door, I discovered a small metal plate from the New York World’s Fair of ’64-’65.
This would probably have been a very unimpressive find if I hadn’t been obsessing over Disney history for the last month and highly aware of the fact that the World’s Fair served as the premiere of several nostalgic Disney attractions. I knew I didn’t need the plate, and it wasn’t in the best condition. But when I turned it over, I was met with a paragraph informing me that the overarching theme of this event was entitled “Peace Through Understanding.” And turning it back over to see a price tag of $6, I excitedly took it over to the register and tucked it neatly in my purse.
Why was this detail so important to me? you may ask. Well, this post was already ruminating in my head. And somehow, hearing those words – Peace Through Understanding – so clearly and succinctly expressed the way I feel about our world right now. To the best of my knowledge, despite taking place less than a year after the assassination of JFK, the theme of the World’s Fair had little to do with unrest in the world and more to do with a sense of hope and excitement for the future. Which, if you think about it, is really the same kind of thing.
We can dwell on the hurt of the past, or we can look towards the good of the future.
So now, as I light a piece of Palo Santo and watch its smoke rise from this antique dish, may I present to you this well-intentioned rant:
As a cashier in a small-town coffee shop in pre-election Tennessee, I’m constantly surrounded by opinions that differ from my own.
“Why are you still wearing a mask?”
(And my favorite) “Who cares?! Jesus is coming!”
As an employee, as a non-confrontationalist, as a Libra, as an introvert, I’m used to brushing it all off. Sometimes, my inner self is screaming at them and I have to wonder if this is my opportunity to educate someone on my views. But it’s not. Work isn’t the time or place for arguments. Plus, I hate arguing.
I’m not saying there isn’t a valid and necessary time to speak up. I’ll do it right now: Trump has been a terribly inept leader, black lives certainly do matter, and Breonna Taylor still deserves justice. But this isn’t about the issues. This is about the way we treat one another in light of and in spite of where we stand. Because there’s a peaceful and love-led way to go about the way we express and share our views, isn’t there? I mean, I’m smart enough to know that if we don’t speak up for change, nothing will ever change. But I’m also smart enough to know that if we speak up with shouts of anger and hate – the very same hate that we claim to be fighting against – then we’re no better than the rest of them.
An eye for an eye? I’d rather not. That sort of validation will only leave us all blinded by our own self-importance.
Look, I know that this political season is ugly. Deep down there is hope, but there is also fear, and I’m afraid some of that fear is what’s tugging us into the fire and spitting us out scarred, angry, and fighting mad. I get it. I’m scared, too. I’m scared of the ensuing division and rioting that’s bound to come from either side regardless of the results we find in November.
So I stay away from the news, from the conventions, from the debates around the dinner table between family members arguing from the same side not because I don’t care or plead ignorance. I stay away because my body can no longer carry the weight of the negativity flowing from the hearts and mouths of others. More than I hate politics, more than I can’t stand what’s happening in the world, I hate division. I hate hate. I just don’t understand it’s purpose.
It just makes me sad. And it makes me lose hope.
Because yelling doesn’t make our words sound better.
Calling names doesn’t make us cooler.
Arguing doesn’t make us stronger.
And refusing to understand doesn’t make us smarter.
It just strips away the peace. It strips away the potential to rebuild and grow. It digs its way into trenches so deep we may never be able to cross them again.
Our country will always be divided, whether it’s a vote for the legalization of marijuana or some old man in Alabama who can’t let go of the racist tendencies he learned from generations before him. The best we can do is be our best selves towards others. No one side will ever truly win, so we’ll just have to get used to learning how to swim through the muck and hope with all our hearts that love and understanding prevail.
And so, while I still have some friends and family members who choose to vote differently than I do, I look for their goodness. I look for their “why.” I choose to find something in them that I can understand so that we can still hold onto what remains true between us. Because connection is greater than division. It offers the opportunity for all of us to grow.
Choosing to hate only grants permission for others to hate us back, which is the beginning of a nasty cycle that we’ve already ridden through too many times. And I don’t want that. That’s not what I vote for. And if you do, well….maybe you should take a beat to try and understand if it’s really worth it.