As I sit down to write this, the world is burning. Deadly hurricanes, a horrific mass shooting, vitriolic politicians, inciteful social commentators, kneeling millionaires, and racial tensions all provide background to the darkest social landscape of my lifetime, and I wonder if there’s ever been a time like this in American history.
Everyone, it seems, is in a state of cynicism, offendedness, and snap judgments. We don’t wait for facts. We have our own personal narrative that we want things to fit into and we’re willing to bend what facts we do know and somehow jam into our worldview. We don’t listen. We take to social media and just yell. Whine. Blame. Berate. Judge. Degrade. We think anyone with a different opinion than us must be a form of evil.
They are not evil. They are our neighbors. They are the ones trying to do the best they can with what they have. Our kids are in choir together. We pay our phone bill to the same company. We both jump at an unexpected thunderclap. And, neither of us have it all figured out.
Evil is a man who brings an arsenal of automatic weapons to a hotel room and fires them into a crowd of people at a concert. Evil is a man who leads a movement to extinguish an entire race of people. Evil is someone who opens fire in a gay bar, theater or school campus. Evil is someone who takes a truck and plows it into a crowded festival.
Your neighbor thinks differently than you. Since when is that a problem? Since when can’t we love our neighbor because they voted for Trump, or because they have an Obama bumper sticker on their car? What is going on? We have replaced unity with suspicion, love with skepticism.
This problem is a moral problem, not a legislative one. We must see each other as brothers and sisters, not as the enemy. Sentinel editor, Sean Devlin, wrote a great column in last week’s paper about this as well. I encourage you to read it again, or for the first time if you haven’t yet. Stop believing the hype and the media when they insist it’s you against everyone else. It’s not that way. Listen to your neighbor. Listening is not the same as agreeing. Do I agree with kneeling during the National Anthem? Absolutely not. I feel like it’s completely disrespectful. Do I want to understand why they’re kneeling? Yes! I don’t get it and I want to understand. Am I squishy now? Am I spineless? Am I a fool? No. If my neighbor is hurting, even if I don’t get it or if I think it’s ridiculous, I’m still going to try and empathize. Isn’t that the way it should be?
One of the things I love most about our communities, and presumably most communities have this, is that when you’re sitting alongside your neighbor in the stands wearing Siren green, Grantsburg purple, or Webster orange, you don’t care about who she voted for, what his stance on illegal immigration is, or if she hugs trees in her spare time. You are united in your desire to see the kids do well, that your hometown team would win or put on a good show. You can disagree on how you think the team should go about doing that, but ultimately you both want the team to succeed.
I suggest we watch those kids perform on the field or court. They all come from diverse backgrounds and different worldviews, but look at them. Working together for a goal. Celebrating success. Helping each other when one falls. Executing the coach’s game plan - together. At its best, high school sports model what we can be as a society.
After all, don’t we all want our kids and grandkids to do well, be safe and live a long prosperous life? Don’t we all want peace at home and abroad? Are we going to differ in how we think it should work? Of course. Is someone with a different idea than me un-American or unpatriotic? Of course not!
Proverbs 12:15 says it this way, “Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others.”
Let’s aim for wisdom. Let’s strive for unity. Let’s listen to each other. Let’s respect each other.
We are on the same team.