The room was filled with spiritual directors, planning for an upcoming event, and one person pointed out that there would be a need for healing after the elections are over. In response, I heard an audible gasp around the room, the kind of “aha” moment signifying agreement and the silent, collective wonderment of why didn’t I think of that?
Every election has its share of mud-slinging and truth-twisting, but I don’t think I have ever witnessed such an intense, prolonged period of antagonism between groups. The sheer volume of messages–not only on TV and radio, but via Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, and so many other ways of communicating–certainly is new.
As I write this, it is the day before the U. S. election. I do not yet know if we will elect Mitt Romney or Barack Obama as president, if the propositions in our state will pass or fail, or which parties will control the many legislative bodies throughout the country.
The thing I do know is this: there will need to be healing between co-workers, friends, families, and many other people, if we are going to improve the country we live in. In this political climate, many people on both sides of issues have been hurt through angry words, harsh attacks, and twisted half-truths.
In the past, newspapers and televisions ran ads for politicians. This year, it was also our friends and coworkers sending us political messages electronically. (Were there lawn signs when I was a child?) This is a wondrous exercise of free speech–and as a writer and budding artist, I greatly treasure freedom of expression!
However, in our excitement with lightning speed communication at our fingertips, some of us may have hurt others we love. We may have expressed things in type we never would have said in person. We may have stereotyped people or demonized people of the opposing group.
Now is the time to reach out with kindness to people you may have hurt in this process. Now is the time to stop blaming others for all sorts of problems, to put forth our own efforts to make the country and world a better place. Now is the time to shake the hands of your opponent, and show respect for people of all shapes, sizes, political groups.
What really makes the United States a great place is the ability to work together despite our cultural, regional, or religious differences. Our beliefs and values may vary, but our oneness exists because of something deep within that unites us. That unity is not based on all being clones of each other, but rather of working together to form a good place to live and grow and work and dream together.
The healing of the divisions in this country begins with you and me, when we reach out our hands in kindness and hospitality to those around us. This is not always easy, but it is classic for true followers of Jesus, the one who said:
Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust. (Matthew 5:44-45)
Until next time, Amen!