I saw this poignant post on Dan Rather’s Facebook account and wanted to share.
On this Sunday, as we hurdle towards a monumental decision in November, I know many of you feel a stark despair about the direction of our nation, agonize that this election has exposed deep-seeded hate and intolerance within the American populace, wonder at how well you knew friends and family who see the world from such a profoundly different and troubling point of view, and worry about divisions that you fear may never heal. I do not minimize the challenges we face on these fronts, but I firmly believe that there is an important distinction between the many who are swayed by the rhetoric and false facts of disaffection and alienation, and the few who are in positions of power to exploit disunion and discord for personal economic and political gain. With the right leadership and spirit, I believe this nation can, and will, heal.
Fear is a very strong motivating force, and fear of “the other” seems an inherent element of the human identity. Perhaps it stretches back to mankind’s early tribal existence. But for whatever reason, fear in general, and this fear of the other specifically, can lead populations into hateful and damaging actions. And thus it is no surprise that fear has been perhaps the most persistent tool for despots and tyrants since the beginning of recorded time.
At the moment, there are rational and irrational fears sweeping the nation. It is right to worry about our future economic prosperity and how widely it will be felt by the American people. It is true that politicians in Washington of both political parties have been too beholden to special interests and the moneyed class. It is true that the world is a disquieting place and we face a real threat of terrorism. It is also true that America’s cultural identity is changing forever, and I understand how that can be disorienting to some. But amidst all these rational fears, we have those who will toss half-truths and lies on everything from the economic impact of immigration, to gun control laws, to crime. They do so not to seek answers or solutions to our national problems, but to sow the fear that will guide themselves and their cronies to wealth and power.
We live in an era of misinformation, reinforced by an increasing lack of integration –in our schools, our news sources, our social media feeds, and so many other places. It is easy to stoke fear of “the other” when you do not know the other. Conversely, greater integration often brings greater acceptance. That is where I hope we can redirect our efforts.
I believe the chief reason why we have seen so much progress on LGBTQ rights is that this is one marginalized population that has become increasingly hard for individuals to ignore in a culture where more have come out of the shadows hiding their sexuality. We are becoming far more integrated as a country by this measure, which makes it very different from race. I once heard someone say, you don’t one day discover that the white son you have loved since birth is black but you can discover he is gay. In other words, it is easier to see “the other” when it comes to race and religion than when it comes to LGBT. In order to combat this, we should strive for a world where more of our classmates and coworkers come from different backgrounds. If we did so, perhaps we would find far more similarities than differences, the unity of humanity.
I can remember the integration of the army and all the good it did, and still does, in bringing different people together. I can also remember the aftermath of the murderous carnage of World War II and how even then, the peoples of Germany, Japan, and Italy became peaceful and productive members of the world community. Hearts once bent in one direction by hate can be redirected with the right leadership and guidance.
These are the stakes for the direction of our country. Are we going to condone division, turn a blind eye to misinformation, accept intolerance? Or are we going to reach out and try to knit together the various strands of our national tapestry, patching what is threadbare and re-stitching what is torn? One direction will lead to a brighter future, the other more fear and despair.
I choose to bet on hope.