It seems like everybody is fighting these days, on FaceBook, Twitter, backyards and front yards, with family, with friends, with strangers and trolls. “How can so-and-so actually believe the garbage that they see on that news station? Don’t they know that’s fake news designed to divide us?” It’s hard not to blame, not to pity, not to give up on these poor misled people who just can’t see the reality that is right in front of their faces. I’m not immune – I feel it, too. But trust me on this: those pitiably misled people think exactly the same about you. How do I know? I have a cousin who, as a teen, was an immigrant himself from Sweden. It took him and his mother sixteen years to be allowed to emigrate legally to make a family here with my American uncle who is his biological dad. A great family love story, actually, but I digress. I have no doubt that he feels as if current asylum-seekers and undocumented residents are cheating and should be held to the same rules and waiting periods that he endured. I wonder if he knows that the rules have changed so that there is no pathway to citizenship for these would-be Americans as there was for him and my aunt.
He and I are FaceBook friends. I read the titles and teasers of the articles he posts just to see what is being presented to the world by Fox News and Breitbart; I never click on ‘read more’ because I don’t want the FB algorithm to see me as ‘that person’ and start filling my feed with their nastiness. Neither of us ever makes a comment on the other’s posts. Neither of us wants to betray our disgust at the other’s philosophy. It’s an unspoken politeness (political correctness, if you will) that says, “You’re wrong but I still care about you.” We don’t make nice, insincerely, but we do let go of the need to needle. It’s good practice for both of us. And then he ‘shared’ a recent post of mine. Really, I thought? Why in the world? So I checked it out and saw that he was ridiculing the person and the quote that I had been celebrating in my posting. Rather than making me angry, it lit a fresh fire under me to continue to do what I have been doing:
• Never call names.
• Encourage others to pull back on their unkind rhetoric and make their points inclusively.
• Conserve my time and energy by resisting the impulse to answer every troll.
• Keep my eyes on the prize of returning to democracy.
• Donate where I can.
• Make noise in a way that counts.
• Keep my feet on the ground by marching and standing up for what’s right.
• Get everyone – all sides – to go to the polls and start acting like the democracy we want to live in.
We’re stuck. We’re frustrated. We’re scared. We’re in a dystopian world and we don’t know how to get out of this track. We feel all alone. We’re not alone. Want to hear and be heard? Come to church. Need a safe space to breathe? Come to church. Need to know that others want the return of democracy, too? Come to church. I’ll see you there.
UUCGL Past President
Board of Trustees Final, 2018