The “Other”

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything.

As a matter of fact, I haven’t posted anything since the U.S. Election.

And no, it’s not because I needed a safe space to cry or feel feelings.

I’ve been grieving, yes. But not about the election.

What saddens me is as I read the news from country to country the common thread that I see occurring is division– a slow, polarizing of peoples, races, ideas and countries that are splitting once unified groups of people into “us” and “them”; or, “We who are right” and “The others who are wrong”.

This isn’t new news. People have been reporting on it, writing about it and blogging their opinion on it for years. And it’s because I feel that everyone is talking about it that it’s hard for me to sit here and blog about my two cents.

I’ll be honest, the thing I struggle with most and the reason that kept me from creating this blog for so long is the thought that somewhere, anywhere, there are lots of other people saying the same thing that I want to say and they are saying it better than I ever could. So, why should I bother? It’s a feeling of being an inadequate, ineffective voice that is simply creating noise that no one really cares about that I think has kept me back from doing so many things in my life. I had this post nearly finished back in November. I had quotes and references, stories and examples. But the more I read from other people the more I became discouraged with the mediocrity of what I had written.

So I gave up.

Then towards the end of December a friend of Luis who lives in the States came to visit us for about a week and a half. I was a little nervous about his visit because, from everything Luis had told me, he was very conservative in his views and beliefs and I felt there was a very good chance that we would have extremely different viewpoints about a lot of issues.

On the outset, I was right.

In a lot of ways, Luis’ friend and I couldn’t have been more different. And for me, those were the first things that caught my attention. For one example, it was probably the second night of his visit he mentioned that he voted for Trump and for a lot of people I know, that would have been the end of the conversation right there.

And yet, in-between and under the things that divided us, there were many things that unified us. We both were born in the United States and were US citizens. We were both white men in our 30’s. We both spoke English as our native language. We had both traveled to several countries and found that our ideas about life and the World had changed as a result of our travels. And, perhaps most importantly, we both confessed a faith and utter dependance on Christ as revealed in Scripture as the basis for our spiritual beliefs.

What I began to find over the days of his visit and the numerous conversations we had till one in the morning (or later) was that each time we discovered something that divided us, we, both of us, had a choice; either to focus on those polarizing ideas and beliefs or instead, to take the time to understand the how and the why behind those ideas and beliefs. And it was in those ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ that I found commonality.

In this experience I learned firsthand that if we allow labels and lines to define our relationships with people (gay – straight, Republican – democrat, pro-life – pro-choice, Christian – Muslim, black – white, the list goes on and on and on…) then all that we’ll be left with is a small bubble of people that fit into all the same labels and lines that we do. And everyone else, the “others”… well, it’s a lot easier to dehumanize the “others” because they aren’t you. They aren’t right, they’re wrong. They aren’t a help, they’re a threat. And when the “other” is a threat to “us” then “doing away with them” suddenly seems like the right, the safe, the moral thing to do; instead of the tragedy of destroying a living, breathing soul created in the image of God that it really is.

So I’m thankful for those who don’t think like me and act like me. The world doesn’t need more people like me. The world needs more people who are willing to look at someone across the divide of politics, religion, race, economics, nationality, faith, and orientation and find the commonality; to see themselves in another’s eyes.

May you look beyond what divides us to what unifies us.

May you continually hope that what unifies us will bring understanding.

May you live in the peace that understanding will bring love.

May you love in a way that closes the divide until the “other” is “us”.

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