I have been watching the various clips of people who interview Trump supporters who are seemingly unwilling to believe evidence-based data. This was prompted by two thins. 1. Jordan Klepper - I find him to be VERY bright and funny and his special on a recent set of interviews was just startling, and funny. 2. Paul Pelosi - the response by some in the right-wing sphere to not only traffic in lies but to also refuse to accept even the confession of the attacker is stunning.
I am grateful that there wasn't a "Red Wave" and that quite a few moderate Republicans have won seats signaling a potential return to sanity. But I am also very concerned about the percentage of Americans who utterly refuse to be swayed by ANYTHING that doesn't conform to what they already believe. What happens in a society when a significant portion of the population doesn't share the same "facts"?
Whether it's Q-Anon or Fundamentalists of all stripes, people are looking for the same thing - a sense of belonging. Humans need to belong, and being a part of a group where you feel seen and heard, where your voice matters, is a basic building block of society. This is why Founding Myths are so powerful. People can find a sense of belonging in the uncomplicated stories of saintly founders, heroic martyrs, and inspired prophets. We can see ourselves, or at least the view of ourselves that we want to see, in these people and hitch our wagons to them as our saviors in an existential way.
This is true of belief systems in general. We want to believe in the benevolence of the American Experiment and yet the reality of American history is filled with as much malevolence as benevolence. Our "better angels" have been doing battle with our evil-genius angels for as long as humanity has been around. Coming to understand this is a sign of maturity and health. But when the "angertainment" industry requires extreme polarization to exist, we are drawn into a level of mass psychosis that drives otherwise decent people to follow the impulses of their instinctual or Lizard Brains. We need to pick a story and stick with it to belong to something. We need to demonize "them" if we are going to be an "us". It is the only way to insure we are the heroes and not the villains, because that is all there is in this zero sum reality.
So what is the way out of this hall of mirrors? Empathy. Or to put it in the words Jesus said to the man who asked how to get to heaven, "love your neighbors as you love yourselves." I read these words and I hear my teacher Sarah Peyton talking about the ways empathy will literally rewire our brains. The trauma of being "othered" or "othering" can be healed if we are willing to acknowledge the pain, anger, grief, frustration, confusion, and fear (I could go on) that someone is show-and-telling us in their behavior. When we are able to show someone that we respect their pain, anger, grief, frustration, confusion, and fear (I could go on) we begin to build trust. When we build trust we give them another place to belong. When there are more than one place to belong people have the opportunity to move from their Lizard Brains into their pre-frontal cortex where maturity resides.
As I think about how I want to move into this next season of post and pre-election life, I want to go deeper in learning Resonant Language skills (the class I've been taking this year) so I can both offer empathy more effectively, and also help others learn these important skill. I suspect that we can all use more empathy in our lives. And I also suspect that if we, as this particular faith community, can commit to learning and deepening our Resonant Language skills we will be less afraid to engage with "others", whether family, friends, churches or strangers.
Will you work with me to build bridges between our unshared realities? Our children, grand children and all generations to come need us to do this if they are going to have a future that isn't scary, where people don't just scream at one another.
To belonging together in our beautiful but broken world,