Thursday, September 17, 2009

Marvelous. With such a wide range of beliefs (as in the comments on my previous post), we can surely learn much from each other.

I think the President’s detractors are responding in a very different way than they did with similar healthcare reform, as proposed by Hillary Clinton. Then, they attacked parts of the bill, with substantive issues. This time, they are virtually ignoring the many legitimate issues they could raise, and making things up. It feels to me that there is more emotional energy here than can be explained by mere disagreement about healthcare reform.

But there is another opportunity here. Deeper than the healthcare conversation, we can talk about race and racism among us. Clearly there is a lot of anger, pain and frustration on all sides.

If we are to have that conversation, I would like to suggest a couple things.

We know this is a difficult and emotionally-charged topic. If we are to really engage it deeply, and hear each other’s truths, I need to feel safe enough to remain in the conversation. When accusations fly, as people attempt to shame each other, my emotions are heightened and my fight-or-flight instinct is activated. It would help me to hear others better, and to feel safe enough to speak my own truth, if we could all refrain from such blaming and shaming.

Of course, in such a difficult topic, we will probably still feel hurt and/or feel blamed. Let us try to adopt an ethic of risk, and try not to censor ourselves, and also try to forgive each other if we inadvertently hurt each other.

Finally, in order to fully engage and learn from each other, I need to know that my truth will be received, and that I will be listened to with respect and empathy. Let us agree not to shut each other down, or dismiss comments out-of-hand. Again, we’ll make mistakes, but if we try very hard to imagine that each of us speaking the truth, as we know and experience it, it may help us to deepen our conversation.

If that sounds interesting and useful to folks, let us try again. I think that racism (and classism and sexism and a score of other ways to Other our human cousins) affects the words and deeds of the overwhelming majority of people. In specific, I think it is a strong (probably unconscious) component of much of the dissent aimed at President Obama. And I think the more the President’s political rivals align themselves with the mobs of angry citizens willing to do violence, the closer we get to a one-way trip into full-blown fascism.

If you want to talk about these topics, and especially if you want to talk about racism and/or charges of racism as you experience them, I welcome the conversation.


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