Good morning, America.
It’s 11:11 and the alarm on my phone has gone off reminding me to declare something I’m grateful for. And, this morning, that could be difficult.
Half of us have woken up to the unthinkable. Half of us have realized that the Filter Bubble is real – that there are living, breathing people outside of our social network. People who we may have hidden from our feed or disconnected from, but who exist. People who have perspectives and values and positions on policy that may vary from ours. People who are out of sight and out of mind because we have woven together a finely-curated web of feeds and streams and dashboards that don’t include them.
This morning, I want to greet my neighbors and the other parents at school with a joyful smile and tell them, like I normally do, that today is a great day. But, today, I am concerned about what that might say about me. I am more self-aware today and am also aware that I must display the same grace that I would expect from anyone else.
Emotions are running high this morning, and many people are claiming this as a historic and negative change for the world. But, what remains unchanged is the fact that we cannot allow ourselves to live in fear. If you are afraid for our future (as a country or as a planet), then the campaign of fear – the campaign calling on us to identify “the other” – has worked its ill effects on you.
We must remember that all leadership (or strategy, or policy) is temporary. All things transcend and include what came before. All things grow from the compost of previous forms that have died and begun to decay. Evolution is something we witness. In fits and starts, it is happening now. And we must focus on what comes next.
Yes, we have for a president, an ego-centric reality television star who has said many outrageous, shocking and offensive things on the record. But last night he also said something cogent and profound. “It’s time for America to bind the wounds of division” and unite as a country.
The real work, the inner work, begins now.
So, this morning, ask yourself what you can do to heal the division in your own community. What can you do immediately (today, even) to educate, to mobilize, to build bridges and foster dialogue? Can you gather people together who think and believe differently from one another and help them to understand something new about their neighbor? Can you remove the meanness in the world and replace it with more meaning?
During the past few months, we have actually done some heavy lifting as a country. We have vomited out our conscious thoughts (sometimes anonymously and unfiltered), we have addressed some elephants in the room (old and new), and we have recognized some dead fish (resentments) that we’ve been holding onto as individuals and as a culture. It’s been purgative and cathartic and there is a pile of stuff on the table now. To simply scrap that deeply exhaustive and emotional work would be a shame. We must, one at a time, turn these issues over in our hands and continue the conversation. That is the path to victory.
We must also walk the path that our values ask of us in a way many of us haven’t before. Empathy, trust, nonviolence, pluralism, tolerance, dialogue, faith and love are needed now more than ever. These things need to be lived out in the world. They need to be made real in the next words you speak, in the next work meeting you attend or lead, in the next book you write, in the next business (or political movement) you create.
We need to become avatars for the passion we want to see and 3-D printers for the work we know needs to be done.
As a straight white male, I recognize my position in the padded crow’s nest of privilege. I am also the parent of a trans teen, the founder of a non-Christian church, and president of my local interfaith association. I am surrounded by many amazing and differently-abled friends who happen to be ethnic, religious, sexual and gender minorities, and I know how difficult this fight can be.
I am committed to it. And I ask you to join me.
Joran Slane Oppelt
P.S. The Metta Center of St. Petersburg is open to anyone interested in creating educational and transformative programs in the community. It is also available as a place for quiet reflection and contemplation. Please reach out to me directly if you’d like to continue the conversation in person.