learning to live and love from a new perspective

Archive for October, 2018

Praying with my fingers

As many of you know, my response to tragedy and hatred in the last year and a half has been to text.  Shootings in Parkland, FL?  Send 500 texts. A peaceful protester mowed down by a car while standing up to neo-Nazi’s?  Send 800 texts.  Incident after incident after incident of white people calling the police to report black people going about their daily lives?   Text, text, text.

1rfAd93IQcSVuOWcg0q0xgIt’s ten days until November 6.  Ten days until that hoped-for, prayed-for Blue Wave might possibly wash over our country.  In ten days, it’s possible that some of the amazing candidates I’ve had the privilege to support will be elected to office–  ready to bring a vision of equality, compassion, and civil discourse that is so desperately needed in our country.

And as much as I hope to see that vision of a Blue Wave become a reality….  that is not the only reason I’m texting.  A painful lesson we all learned through the 2016 election, is that we live in a country divided.  Red vs Blue.  Urban vs Rural.  Residents on the coasts vs those in the fly-over states.  Our world views are shaped by our experience, and get reinforced by those who share the same lens as we do.  That’s normal.  What’s troubling is that due to the rise in social media, and the influence of politically-biased news sources, those who don’t share our world views can become “the enemy”–  to be feared, hated and ridiculed.

It’s painful to me that here in my liberal bubble of suburban Boston, I have very little opportunity to connect on an interpersonal level with those outside my world view.  I read about people who operate from a very different belief system than I do, but I don’t have the opportunity to interact with them. And while texting doesn’t give me a huge opportunity, it’s something.

In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

In my hours of texting, I’ve encountered a lot of hate.  People swear at me.  People tell me I’m a stupid lib-tard.  One voter sent me a gif of Mr. T calling me a sucka.  One voter introduced me to some new acronyms (I never knew that you could abbreviate “suck my dick” by simply using the letters “smd”.  Maybe that knowledge will come in handy some day.)  All of this in response to a two line text asking if folks would like to learn about a candidate.

When my kids are reading over my shoulder, and I get a hate response, I tell them that the person who sent it thinks they’re writing to a computer. If the person realized they were writing to an actual human being, they would never use that kind of hateful language.

No matter how hateful a text I receive, I send the standard reply in response, “Thanks for letting me know your views. I’m glad we’re both trying to improve our country, even if we don’t always agree about how best to do it. I hope your day goes well.”

Every once in a while, I get a good conversation like the one I had last night.  (I wish I could just cut and paste the whole conversation, but that’s against the rules.).  The voter responded to my initial text with a litany of complaints against the “Demon-crats”.    These complaints included:

  • They want to take our guns
  • They want to take our hard-earned money and give it to illegals
  • They encourage women to kill their own babies
  • They have no problem with Planned Parenthood selling those babies for parts

After taking a deep breath, I responded, “Thanks for letting me know your views. I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but there seems to be a little bit of misinformation in there.”

I corresponded six times with this voter, on and off over the course of an hour.  I reassured him that I’m not disputing his right to have an opinion based on his own values, and I didn’t expect his values to match mine (or my candidate’s). Only that some of the statements he made were factually incorrect.

At the end of the conversation, I signed off with:

I suppose it’s time for me to end this conversation. I imagine that you will not support my candidate, and that’s fine. I hope you will continue to find ways to discuss real issues with us “Demon-crats”. I believe our country can be great again if we can find ways to disagree respectfully.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

So now, it’s time to get back to texting.  I hope my efforts will result in some amazing candidates being elected. I also hope that my efforts will result in a handful of people out there taking a moment to reflect on their deeply held beliefs about liberal democrats.

  • They want to take our guns
  • They want to take our hard-earned money and give it to illegals
  • They encourage women to kill their own babies
  • They have no problem with Planned Parenthood selling those babies for parts

I shared my experiences online with another texter in my Text Troop.  Her response resonated deeply with me as well.  “For me, what I also experience is that this process is happening in the other direction too. I have to work to remember that the person writing “smd” is also human with his own complicated story and sometimes, when I dig a little deeper and get the opportunity to keep a conversation going, I get to challenge my own dehumanizing moments, and see that person as a person.”

I hope that a few people will learn, through their interactions with me and my fellow texters that their beliefs about us aren’t true.  That what is presented in the news they watch or in their social media feeds are distortions of what we liberals actually believe. I hope I can continue to learn from the people I am texting.  I hope I can continue to challenge my own assumptions.  And maybe if we can all take a breath, and take a step back for a moment, we can really start to listen to one another.

Abraham Joshua Heschel once said, “When I march in Selma, my feet are praying.”  When I sit at my computer, sending out texts, I feel like my fingers are praying.  All of the pain that hits me when I hear about more shootings, more hate crimes, more intolerance…..  it flows from my heart and out through my fingers.   The candidates I support have a vision of a more inclusive, more tolerant, more just society.  I hold that vision in my heart as my fingers pray on my keyboard.

 

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