Meaningful dialogue it hurts because conversation needs two; everywhere we have refused each other. My mother and her friends prayed on the evening of the 8th, and anyone who joined them could have engaged. Unfortunately, if only one person shows up, it is a vigil, not a dialogue. And so maybe that’s our calling now: we show up. We show through our actions that we are willing to engage in peaceful, respectful dialogue. We will listen, and we will also be heard.
We stand (or sit) in our strong, respectful place where listening can happen for all of us, and not just the screamers. We don’t chase them down that rabbit hole of hate, we don’t make excuses for what is happening in the name of “understanding”. We don’t clobber people with that “I don’t care who you voted for” refusal to admit that we have opened a Pandora’s box of hatred, which is rooted in economic structures and inherited prejudices, and is taking the form of bullying as “tough love” (in some cases) and celebratory predation (in many more) against those most vulnerable.
I do care who voted and how. I care that each of us reflects on how we voted this election and what those details tell us about where healing needs to occur. Hillary Clinton won the popular election among those who voted. She won the vote of our future, the 18-25 year olds. What does a vote for Trump actually mean? Already racism, misogyny and fear have been given social form; Trump voters, what do you actually stand for if not the values of the KKK? And the other half who didn’t vote, have you already given up?
How do we hear these election results? And how are we to respond?
We find ourselves with Thomas Moore in “The Man for All Seasons” dilemma, where evasion of his moral responsibility (either to his King or his Pope) ultimately led to betrayal and death. As in the play, our moral evasions allow our lives to be rewritten and taken over by those who scream. So it is not enough to listen; we must also be heard. In British-American legal tradition, silence is consent. And consent to American fascism is unacceptable. We must show up. We are willing to listen and also to be heard.
This means I am giving up snarky comments for an early lent and learn how to engage in non-violent communication. In order to demonstrate my willingness to listen, I am going to work on waiting for others to finish speaking and then responding, rather than reacting. In order to be heard, I am going to be speaking up in situations where I might have habitually turned away.
I will be mindful. I will reflect on how my previous silences were complicit with the rise of American fascism. And I will return to the good lessons of The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense and non-violent Civil Disobedience; I will listen and I will speak, but only if we all show up will each of us be heard.