I’m noticing a strong pattern, particularly among those of us on the left of things, to narrow the limits of who we deem acceptable when times get tough. The political landscape has been bleak lately, and I’ve both seen and personally experienced a lot of reactivity born of fear. I’ve watched our tendencies to circle in and draw lines of safety based on whose political analysis aligns with ours, and rejecting those whose doesn’t. I understand this as a way of feeling connected, but we can no longer afford to reinforce our belonging by shaming and othering; the cost is much too high. There is a lot of “us vs. them” going on, and I know that the only way forward is to expand the “us” so that eventually there is no “them.”
I’m not judging myself or any of us for this pattern, but it certainly won’t get us what so many of us are working toward: a world filled with clean air, water, economic and social security, and a welcoming for every being. In order to move forward, we need to bravely work toward expanding “us,” which can be difficult to do in such bifurcated times. It is so easy to slip into the pattern of delineating the “right” people from the “wrong” ones.
The US Constitution is predicated on “we the people,” and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights begins with an acknowledgement that “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.” Neither of these documents say “some people,” they say all people. These documents offer us exquisite foundations upon which to anchor our social movements, and although they have often been perverted, their inherent worth remains.
If we are to create a perfect union, then it is time for us to act accordingly. Not in a few years when the context has changed, but now. In this moment. Today. The polar bears, forests, and watersheds cannot wait as we pickily choose who we will call kin. This restricting and rejecting is almost always done on moral grounds, and “we” are as guilty of it as “they” are.
Let’s interrupt this pattern and start again. Let us take a breath…
In a recent chat with some brilliant young staff members, one of them offered the term “transformational unity”. She spoke of the many leaders in social movements who are working to create relationships that transform and allow for possibilities not yet imagined. I believe that this longing for authentic relationship exists in each human heart, and each of us has the capacity to reach for it in every moment. I’m committed to remembering this.
This reach toward authentic relationship, toward wholeness, is often interrupted by what we’ve learned about each other from our families and society at large. I know what I’ve been taught about the x, y, and z communities, and my interactions with them are colored (or, more often, corrupted) by that toxic load of lies and misinformation. It is our responsibility as leaders to boldly look at what we each carry, and steadily work to clear away that internal rubbish. If we are unwilling to do this, our attempts to reach across divides and create reliable relationships is a farce: a politically correct masquerade that gets us, frankly, nowhere.
The gap between where we currently are and where we aspire to be is where transformation lies. Crossing that gap requires a leap of faith. Being willing to leap – to authentically do the hard and excruciating work of letting go of who we think “we” are, and reaching toward a space with no “they” – puts us in the realm of social transformation. Carrying kindness and compassion in our backpacks can help.
We are almost there. The days of patriarchy and oppression are swiftly drawing to a close. It’s like the ocean: waves are big and fierce right before they break on the shore, and fresh waves are right behind them. It is important that we keep our eyes and hearts on what is coming in because it is precious and deserves careful tending. We must also keep an eye on what is going out; it can be dangerous and merits tending as well.
How we transform is key to what we become. I invite us to relinquish old patterns of “either/or” and embrace the whole, which will be messy and chaotic, but ultimately deeply satisfying. I trust us, and know that we can do this. It’s the best and only thing to do.
My heart to yours,