I’m writing this from Ireland, because I’m on my honeymoon. My wife and I have always wanted to visit Scotland and Ireland, and we are very grateful to be here, particularly to get a break from the toxic political culture of the United States. It seems like everything turns into an argument back home, and it always seems to break down along party lines.
According to a recent AP poll, more than 80% of those surveyed think that the country is greatly divided, and 77% are dissatisfied with the state of politics. Isn’t that amazing? We can’t agree on anything, but we can somehow agree that we don’t like the political situation we find ourselves in.
Recently, the issue of sexual assault has been in the forefront of the news stream, thanks to the #MeToo movement and some very high profile cases. The accusations against Brett Kavanaugh and the subsequent frenzy on social media brought a lot of women I know to very dark places, because of the lack of humanity shown by people behind a keyboard. Victims of assault or harassment who were reliving bad memories were bulldozed by people looking to argue, and it seemed to quickly become a completely partisan issue rather than a human one.
For my part, as a musician, I don’t talk partisan politics. From the stage, or on social media. You won’t hear me stumping for one side or another. But I felt like I needed to say something to stand up for the victims in my life, especially with the issue of sexual assault so prominently in the news stream. So, I made a couple of posts on my personal page to remind people that sexual assault is wrong, it happens a lot, and we should all be considerate to folks going through a tough time because of their own experiences.
I was bewildered by what happened next. It turned into a partisan political argument! I started getting all sorts of “likes” from Democrats, while Republicans started getting upset with me. I started hearing that I should “stick to music” and stay out of politics. At no time did I advocate for one party or another. But in our political climate, everything turns ugly fast. I don’t care what’s going on around it; how messed up is our political climate when talking about sexual assault is a “side”?
What happened to us? When did everything become so sharply divided, each of us lumped all the way to one end of a narrow spectrum? I see so much hatred and anger in the way people argue with each other. The group of Christian brothers and sisters that I’m part of, Disciples of Christ, operate under a guiding principle that things are centered around the communion table. There is room for all sorts of different beliefs and backgrounds, so long as we can all meet at the table.
I’m wondering how many folks are willing to do that? It’s not as easy to insult someone or attack them when you aren’t behind a keyboard. In the midst of my posts about sexual assault during the Kavanaugh stuff, a good friend of mine who had a different perspective on some of the issues came to one of my shows. He didn’t skirt the issue; he approached me immediately, told me he was glad that we could disagree and have a conversation about it as friends and adults, hugged me, and told me he loved me.
That’s the only answer, folks. We have to put aside the anger, the bitterness, and the desire to push everything to one side or another. Life is complicated. Messy. Painful. That brokenness is it what makes us, for better or worse, and we need some humanity here. You can’t put an (R) or (D) next to your name and think it gives you license to hate everybody with the opposite letter attached. Listen. Have empathy for others. And above all, be kind.
Let’s make some room at the table.