by Christina Forrester
This health, economic and social crisis has come upon us here in America at a time when we are sharply divided. Political and social tribalism, helped out by social media, is at its peak. Cancel culture is rampant, families are split apart, entire religious denominations are split apart and non-denominational churches throughout America are, as well. Adding the kind of crisis we have been faced with on top of our already-divided nation can lead us in one of two ways: we can divide further and allow fear to feed this division so that we go to war with one another, or something new can begin to take place. We can begin to see humanity, not labels. We can see neighbors in need, not political opponents. We can listen to another voice besides the ones trying to further separate us.
We have to understand that so much of what is happening now is being driven by fear, no matter what side you are on. I wish we would not mock people for their fears…as if their fears are less significant or less important than your own. I wish we could all take a collective, national breath and look at the humanity of what is happening instead of the labels…that we could see past our own fears long enough to have a moment of empathy, validation for the fears of the other side. Because what we really have here are two sides that are afraid on a gut-level of survival.
On one side it is fear of contracting a deadly disease or their loved ones contracting it and dying. Some of the media narrative has been done in a way to provoke fear and terror. As a result, many are so terrified that when they see actions by the other side, it is like a personal attack to them – a threat to their own health and well-being of their families. It is personal. Then the other side fears government overreach and losing their freedoms, as well as losing economic security: losing their homes, not being able to feed their families, bills going unpaid, and seeing those they love sink deeper into an economic hole they may never recover from. The President then provokes them further, stoking their fears to the point of even suggesting violence – saying to them that their freedoms are under assault, the economy is tanking, and in order to protect that freedom, and survive, they must make a strong show of force. They see the attacks and mockery from the other side as a personal assault on the country they love, the freedom they so value, and on the economic security of themselves and their families. It is for them, also, personal.
Both fears are valid. If only both sides could stop the mocking for a moment and see the humanity of what is happening. I believe this is what Jesus would want us to do. Love our neighbor, no matter who that neighbor is or how much we may agree or disagree with them.
I can understand and sympathize with the predicament of those losing their income, afraid their freedoms are being infringed upon. I can also empathize with those in fear of getting sick, of their parents or grandparents getting sick. I have parents, and I have asthma, making me more at risk. I also care about the economy and restricting of freedoms. There is room for all Americans and all their concerns if we only had leadership to bring us together instead of divide us further. Real leadership would speak to the fears of one side, telling them they agree that freedom and the Constitution matter, and that these restrictions should be seen as temporary measures and not a political tool. They would explain we all have to come together as a community. They would also validate the feelings of those in fear of the virus, and of opening too quickly. They would assure them that everything possible is being done to ensure safety and their health and that of their families matter – giving a sense of peace and assurance.
A true leader must rise above politics in a time of crisis, and assure both sides of the validity of their concerns. The problem is right now we do not have leadership coming from the top – we have a man bent on stoking more fears and more division. That is the only playbook he knows. His playbook is so inflexible, he went to blaming Obama for not having adequate Covid-19 tests, as though the Obama administration was supposed to predict the pandemic three years in advance! He has no desire to bring together Americans, calm the atmosphere, empathize or mourn with those grieving the loss of their loved ones.
If only one side could stop the mocking for a moment and see the humanity of what is happening…see past their own fears long enough to have a moment of empathy, validation for the fears of the other side. Because those of us in the middle, taking a bit from each side – wanting a moderate, balanced approach to protecting both the economy, personal freedoms AND health and safety….we are attacked from both sides, and often the great middle are not as loud. This is becoming the new silent majority. Those who do not want to engage in the tribalism that has overtaken politics, culture and society. Who do not adhere to the rules that say: “Fall in line! And if you don’t, you are a deplorable and we will cancel you!” as says one side. Or “Fall in line! And if you don’t, you are a snowflake and we will bully you!” as says the other side.
Why don’t we who still believe non-conformity and critical thinking are important, that values like loving our neighbor whoever that neighbor is and whatever disagreements we have are still important, use our collective power in numbers to simply be louder than all the shouting? Why don’t we let common sense win! Maybe we can begin to lead the way in shaping a way to bring back the “United” in the United States of America. And maybe we can show what the humility and love of Christ means in a whole new way.
Christina Forrester is the Founder and Executive Director of Christian Democrats of America. Follow her on Twitter @Christinaof9 or Facebook.