Monday, November 14, 2016

Grape #31: Choose Kindness

This reflection isn't about politics. It's about morality.

I have seen darkness, bullying, and hatred from my Republican friends and family members. I have also seen darkness, bullying, and hatred from my Democrat friends and family members. Darkness, bullying, and hatred do not show up in the soul of a person based on how they vote. This truth comes with some much-needed clarifications though.

When we speak of basic moral principles, there is a darkness in our country right now that we all, regardless of our political backgrounds and opinions, need to stop. It is a darkness that says that a person is somehow less than we are because of their skin color, gender, sexuality, religion, or nationality. These are moral absolutes that you either comprehend or fail to comprehend, and if you cannot get past that last sentence without agreeing 100%, your soul is sick, and I pray you find healing soon.

But here is a another great sickness that has invaded people of every political, sexual, religious, and ethnic equation. It is the disease of bullying, and it infects a person so much, they act without thinking or feeling in their pursuit of hurting other people. They mock people boldly on Facebook. They "slut shame", they bully, and they demean their fellow human beings in many corrosive, acidic, and disgusting ways, and it needs to stop right now.

We cannot hope to change this world for the better, to unite our country or our world, through hatred. No dark room can be brightened by bringing the darkness from another room into it. The dark can only be vanquished by the light.

To be clear, I'm not talking about the very real importance of defending yourself from danger, whether imminent and physical or widespread and political. I am in no way advocating for silence or acceptance of hatred and violence. But when we have the opportunity to discuss, argue, and debate important matters, no one will be helped by using that opportunity to share a demeaning picture or post online. I say this not as a perfect person who has never done this, but as a very imperfect person who has done it, and knows it's wrong.

The darkness I see out there is coming from people on the left and the right. I believe slut shaming Melania Trump is wrong. I believe mocking President Obama's name is wrong. I believe mocking Donald Trump for his hair is wrong. I believe calling a human being a spic, a nigger, or a faggot is wrong. I believe making fun of Chris Christie for his waist size is wrong. I believe hating someone for being a Republican or a Democrat is wrong. And don't tell me you're just calling out hypocrisy or you're dishing back what others give out, because two wrongs never made anything right.

Here's what else I know.

Politics has nothing to do with hatred, judgment, and dismissal of human beings because of their race, religion, sexuality, gender, and so on. When a human being, whether he's the President-elect or just the guy selling you your coffee, tells people that violence is a good thing, and hatred is a good thing, you need to use your own brain, your own heart, and your own soul, and realize that person is wrong. You need to call it out when it's safe to do so, and you need to make sure your friends and family members do the same.

You need to know, without any doubt in your mind, that hatred, violence, and bullying are wrong. This is not my opinion or my political belief. This is Morality 101, and I'm alarmed that so many human beings have not yet passed this entry-level class.

We are called to be kinder. We are called to be gentler. We are called to be more compassionate, loving human beings. This is not a religious calling or a political preference. This is a basic moral principle, and it's what keeps us all from killing one another.

The United States right now is filled with people who are scared. Respect that. Feel compassion for that. Try your best to understand that. If your only response is to mock people who are protesting, or crying, or shouting their grief and fear out into the wind, you are the problem. You are the sickness that has infiltrated this country and our world. If your first inclination is to laugh and to make fun of your fellow citizens, even those of opposing political parties, you are a sick-souled person. And again, I say this as someone who has done this myself. I'm not perfect, but I will forever believe we should all strive to be more perfect than we are.

I am a man who was raised a Christian but who found Christ outside the church more than within. I was an altar boy in grade school, a Bishop's server in high school, and a monk in college. I walked the walk and I talked the talk. And even though I have been heading away from "the church" for almost 20 years now since leaving the religious life, I have learned that basic moral principles have never been the property of religion. Morality instead forms an arc of love over us all. And though this moral arc can absolutely be found inside the walls of temples, mosques, and churches, it is not at all dependent on religious background, teaching, or even belief in order to be found.

So here we are today, a country split in half with differences and fed by anger and hatred. We are broken, and we need to acknowledge that brokenness. We cannot hope to mend this division until we first fully acknowledge that we are a nation of vastly different people with vastly different opinions that has been torn open and wounded.

Our agreement to certain moral absolutes is the foundation on which all laws and differences of political opinion are based. We agree that violence is wrong, that all men are created equal, that citizens are innocent until proven guilty, and that love is always, always, always greater than hate.

So I pray, for those who will read this, that you go back to your social media feeds or your desks at the office or at school, and you try your very best to keep kindness and love in your heart. Bringing darkness and hatred to a dark situation will do nothing. What is now, is now. What will be, will be. Your kindness and your love, even to the point of kindly telling your friends and family members that their social media posts are hateful, will make our moral arc that much stronger, and it will protect us that much more.

Choose kindness. Choose strength when you need to defend the defenseless, or even yourself, but whenever possible, I beg you to seek out and spread kindness. Be kind even with the sick-souled who don't see how sick-souled they are. Be loving with those who seem to be unlovable. And yes, you can still do this with strength and volume in your voice in the pursuit of healing our country's soul.

The moral arc that surrounds us needs feeding and constant upkeep. Our world needs more and more love, now more than ever before. What will be, will be, but what will be can be made better because of kindness. Choose kindness. Be Kindness. And be gentle, with yourself as much as with others. It isn't the solution to all our problems, but it is a much more powerful tool to take with us through our day than hatred.
Because in a world where even our political leaders are encouraging violence and hatred, it is your moral responsibility to preach out for a kinder world.

I pray for us all: Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and all those who are watching our country right now on the world stage. May we ALL make the choice today, right now, to not just choose this kindness for ourselves, but to do our best to teach our families, our friends, and our communities to choose this kindness as well. Fight the good fight in dialogue and discussion, and yes, even in political fervor, but do so always with kindness in your thoughts, your words, and your heart. We can be better than this. We are better than this. And it's time we changed.