Dear Republican friends and readers,
Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I promise that I’m not writing to gloat, but to reach out to you. First, my sincere wishes for comfort and peace if you truly believe in Romney and now feel a little or a lot despair. I know how this feels from past elections, and even more so, from living in a state (Kansas) where the most conservative wing of the Republican party controls much of our state government and does all kinds of things that hurt my heart and go against my convictions.
I’m writing you because the polarization in our country — that puts you on one side and me on the other, and that is turbocharged by politics-as-usual, ratings-driven mass media, and pundits on both sides (some that give me guilty pleasures, and some that please you) — rips apart the ground for real dialogue. Infused with fear on all sides, this polarization makes us scared of each others’ strategies, plans and motives. Furthermore, it dehumanizes the candidates into caricatures of extremes. I believe it is the outrageous money velcroed to politics, media and other institutions that turns good people into attack dogs and away from each other.
If we engage in true bipartisan and civil dialogue and, at the same time, vote with our feet when it comes to not further fanning the flames of big-hype-demonization (click the mouse or turn the channel to something more thoughtful than which-candidate-gets-the-magic-rose dramas), we can step onto both new and old ground for real progress. It’s new ground in comparison to where we are now but old ground when you consider politicians who truly reached across the aisle more 20, even 10 years ago (Bob Dole, for example).
What does real dialogue look like? More listening without trying to change someone’s point-of-view. Less buzz words. More vulnerability and willingness to explain why, how and what. Less sound bites or easy dismissals. More acceptance that compromising on practical solutions doesn’t mean compromising on our values, but it’s simply part of the human dynamic of two steps back, three steps forward in how to compassionately engage in conflict. A recognition of how hard change is for all of us, how much is always at stake, and most of all, how overlapping our deepest beliefs and callings truly are.
Mitt Romney, in his concession speech, said:
The nation, as you know, is at a critical point. At a time like this we can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing. Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people’s work, and we citizens also have to rise to occasion. We look to our teachers and professors. We count on you not just to teach, but to inspire our children with a passion for learning and discovery. We look to our pastors and priests and rabbis and counselors of all kinds to testify of the enduring principles upon which our society is built: Honesty, charity, integrity, and family. We look to our parents. Fromm the final analysis, everything depends on the success of our homes. We look to job-creators of all kinds. We’re counting on you to invest, to hire, to step forward, and we look to Democrats and Republicans in government at all levels to put the people before the politics.
Barack Obama, in his acceptance speech, said:
I’ve never been more hopeful about America. And I ask you to sustain that hope. I’m not talking about blind optimism. The kind of hope that just ignores the enormity of the tasks ahead or the road blocks that stand in our path. I’m not talking about the wishful idealism that allows us to just sit on the sidelines or shirk from a fight. I have always believed that hope is that stubborn thing inside of us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching to keep working, to keep fighting.
Despite and because all each said when attacking the other’s plans, strategies, beliefs and histories, the statements they made last night have a special weight, the kind that reminds us to look toward how our culture is composed, held together, and changed, and how much real hope depends on everyday words and deeds.
Finally, as I know many moderate Republicans who feel alienated from their own party or at least mightily marginalized, I wish you all well in growing a bigger tent where you can fully engage in sharing and working through your differences with each other and the Democratic party. For those of you who feel fully at home in your party, just like I do in the Democratic party, I wish the kind of openness and reaching out that welcomes true dialogue, diversity and real wrangling with conflict.
What matters most, in the end, is how we speak to and care for one another; how we reach out beyond habitual patterns to foster greater kindness in the world. With sincere sweetest wishes for all,