Democracy

Commentator: 
Rev. Gayle Catinella
Audio: 
Download: Audio icon 00148.mp3
Transcript: 

 When my son Phil was about 8, his elementary school started a wrestling
club. He and his brothers were interested so we signed them up. It was
right after school and I would watch them practice when I could. I always
saw the same thing.

At the start of the practice the coach would demonstrate whatever he
wanted them to learn, and then broke them up into smaller groups and had
them work on the new skill. When I watched Phil, he would always lose the
first round, and then he would pin that person the second time around in
about a minute. Then the opponent would win, and then Phil would win. It
was clear that Phil was almost always the better wrestler by far, and not
just because I am his mother. But he would always let the opponent win as
much as he did.

As I caught on to what was actually happening I casually mentioned to Phil
that this was not how it was supposed to go. You know, winning was the
point. And he would just smile, like I had a lot to learn. His gentle
generosity has always been a moving example for me, and I am grateful for
it.

In so many ways right now, winning seems to be the most important thing.
There are no concessions, and very little discussion. You either agree with
me or you are wrong, and if you disagree with me enough, I will block you
and find an opinion more to my liking. Our country has lost its ability to
listen with reasonable respect. We have lost the center and live in the
extremes, and it is literally killing us.

What I find most disheartening is the binary view that there are nice people
or not nice people, good people or bad people. We see this represented in
the choice to wear masks, how you imagine the future of policing, or views
on racism. Depending on your point of view, you are good and the other
person is bad. And we can’t seem to get past that.

I know people who hold views and make choices very different from my
own. I know they are good people who do good things in the world.

The blessing of knowing them is the reminder that there are not just two
choices, good and bad, right and wrong, my way or the highway. I see that
they are wonderful parents, generous to the community, kind to elders,
reading the same book I am reading. I see that there are more potential
connections than I might have realized but only because I looked past what
we disagree on.

But we have to look, I have to want to find this connection and respect. It is
certainly easier to say that they are “them” and dismiss them as tragically
mislead. I am not saying that we have to then come to an agreement on
everything. I will probably not change my position much. That isn’t the goal.
The goal is respect and seeing good in everyone and believing in the good
in everyone. The goal is the possibility of compromise and civility in a world
that is desperate for just that. Maybe the goal is staying in a conversation
for more than a few minutes.

Here is the bottom line, it doesn’t matter who wins in November if we don’t
do the work of becoming a democracy again. A democracy where everyone
is valued, where everyone has a right to their own opinion, where the
common good is our goal, where we don’t have to agree but we have to
take care of each other. If we don’t do this, we will continue this freefall into
selfishness and worship of our individual rights that can only lead to violent
tyranny.

So how do we do this? We listen more than we talk, we don’t dismiss
people because we know they are different. We hold to a standard of
kindness and compassion that moves us past judgement. But mostly we
have conversations that are specifically about finding what we share and
value, finding the connections. There is a deep bond that is created when
we listen to someone’s story.

I am tired of the hatred, tired of the meanness, tired of the cruelty. I am
ready to listen. Tell me your story. There is more to be done, but we can
start there.