Freedom is a Mud Pit
What a start to a new year . . . the expected beginning to a dramatic end. The storm clouds were building so the storm has not been a surprise in the least.
I have sat for far too many hours taking in the events of the past couple of days, interacting with my intentionally curated feed on social media, showing responses from “friends” on the right and left. I have clicked on posts supporting Trump and those that vehemently deny him for years. Because I am trying to see it all. I’m trying to understand and hear so I can see a way forward.
To exist in this river of the in between, has been equal parts terrifying, fascinating and enlightening. To see the silos and echo chambers we build, to see the growing fervor and dislike. To fight it in myself. The narratives of Monster and Patriot broadening in depth and reach. I keep saying it, but it’s a real time psychology experiment.
I am fully aware of the responses that this post will receive . . . “You are blind to the truth . . . these criminals must pay . . . our republic is at risk so there’s no room for compromise . . . we have been stolen from and are no longer free . . . all media is lies (except for fringe sources and websites that somehow speak the truth) . . . we are headed for religious oppression . . . Christian values are hated in this culture . . . this country is being taken from me” and on they will go and have. No matter the reason I give, bridging the gap ain’t so popular right now. My left leaning and right leaning friends have both accused me of supporting the other or not coming down hard enough. I laugh often as what they’re suggesting isn’t true in the least.
I don’t deny the reality of evil, nor do I deny the wrongs committed by people in leadership on either side. Ambition and power can yield a turning of a mans’ heart over time. So I will not go line by line commenting on the actions by either party but rather ask that you pause and see how progress is made and start to remove apocalyptic words from your mouth. If we are to see true justice and progress take place, one that sees no political party affiliation, we must settle ourselves. The anger MUST subside.
Because judgement is different than justice. Judgement, if fueled by revenge, under the guise of justice is a scary place to be or encourage. As the statue represents in her blindfolded state, justice should not care about our personal feelings or politics. Justice is to be fair and balanced, unmoved by blog posts, tweets or brief movements in time.
We are a nation of laws and processes. This exact moment in history has shone a bright light on how important they are . . . for democrat and republican alike!! What I often see cross my feed shows incredible bias leading to personal judgement in most instances. But is it fair? Is it balanced? Would it apply if the names or political affiliations were different?
If we fail to recognize that our democracy is not simply designed exclusively for a certain people/political group, we have not become, nor ever were, the nation we profess to be. We were never as free as we like to celebrate. Maybe THAT is the lesson learned. Maybe our national identity is still in process or evolving. Maybe freedom in a democratic republic is destined for perpetual messy. That’s ok as long as we remain committed to and deeply respect transparency, integrity and lawfulness that needs to lie at its foundation. Process can be uncomfortable and painful but doesn’t have to be hateful, driven by fear and revenge.
Justice should identify those who look to rule by oppression or hate and proceed accordingly. But we do not have the patience for that it seems. Instead, we want to overturn and discard huge groups of our population because they are “unAmerican” in entirety. We don’t like who they are, so we label them as “traitors” (as I’ve read on both sides) as that title is judge, jury and sentence. Once we label someone a traitor, it is done. They are silenced. But that label deserves the process of law whether you agree or don’t. Just because someone voted for Trump doesn’t mean they are evil. Just because someone believes in gay marriage doesn’t mean they don’t think family is important. We beat those drums until they’ve settled firm in our hearts and minds. Because that is simple and easy. If I worked in that way, my immediate and extended family would be split down the middle, never to speak again. What a shame that would be!
But if we further cling to narratives supposing that our republic is dead, being taken or seeking to oppress us, it will only move us to hunker down and cement the idea that liberal/conservative neighbor (or family) is not worth your time or patience anymore. That their America is not yours. But that only leads to what we have experienced for the past 4 years which is what???? Imbalance, extreme partisanship, power grabbing and division. The heart of America isn’t being preserved, it’s being torn apart like a kid in the middle of a messy divorce. So what is your part in that? Are you a mediator or screaming parent trying to punish your ex in every way possible?
How can we accept what is so very wrong with our response to the problems and start to deal with them in ways that move an America from the tattered state we exist in now? How do we form common ground on what are our core constitutional values? Not our personal religious beliefs or values, but what do we agree on as a country? We need to reaffirm those.
How do we value life in all stages? How do we protect religious freedom? How do we enable people to exercise free speech? How do we acknowledge the need to care for the most vulnerable in our country? How do we create systems of true equality? How do we disagree without requiring all to bend to our will? How are we going to be comfortable in the uncomfortable? How are we going to restore belief in the systems?
These are big questions that require calm and wise leadership. I don’t profess to know all the answers but I do know that I believe in the process our country is built on. You may not like all of it. I may not either. But to believe it is somehow all being taken from you, is not helpful. Desperation yields blind allegiance. Blind allegiance has no room for recognizing the need or desire to see through the eyes of those you disagree with.
One of the great problems I see in reaching compromise on what “America” is, is a lack of desire to muddle through what freedom actually is and requires! Freedom is the messiest of the messy. It is not a warm blanket but rather calloused hands that remain hard at work. It is the farmer that keeps tilling his field and mending his fences. Winters come but so to does the spring. It’s not your freedom or my freedom but our freedom. So what does it look like?
Your life is better spent committing to community and family to find common ground, not proving a point on social media or watching videos that stir you to deep bitterness. Don’t let people in far removed chambers tear you apart. Don’t let your belief in the system and ability to impact change be eroded to the tribal conclusion that you must save your life and this country through force or bloodshed.
Your voice has not been silenced. Your vote DOES count. You are represented so hold those people to account if you are unhappy. And then do it again. And again. This is not a static country. It never will be. I value that. I do not fear it. I only fear if we remain arthritic in our response. I believe in a layered/dynamic/beautiful/hard/frustrating/hopeful/free/faulty America.
Freedom is messy but I want to be in that mud because that’s right where I believe the heart of America is most at home.