Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Road Home

From the bean of Green Bean.

"We are not as divided as our politics suggest."

At 11:01 p.m. on November 4, 2008, people broke out into celebration. Stopping their cars on expressways. Amassing in front of the White House. Shouting out of suburban windows.

Some people.

Some people quietly turned off their television sets and went to bed. With fear in their hearts. With worry in their stomachs.

I was one of those celebrating in the street. My candidate, Barack Obama, had been elected President of the United States. But I know how those other people felt. The people who voted for the other guy. I've been there before. Two elections in a row.

We've all been there at some point.

And even as we embrace President Elect Obama and revel in his "landslide" victory, let us remember that, while he did the popular vote by a decent margin, a little less than half of America voted the other way.

We are still a country divided.

During the campaign, Vice President Elect Joe Biden was heckled by McCain protesters. He urged those in the crowd to keep an open mind and heart where the protesters were concerned. We've got to reach out to them, he said. And indeed we do.

We have much to do in this country. Our economy is in shambles. Our planet in peril. Our educational system has been gutted. Terrorism and war and poverty and injustice rocks the globe. We have much to do and we cannot go it alone.

On election day, I listened to callers on NPR planning election-watching parties. Most callers acknowledged that they would be watching with like-minded friends and family. And why not? It is mighty uncomfortable to watch with those with whom you vehemently disagree. No politics or religion is often the rule at family gatherings for good reason.

Perhaps that is why Proposition 8 - the ban on gay marriage passed - in California. Those voting to ban gay marriage likely don't know any one gay. They likely don't know my brother-in-law, his husband and their beautiful daughter. They don't know that he and his partner have been together for a decade. That he devotes his life to teaching Spanish and English to middle schoolers. That he eats too much chocolate. And that his favorite place to visit is Disneyland. If they did, they might have voted differently - just like this gentleman.

It is not just those on the political right that need to open their eyes, expand their social circles. We on the left are just as guilty.

I assumed all Evangelical Christians were the same - and not in a good way - until I met some intrepid eco-Evangelical bloggers here in cyber-space. My assumptions were wrong. My judgments, small-minded. Turns out, they are people too. Very nice ones, I might add, who care about the environment, about poverty, about justice, about their families.

If we don't get to know one another, how can we expect to change things? If we don't talk to people who believe differently, how we can work together? How can we deal with climate change, the energy crises? How can we rebuild the economy or our food system?

The road home is a long one. I plan to grab a few non-like-minded friends for company. There will be plenty of time to talk and, on the way, we might find we're not so divided after all.


ruchi aka arduous said...

Beautiful post, GB. I've been meaning to write a post on exactly this for days, but I think you've said it better than I could!! :)

Burbanmom said...

Well put, GB. Now is the time for us to drop the "blue vs. red" attitude and instead adopt a "let's work together" attitude. We can't expect government to do it all - we, the citizens, need to stay involved to help our country.

Anonymous said...

Your open mind is impressive.

Bobbi said...

Good stuff, as usual. I met a woman at an Obama party this weekend who said she had always been interested in doing some kind of little salon so people of different opinions could meet and talk. Me too! In fact we had both heard of those Utne salons of years back. We exchanged numbers. More marching orders pour moi!

kidletsmum said...

Beautiful post. Meeting people online has helped me open my mind too. I have friends from all walks of life-- conservative, liberal, Christian, Muslim, aetheist-- and we all think differently and have different ideas. But it seems that everyone wants a safe, healthy world for their children. That, if anything, unites us.

JessTrev said...

Hear, hear. Time for union because the tasks ahead are so daunting.

Green Bean said...

Ruchi: Thank you! I'm glad this is on other folks' minds.

Burbs: Indeed we cannot expect govt to do it all. Ask not what your country can do for you . . . Let's keep our voices loud and strong and start listening to other folks.

Domestic Accident: That's a nice thought. I don't know how open it is but I will say that I do try and try fairly hard to find common ground. After so many years of our presidents being elected by a small shift in the population and in being faced with so many major problems, I'd like to turn the map purple and leave the us v. them mentality behind us.

Bobbi: Thank you. Awesome idea of a Salon. Why have we left those arenas in the dust? They were so helpful in forming this country. And let's be honest, how much can we learn from folks if we all believe the same thing.

Kidlets: "safe, healthy world for their children" Exactly! We aren't as different as we assume.

Joyce said...

GB, and others commenting here, thank you.

"The road home is a long one. I plan to grab a few non-like-minded friends for company. There will be plenty of time to talk and, on the way, we might find we're not so divided after all."

When I opened up this post this morning, I had to have a little cry. It's easy to stay comfortably surrounded by those with whom you agree, but it accomplishes nothing when we do. There is always a way to find common ground if we try hard enough. Let's walk on down that road together and see what happens. I think it will be good.

Green Bean said...

Joyce, you've always been an inspiration to me in this regard. You dove right into this liberal bloggy stew with such class, openness and desire to find common ground. Will you walk with me a while?

Melinda said...

What a great, smart post GB! Thank you for the Daily Dish link - loved, loved, loved that story. Brought tears to my eyes. I just wrote a post that I thought was a rallying call on the Simple Green Frugal Co-op. And my hopes were at least somewhat dashed by the second comment there... I think I have a lot to learn about evangelical thinking. The comment shows a big divide.

I wonder how we will cross that divide... it's worth spending a good deal of time thinking about!

fullfreezer said...

Thank you for a beautiful post. I have many friends, both online and nearby who are as varied as the leaves on the trees. Some gay, some straight, some evangelicals, some who practice even older religions or none at all. It is the variety that keeps life interesting. Yes, it will be a long road. But, really, we are all more alike than different and all want the same thing in the end.

Joyce said...

Melinda, the commenter you refer to is a bit out of the mainstream, I think. In my opinion, you probably wouldn't want to assume that all Christians take that interpretation of the end times.

Anna said...

You really hit the nail on the head. Perhaps if we spent more time listening and getting to know each other, we would find that we have more in common than our differences.

There is strength in numbers. Beautiful post.

CindyW said...

Right on GB. There will always be occasions that people with different political, religious or cultural views cannot form alliances. But automatically dividing people into us and them is never a winning strategy.

People can surprise you in a big way. My MIL, a 74 year old mild-case racist living in the south, went canvassing for Obama. I would have never never in my wildest dream imagined that.

My very very conservative friend vehemently voted against prop 8 because one of his best friends was gay - yeah, he knows him as a friend, not an abstract gay persona.

We've got a long way to go, because we have made the first step. I am hopeful.

Green Bean said...

Melinda: Love the post - especially the title! I understand how you could be bummed by that comment. And I appreciate Joyce's insight (once again, Joyce, you're handy to have around!). There seems to be a movement amongst Evangelicals and other religious groups toward Stewardship. I remember Joyce and Donna reading Serve God, Save the Planet and maybe another book. In Green Collar Economy, Van Jones specifically speaks to the importance of including religious groups in the green movement. I know we are all working toward a common goal.

Fullfreezer: "we are more alike than we are different." Hear, hear!

Anna: There IS strength in numbers. At a dinner party last weekend, one of the guests mentioned how divisive the old blue/red maps are - they further divide the country and set us apart. They make us seem so different. We are not.

Cindy: I think there are always issues where we have to agree to disagree. But there are also many where we find common ground where we thought none. Your reports of your MIL and friend give me hope. Thanks for sharing them.

kale for sale said...

People I love dearly and know are good did not vote the same way as I on Proposition 8 and because I love them I can't make villans of them. It would almost be easier if I could because standing in the gray area is uncomfortable. I mean, if I'm right they're wrong, right? But the same goes the other way too and then we're divided. But if they could know your brother in law or my hair dresser or next door neighbors they would have to stand to in the gray area too and then we'd all be a little uncomfortable together but we'd have a place in common. But you said all that. Thanks for letting me say it too. Great post!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing this post. My eyes have certainly been opened since I started blogging and meeting all kinds of people from both the right and left and top and bottom who care about the earth and each other.

Green Bean said...

Katrina: You are right. People I know and love voted differently than me on Prop 8 and the election. Guess what? Like you, I still love them and if we talk about the issues, I might understand their concerns a bit more.

Beth: I agree. Blogging has really opened my eyes and my heart. In fact, I'd challenge everyone to find a blog of someone who thinks differently than they and read it weekly. I'm not suggesting one of those blogs where people foam at the mouth in their hatred for the other side but a blog written by someone reasonable with similar but different views. I'd recommend the eco-Evangelical links in my post for lefties. Here are some fabulous women who care about a lot of the same things we do, and have a few different opinions on other things.

Abbie said...

My dad's very upset about Obama's victory. He said he saw the Obama's plan for an inheritance tax of 48%, when it had been zero. (I admit, I haven't yet done the research... I plan to do it and write a post, so at this time, I'm just going on my dad's word.) Anway, what this means is that we will lose our farm. When my grandparents die and leave the farm to their 5 children, in order to pay the tax, they'll have to sell the farm. SELL THE FARM that's been in our family since 1669. I'm tearing up right now. It's such a horrible thought. I'm going to spend some time doing a lot of research about it and see what our best options are. I really hope that this is not the case, but I just wanted to add this comment because when my family is sad Obama got elected (and I voted for him), it's because they see the end of our heritage in the future.

Joyce said...

Abbie's concerns are shared by many farmers in my area, too. They appear to be wealthy on paper because they own farmland, but that has been their family's small business, essentially, for many generations. It's very scary.

I feel I need to add one thing, and I know this will be hard for some people to understand. We have good friends who are gay. Gay people don't just live in California, of course. We love these people (one young man in particular), and they know it. He's been to our home on many occasions. He also knows that we have reasons for opposing gay marriage, and he respects that. Those reasons have nothing to do with hating gay people, or not taking the time to make friends with gay people. It's important to realize that our stand is not made because of sheer ignorant bigotry, any more than our pro-life stand is made that way. Taking a principled stand, no matter which side of the issue you are on, means there will be people who disagree with you. It's a given in a democracy.

Anyway, none of that has to do with the environment, and that's the focus of this blogging community, isn't it? We can certainly see eye to eye on that!

Mama said...

Great post as usual! I am a trepid eco-envangelical blogger as well, and sometimes find myself at odds with lots of people! I understand what Joyce says when she says it's so much easier to just stay around the people that agree. But we can never grow that way. So much of who I am has grown out of challenges from people I have disagreed with. It can be hard to see that the person you disagree with loves their country and the environment too! We all want a healthy planet, and a strong nation for our children....holding hands and walking down that road is essential to accomplishing those goals. Thanks for the post!

Green Bean said...

Abbie: I'm very sorry to read about the implications of an Obama-tax plan for farmers and how you must feel about it. Let's hope that it never gets to that. Yours is the type of farms we need to preserve. If the tax situation gets closer to that, let's take a page out of Obama's book and harness the power of the Internet, of blogs, of Facebook, of Twitter and emails to make your family's voice heard.

Joyce: Really?? There are gay people in Illinois? ;-) I appreciate your willingness to share your thoughts about Prop 8 and gay marriage. I strongly disagree with you on that topic but isn't that the point of your comment? That we can still really like someone as a person and disagree. And that's okay. So long as we remember that those with whom we disagree are people, are friends and family.

Mama: Look at all your Evangelical eco bloggers coming out of the woodwork! ;-) I'm delighted to have a more diverse viewpoint on the green blogosphere. I agree that disagreeing and challenging each other makes us grow. If we only surround ourselves with belief-clones of ourselves, we'll never grow. Thank you for the comment.

Natalie said...

I appreciate the Big Tent philosophy. Each of us has our own agenda. And we need to work together respectfully with those with whom we disagree on certain topics.

I am not overly partisan by nature. I love a good two-sided discussion. And I hate, HATE, the manipulation of wedge issues in order to keep us divided. However I'm much more concerned about the environment than I am about Gay Rights. As horrible as this sounds, I think Gay Marriage is a luxury compared to the immediacy of Climate Change. That said...

There may be a demonstrable scientific cause-and-effect for Climate Change. But it's really being driven by social issues. At the heart of Enivronmental Degradation are the issues of Equality and Fairness and Social Justice. And as long as those of us *with power* continue to use it to control and limit those *without power*, none of us will ever be free. None of our environmental problems will be solved without addressing the root cause.

Of course, allowing gay couples to legally marry isn't going to resolve Climate Change. But someone's views on issues like Prop 8 is clearly indicative of how that person views their own place in this world.

Obviously some folks disagree with my interpretation of the phrase (and strongly held belief), "all people are created equal". I don't know how far I can move the "enviro-ball" down the field without a commonly held definition of Equality.

I feel like there is so much work to be done. And done quickly. I hate that I'm picking on this issue, falling victim to the wedge. But I don't know how to resolve my internal conflict on these issues... ??

Natalie said...

Just to be absolutely clear - I believe ALL people should be afforded the same rights and privileges under the law. No exceptions.


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