Last week I wrote the following on my blog, Diary of a Mom, as part of a larger post. Although it related to the autism community in particular, a number of readers quickly pointed out that it also relates to the current state of our world quite generally and that perhaps it would be better placed here.
At a time when our political rhetoric is so heated that the media regularly ascribes to it the word WAR -- the WAR on women, the WAR on religion, the WAR on reproductive rights, the WAR on motherhood (and one that I would add: the WAR on civility) -- it seems that we all could use a reminder of what the stakes really are.
Because when we stop talking, we've lost everything. And because when we go to war, the real casualties are the ones we'd never want to hurt.
Why don't I walk away from people in this community who are -- or are at least perceived to be -- divisive?
This is why:
Because if I do, then I've allowed them to divide ME. I've given them the power to categorize me, to put me in a box with whatever label fits NOT THEM. And I'm not willing to get into that box, nor any other.
Because if I walk away, the dialogue stops.
Because if I walk away, then I no longer have a voice in molding how things happen within an entire segment -- the now NOT ME segment -- of the community.
Because if I walk away, then I've stopped listening.
Because I can retreat to safety and talk all day with people who share my views and therefore always think I'm right. But as delightful as a chorus of Amens may be, they will never force me to examine my thinking, deconstruct my own prejudices and grow, evolve and change in the way that my girl needs me to.
Because if I walk away, then I have given up the right to ask anyone else to examine THEIR thinking -- deconstruct THEIR prejudices and grow, evolve and change in the way that my girl needs THEM to.
I have changed dramatically since starting this journey nearly six years ago. I don't doubt that I will be able to say six years hence that I've changed even more. I sure as hell hope I can.
Individuals evolve. Hearts open. Organizations evolve. Perspectives change. Advocacy evolves. We move forward. Society evolves. It has to.
Nothing will open, change, move or evolve if we walk away from each other. No matter how divisive you may believe someone is, no matter how wrong-headed you find an organization to be, I challenge you to engage them anyway.
If you don't, if I don't, NOTHING will change. And the ones who will lose the most aren't going to be US or THEM -- it's going to be our children.
So say what you will, my dears, but I will continue to talk with and work with those who you may find unpalatable. Hell, I'll even continue to work with those who (whom? I'm never sure) I find unpalatable. Because when I stop engaging in conversation with ANYONE, I've failed. And I may be able to live with failing myself, but I refuse to fail them...
Jess can be found at Diary of a Mom
Photo by Jess Wilson