Letting In The Light

The sun seems to rise late this morning; it's a sort of pale late-fall light, the kind where one doubts its ability to lighten up the entire sky, but in the end, the light seeps through the windowpane and a new day dawns again. By this time my brain has absorbed the election news of the day before. Shock and awe quickly give way to anxiety and fear. How did this happen? How do we explain this to our children, much less to ourselves? How can we endorse bigotry and reward narcissism? The despair is tangible; it is real. The pain that each side of the proverbial aisle is feeling is great; on both sides strong enough so that many felt they had to push through conscious misgivings to cast a vote for a candidate that they had no moral connection with, no respect for.

For many, any sort of involvement in politics assumed some sort of idealism, a degree of naiveté. My extended family is from Argentina where many have long since abandoned political ideals due to rampant corruption. For several years my husband and I lived in central London in the UK and many British friends were bemused on our tendency to believe in hope for change, that we could be the change, and we often heard that, semi-condescending, 'how optimistically American of you' refrain. Call me stubborn but I've long since held fast to the notion that we are all in this together; that as a community we can roll up sleeves, stand shoulder to shoulder and confront common ground issues such as tyranny, bigotry, misogyny. It takes a village they say, and it also takes a country. And yet.

This recent chasm has me thinking that something has been lost. And that has been stirring up in my spirit for some time. At times I've observed that around our interaction with technology, how it's reduced essential democratic discourse to mere soundbites, not to mention how it is easier than ever to surround ourselves with what we want to hear media-wise. A sense of community at-large has eroded; we lead more transient lives than any other generation before us. Any sense of civic duty seems almost quaint; any attempt at dialogue is shot down with 'I don't want to talk politics'. Democratic discourse rests ultimately on wrestling through complex ideas and decisions in a public realm. When life is too harried or it becomes too stressful to dialogue in a civil fashion, what ironically emerges seems to be the extremes, the vitriol and the hyperbole, rather than a pursuit for compromise, for truth, for understanding.

Dostoevsky has said that 'beauty will save the world' and I rest in that hope; that we will desire to seek truth as a community and wrestle with the hard decisions of healthcare, education, taxes, international affairs, amongst others. There is no quick fix to be found; we will need to seek to understand more than to be understood but I believe that by doing that, we will unearth beauty; beauty that can be found in the breakdown and the beauty that emerges in the rebuilding of hearts and fences. May it be so.