She walked into my office with tears in her eyes, frumpy clothes, and an engagement ring twisted sideways.
She is an immigrant from the Middle East and a religious Muslim engaged to a North American, White man. She told me of a repeating argument that had left them waging a painful relational war.
He protected his vote for Trump with intelligent rhetoric and case studies, while she fought to have her minority position respected by a man of privilege- the man who was supposed to be her eternal ally.
Their battle wasn’t about winning a rhetorical debate. It was about power- the power to convince their loved one into respecting their deepest values.
But this relational tug-of-war isn’t only targeting flourishing relationships, it’s splitting our country, churches, and families with intensity we’ve never seen before.
On the political battleground, one hill is covered by the conservative-minded who fear their socioreligious comfort will be disrupted by sexual and ethnic minorities. They fear diversity and attack because they want to protect the moral and cultural climates that have kept them comfortable their entire lives.
On the other hill stand the progressives. Those of us who strive for equality feel as though our spot at the table is being blocked. Our minority strain leaves our allies and us frustrated that our counterparts have remained fixed on outdated moral standards. We’re eager to create a better society, not by stripping conservatives of their values, but by expanding them; conservatives will not loose safety while ours expands.
“...conservatives will not loose safety while ours expands.”
Essentially, some are afraid of loosing power, while others are afraid of never being equal within it.
The race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump has completely exposed the relational rift that has afflicted the Church, communities, and families for decades. Its depth is up to consciousness now. We have geographical charts and political graphs for it. We’re identifying the line in the sand with more certainty than ever before.
We’ve seen churches and families dividing as the gay debate hit. Religious parents wanted to protect their churches and LGBT+ children from peril, while their gay and trans children ached for unconditional positive regard.
We’ve continued to feel the laceration between #BlackLivesMatter supporters and those who cling to #AllLivesMatter. Some are afraid that if #BlackLivesMatter so much they won’t matter at all.
And while we see an increase in xenophobia directed towards our Muslim neighbors, all of us who call the United States of America home complete another round of our repeating argument. We’ve become too comfortable with getting too angry.
But patriotism isn’t perfected if prejudice remains. If it were, it can only represent the willingness to uphold civic laws that tear down human dignity. You see, many of us have confused the power of earning respect with the power to dominate and disassociate. The young engaged couple had to learn this lesson, too.
We hardly talked about Hillary or Trump after the first 15 minutes of our session. The young couple realized that their battle wasn’t political, but that they were fighting to create relational safety.
Once the young man started to express his young bride’s fear and desire to be protected, she softened. When she realized that he wasn’t asking to be right, just respected, she became workable.
Even while they couldn’t agree, they both left feeling respected and cherished.
It’s true that many of us are more eager to deny the relational process that propagates human dignity than unleash its beauty. We’re in the day and age when all we want to be safe and respected. We have to stop opposing one another, even if our opinions do.