How words are used matters.
Jewish and Christian sacred text includes these words:
“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”
Right now, our words are not…
Acceptable, that is…
To God or to anyone else.
When our political leaders speak in ways that denigrate other elected officials, they give tacit permission to those who listen to them to speak in the same way to and about those with whom they disagree. When our news outlets speak of every political decision or compromise in terms of winners and losers, they help to create a competitive environment where leaders do all that they can not to be seen or labeled as losers. And, what happens there filters down to here and to me and to my neighbor and to my community. We draw up sides.
Me versus you.
Red versus blue.
Us versus them.
Urban versus rural.
Black versus white versus Latino.
Neighbors become strangers.
We become suspicious of each other.
Something has to give.
Either we are going to draw the line in the sand deeper and wider making it harder to cross or someone has to be strong enough and brave enough to step forward and begin to speak with and about the other side in a different tone of voice, and challenge the language and the rhetoric of those who constantly belittle and demean. Maybe that is just wishful thinking in the arena of hardball politics, but I am afraid if we don’t find a better way forward the fabric of our communal life and common good will become much more frayed than it already is.
But, here is the other side of the equation…
What if the rhetoric we hear from our elected officials is merely reflective of what is at play in our communities? Where you and I live? What if they are merely saying out loud and in front of a camera what we whisper to each other on the street corners about those who are different or who think differently than we do? If that is the case then it is not their problem, but our problem. Then you and I need to be the ones to find better, more civil ways to talk to and with each other. Maybe if it starts here, it will filter up. Maybe if you and I can find a way to do it, we will become the model for our elected officials to do it as well.
Rather than looking elsewhere,
Maybe you and I are the ones who need to be the leaders right now.