We think we understand.
But, we don’t.
We don’t spend enough time with each other.
We don’t walk in their neighborhoods.
We don’t ride in their cars.
We don’t sit on their porches.
And, they don’t sit on ours.
And, so we project our understanding on them and see their world through our eyes.
Last week I spent six days in the heart of Appalachia.
A handful of miles from where 29 miners were killed in the Upper Big Branch mine explosion six years ago. My week living and working there didn’t change my views about coal or the need for renewable energy, but for a few moments I did live with the heartbreak of a way of life disappearing and the reality of good paying jobs which would support a family disappearing and of a community growing older because the young people had to leave in order to find work. For six days I sat on their porch and felt their sadness which sometimes was expressed in anger and resentment.
In similar ways, what I experienced last week is true about our understanding of police or immigrants or the African-American community or… While we think we know, we don’t really understand what it is like to ride in a police car each night or to be routinely stopped by the police or worry about our children walking home because of the color of our skin or the heartbreak of make the decision to leave family and way of life behind in order to search for work.
I wish I had answers.
But I don’t.
But, it feels to me the divide between us is getting more and not less.
And, for those with a public voice, it is in their self-interest to highlight the divide rather than help us build bridges.
Which means, if it is going to be different, it is left to you and me.
Maybe it has always been so.