Strange hospitality for strange times
by Chris Chavez
Our political reality is sad and outrageous and the source of its current corrupted state of affairs isn’t something we can offload onto others. I’m convinced that our current civil conflict falls in the lineage of spiritual battles that pits a fearful, shrinking heart against a courageous, expansive love.
This morning, I stared at my computer screen in shock. Facing me was a cartoon by Dr. Seuss.
I was so taken aback by this cartoon of one of my favorite childhood authors that I looked it up to verify it was indeed true. I discovered not only was it true, but that it was one among hundreds of drawings and statements Dr Seuss made pleading for engagement by the United States in the war raging against Nazi Germany in Europe. The cartoon’s symbolism and its spooky use of the phrase America First pioneered by United States nationalists and isolationists in the early 20th century speaks for itself.
In our country, and in countries across the world, we are receiving another invitation to engage.
During the conflicts of the 20th century, the so-called enemy was somewhere out there. I would argue that though this view was especially potent in the United States and European countries, it was shared by force or by choice by people living around the world. People battled either to strengthen or to discount this world view.
In the 21st century, we can no longer win by engaging with enemies out there. We need to engage with enemies in here. To what enemies am I referring? To the ones that stare back at us when we each look into the mirror. To those inner-demons that water weeds of thought and heart which in their quiet strangling of our better angels whisper to us
We are better than they are.
I am better than she is.
I am better than he is.
These weeds of division have no place in a garden of unity. As any good gardener will tell you, hacking away at them will only temporarily relieve their strangle hold. We must put our hands in the dirt and pull them out by their roots.
In this case, the root of our current divisions is fear. We are afraid of each other. While we fight against the outcomes of this fear we must remember to outstretch a reassuring hand to those who think we might do them harm. It doesn’t matter if we feel we are in the right. It doesn’t matter if we know we are in the right. It doesn’t matter if we yell until our voices go hoarse that love will overcome hate. If we do not dig into the shit of the matter, and get our hands dirty in an effort to uproot the source of our current divisions, we will come up short. Love will indeed win. But, in the words of another Dr., it will be a weak, sentimental, anemic version of itself. It will be a love fitted for small hearts focused on self. I do not want this kind of love to win out. While we fight against the outcomes of fear, we must fight with the lights on. We must fight like Congressman John Lewis fought — while making eye contact with those who would call us their enemies — even if we might get hurt. We must fight without hate in our hearts. We must fight in the service of a richly, courageous, deeply forgiving, expansive love.
Recognize that our struggle exists on multiple levels. If your opposition sows division — seek unity. If your opposition instigates violence — bring peace. If your opposition relies on unbending certainty — introduce paradox.
Keep reaching out to one of the over 63 million people who voted for President Trump.
Keep reaching out to one of the over 65 million people who voted for Hillary Clinton.
Keep admitting to yourself that the overwhelming majority of people you come into contact with act from commonly shared values that are uncommonly expressed.
Keep having conversations that question how your fellow person defines and receives love.
Keep having conversations that question when and how your fellow person feels safe.
Fight against the outcomes of fear with one hand while keeping an open palm outstretched for acceptance with the other.
Stay willing to change.
Dr. Seuss did his best with his talents. Dr. King did the best with his. We are being called to do the same. Keep engaging. Keep turning our shadows toward the light that is casting them.
Thank you for reading. If you would like to connect on the subjects or strategies of hospitality or nonviolence, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your affirming and dissenting opinions are always welcome.