It’s not me. It’s you.

I had lunch recently with a woman I had not seen in several years. Since her divorce, she has begun dating. It sounds like it is mainly much younger men. She says she goes out a lot. Meets men in bars.

All I could think of was: “It’s not me. It’s you.”

Not in a pejorative way. In a way that admits I lived the exciting city life in my twenties. I went out plenty. Met plenty of eligible men. Had my share of happy hours and late nights and adventures to amuse me when I am old and need to reminisce by the fire.

She is choosing that lifestyle now—perhaps because she didn’t get to have it before she married.

But that’s her. The contrast between our lifestyles become clearly apparent to me in short order.

And even though I am trying to age gracefully (I hope!) in a far different manner—I try not to judge the difference. She went through a rough marriage. She is happy in her new life. And she wants that to last. In that, we are quite similar.

Until I heard her recount a few tales of recent conquests, however, I had not realized with such clarity who I have become. What I now value. How different that probably is from so many other single women out there.

In the contrast between us, I was shown more clearly who I was. And who she was. And yet, our searching for lasting happiness unites us despite the many differences in the way we go about it.

For a country founded on contrast, we sure do struggle with it. Our founding fathers came here from England to escape what they perceived as persecution. They decided to form a country that was originally of like-minded individuals. As time went on, our core tenets of liberty and freedom for all extended more and more beyond our borders. Of course people from other countries—particularly those with less than ideal circumstances—wanted to come to the land of opportunity. The land that proclaimed all people were created equal.

Very few of us hail from Mayflower stock. Most of us spawned from people who came to the United States from countries considered very “foreign,” people in search of something better. Many of our ancestors were not welcome when they first arrived. Many changed their names to fit in and avoid prejudice.

We are a melting pot. By its very nature, a melting pot harbors contrast. It is what keeps the final product from becoming bland and tasteless. We merge and fuse, bumping up against one another in sometimes uncomfortable combinations. But the end result is supposed to be something palatable. Maybe not to all, but to the majority.

I watch the to-and-fro between Facebook friends who support the executive orders happening in the U.S. right now and those who don’t. I wish I could take the easy way out here. I want to say all those who support them are ignorant and uneducated. Because if I could say that, I could support my own bias and be embraced by the Left—which tends to be where I lean heavily on social issues.

My challenge is—I have intelligent friends on both sides of the aisle. I’m sick to death of hearing the arguments on both sides, even though I know they are necessary right now.

But if we’re going to argue, let’s not just yell things at each other and trade facts (and alternate facts—oh, I could not resist). A very wise professor once explained the fine art of consensus to me in a Leadership course. Despite grad school now happening two decades ago, it still rings true. When people are at an impasse, you either move up to an agreed upon vision or down to agreed upon criteria. And you work from there to build something palatable—not perfect—to the majority on all sides. You start with the areas—even if minute—where agreement resides.

For instance, I think all sides of the refugee debate would agree Americans want to feel safe. We just disagree on how to go about that. One side supports what I see as a fear-based decision. We will simply close our borders to those from “dangerous” countries. The irony is that the United States is probably one of the most dangerous countries on earth now—and it’s not because of terrorism. I do not go about my daily routine worrying about terrorists. But I do avoid many neighborhoods in Chicago because I know my chances of being carjacked, raped or shot go up at least 200 percent. Closing borders does not protect us from those who truly want to harm us. Radicals exist in all nationalities and colors. What will we do when the first Al Qaeda French operative succeeds in attacking us? Or Swede? Or Aussie? Surely we cannot continue to rope ourselves off from all corners of the world.

The other side of the equation believes we can achieve safety through maintaining an open and free society while trusting in the current refugee vetting process and ourselves. I’ll admit my bias. I like this approach. We are not the naïve society we were before 9/11. I think most of us keep an eye out for unattended packages or suspicious activity. I think we have some very smart national security people all over this country who feel it is their life’s work to keep us safe. And we cannot punish thousands for the hatred a few might bring.

At issue is that we all have different radar based on our own biased upbringing, so our vigilance is not always on target. For instance–the female student who called police in Evanston, Illinois saying that she did not want to racially profile but she thought she saw an African American man driving a stolen car. Police stopped him and—instead of calmly questioning him—went overboard, wrestling him to the ground because they said he didn’t respond quickly enough to a request. This particular man was a fellow Northwestern University student with nothing to hide. And is now suing the police department.

Many of my friends who support Trump’s decisions are those who live in areas where they do not meet or interact with Middle Eastern and Muslim people. They have lived in a white suburban bubble for so long that they buy into the fear from afar. I live in a town with more churches per capita than any other city in the nation. For the uninitiated, that means refugees. Most from Africa and the Middle East. When my eldest went to public school, he saw kids who did not yet realize shoes were necessary. (If you want a peek into refugee life, Mawi Asgedon–a former local who came here as a refugee–has written a wonderful book  on his own life that I’ve read with my kids–“Of Beetles and Angels: A Boy’s Remarkable Journey from a Refugee Camp to Harvard.“) I’ve worked with third grade refugees who are only several days here in the U.S. We sat in the school hallways while I tried to bring them up to speed in certain subjects. I saw the intelligence in their big, beautiful eyes but the language barrier sometimes came between us. These poor kids had to sit in the kindergarten class for hours, trying to learn English in its most basic form. Seeing their mothers and grandmothers walk down a busy street with a basket or jug on their heads, perfectly balanced, is not rare for me. I wish my sheltered friends could share these experiences.

I also wish I could bring the fearful to my younger son’s school, where children come from all backgrounds. A few months ago, I posted this on Facebook: “My son went to his friend’s Bar Mitzvah last weekend. His first:). Almost every single child in my son’s seventh grade class showed up for the sweet boy. A Catholic, a Buddhist, an atheist, a Muslim and a Hindu sat next to each other at a Jewish ceremony. And none of them thought beyond the fact that they were there to celebrate their friend and enjoy each other :-). There is hope for this world. I see it in the faces and actions of these kids. Don’t tell me the world is falling apart. I see differently.”

My sons go to school with children with what many of my conservative college peers would consider “odd” or “scary-sounding” names. Names that roll off of his tongue. He does not stumble over “Nishant” or “Zahrah” any more than he stumbles over “Joshua” or “Heather.” They’re just names to him. Just people not that different from himself.

I talk to people from all over the world, at work and at play. Perhaps about what one parent is teaching to teens at his local mosque. I chat with another parent about the Indian heritage festival she has organized. To another about what her Bible church has planned for its next mission trip. And to yet another about how even though she is an atheist, her son is struggling to figure out his own spiritual beliefs.

I guess my choice could be to limit my circle of friends. That certainly would make life easier. But far less rich in the end. I will continue to choose friends based on their basic humanity rather than the myriad other things people let get in the way.

Too many of us get stuck in the contrast. “It’s not me. It’s you.”

Yes, indeed. There’s plenty of that for each of us to digest. Plenty of differences.

But underneath that contrast is one basic similarity: our humanity.

When we finally get to that enlightened stage, then it’s not me. It’s not you. It’s us.

What I’m wishing for right now is godspeed on that one.

 

 

 

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26 Comments Add yours

  1. bkpyett says:

    Refreshing post Steph! Love your title too! Thank you for your follow! 🙂

  2. This is not really a joke but I am sure that the next four years, most of the blog posts everywhere will be about bringing people from diverse background together. Maybe whatever is happening will bring people closer

  3. Great post! Your perspective is very wise in such a divisive environment. We need to survive the best way we know how. 😬

    1. candidkay says:

      Thanks for getting the gist of it:). We’re all too quick to judge and it’s hurting us . . .

  4. fk2005 says:

    Couldn’t agree more of course – like most Europeans or in fact anyone who can see the danger – with your view of the current administration. Just a bit of a question though, I’m often confused between the start and the end of your posts. The “hook” never seems to play back at the end; so what did this woman do that was so different from your approach? Were you just saying she was a Republican? Maybe you’re only writing for an American audience or for friends, but I guess I came away from this article with unsatisfied curiosity about the background.

    1. candidkay says:

      First, thanks for reading:). Second, this woman’s political views had nothing to do with the post. My point was–it was in the contrast between our lifestyles that I was shown more clearly who I was–and in the process, challenged not to judge who she was. Instead, to find our commonalities and build from there. Which led to my parallel–politics is no different, really. We need to find points of agreement, basic commonality, and work from there–rather than judge and shout at each other. Make sense?

  5. As you said- it was a fear based decision. Those never end well. Ugh. How will we get out of this mess?!?!?

    1. candidkay says:

      Unfortunately, I think with a lot more than got us into it.

  6. ElleFitzG says:

    You know it’s funny I stumbles across this post. I spent 12 years of my life in Asbury Park, NJ where I grew up around nothing but immigrants. Some from Mexico, Haiti, Islam, the most of the West Indies. I knew nothing but a melting pot growing up until I came to Ny and saw an even bigger one. Years ago, I had a white teacher in Catholic School who raised her sons around a mass of various colors and origins. She always told us, she was raising her children to love despite skin and ethnicity and I found it baffling because I was raised ironically to judge before speaking. This post made me think about all thats been going on in the world. Got my wheels turning. Thanks !

    1. candidkay says:

      I, yes. Being in a melting pot can make you more excepting or prone to prejudge based on race or ethnicity, I’m sure. Glad my words Raible to get your wheels turning. I hope we all come out of this period of history more enlightened.

  7. michelle says:

    This is a lovely reflection on differences. Nevertheless, I feel like my ability to reflect in a calm manner has been completely up-ended by this new administration. I feel such a sense of attack and emergency. My dad spent the first 25 years of his life in Syria and Lebanon, only immigrating to the US after marrying my mom. But they thought about staying in the Middle East. I keep thinking, there but for the grace of God go I, when I look at those images of refugees. Today, I couldn’t make it through the Pledge of Allegiance at work–I broke down crying when we got to the word “indivisible”.
    I think the ability to reflect calmly comes from a position of privilege–these racist policies may be affecting people liberal whites know, but isn’t happening TO them or their families. I don’t mean this as a criticism–people can’t help their own privilege–they simply have it by an accident of birth. But I would like to see more push back on the part of liberal whites in middle America. You are the ones who have Republican representatives to call and lobby. I live in a solidly Blue state–immigrants tend to end up in such places–so there isn’t much I can do but protest and send money, because my representatives already are doing a bang up job representing me. But you who are in the Red or Purple states–stand up for us! Call your senators and representatives and tell them you want them to resist hate in all its forms. Thanks.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, Michelle, I appreciate your measured words more than you know. Thank you for being civil. It means I could listen to your words without my own defenses getting in the way. I do understand what you are saying about privilege. In fact, I wondered if I had a family member who was at risk, if I could have written so rationally. I am, indeed, one of the lucky ones. Yet, my sons’ grandfather is Cuban–had to flee Castro without even packing a thing. His story sticks with me. Thank God he had other countries to find safe harbor. I live in a blue state, but have many friends in red states who are calling and emailing their reps. Which I love:). And I do think those who govern are feeling the heat–at least in the Senate and House of Reps. The true test is–will we keep up the pressure? I, for one, am heartened by the activism. We are not just taking it lying down. Thank God. Says a lot about our democracy. I will keep you in my good thoughts–there is more support out here than any of us can imagine.

  8. David says:

    Amen, that is all I need to say. I do wish there were more of you in the world or should I say enough of you in the world when it counts. Blessings from across the water.

    1. candidkay says:

      Blessings right back at you. Although, if I am truthful, I must say I think at the moment we need them more here :-). Crazy man seems to be running the country.

  9. suemclaren24 says:

    You say so well what many of us are thinking. Thank you.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you so much. I think so many of us just want what is best and have good intentions. I’m not discounting the hate by I think good outnumber bad on this one.

  10. I have been struggling through the sharp corners of ugly words for the tenderness of others’ beliefs, trying desperately to embrace multiple perspectives to better model a dialogue of community for my children. I think listening might be the bravest kindness we can offer one another. Poignant post, Kay.

    1. candidkay says:

      Who knew listening could be so very hard? Without scolding, judgment or vitriol.

  11. Shelly says:

    I just shared this on facebook…I have never seen so many people arguing over their political views and trying to change others…It is really a sad time. You are such a gifted writer.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you! Both for the kind words and the share:). I hear you on the trying to change each other’s views. I don’t mind conversations that might lead to movement on either/both sides. But just yelling the same things at each other, spouting fact after fact when the other side is not listening–that’s insanity.

  12. I knew it was me Kristine…lol
    Have a look at this…this is humanity…this is seeing the truth in another, regardless of who and what and where they come from…and it should be at the beginning of all negotiations…political or otherwise… humanity

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, Mark! That video is absolutely wonderful. I just shared on my Facebook page. Thank you for sharing it here for all of us to enjoy.

      1. Thank you Kristine, I got it from Sue Dreamwalkers blog …Dreamwalker’s Sanctuary… (it is a reblog), if anyone is interested.
        It does the one thing everyone avoids because of their fears…to touch another’s heart, in their eyes. It crosses every boundary imagineable 😀

  13. stephleo says:

    I totally get where you are coming from. I am politically opposed to my parents’ views at this point in my life. If has never been that way before : ( I have decided its best not to talk politics with them – maybe for 4 years!

    1. candidkay says:

      I’m thinking you are one wise woman:). I will now only have conversations that might actually go somewhere. Anyone close-minded, we’re both just wasting our breath.

      1. stephleo says:

        Agreed! Not worth the fight. : )

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