I end 2015 exhausted by division.
Current U.S. politics are predicated on division. There’s a great line in the movie The American President that goes something like, “He wants to tell you why to be afraid and who to blame for it.” That’s where we are.
Race divides us more now than for many years. It seems that will continue until we – whites particularly – listen with humility and respect to what people of color are telling us about their experiences in our communities.
I am floored by the depth of divisions evident in my September travels through Turkey and Iraq. Separation and suspicion are the norm for people in the region. It strikes me as incongruous in a region known for its hospitality – a hospitality I received constantly as I traveled.
I am yet more exhausted by the U.S. response to refugees from the Middle East, where our fear turns toward separation.
I am exhausted by division and it has me locked up.
I wonder where to find God in all this. I’ve been finding it hard to connect even with God in the midst of the division and my exhaustion. I keep thinking of my baptismal promise: “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” I don’t think I’m doing a very good job of it.
Still, God breaks in for me. I attended a Pink Martini concert last night, a surprisingly good place to look for God. I love the way Pink Martini makes connections. They included the Portland Youth Philharmonic, a hundred or so talented teen musicians granted a chance to play on a big stage. Five Japanese businessmen sang backup on a piece. That’s the way Pink Martini rolls, including people in their shows.
Also included was Cantor Ida Rae Cahana of Portland’s Congregation Beth Israel. She shared Elohai N’Tzor, singing with China Forbes and Ari Shapiro. It’s an achingly beautiful tune to a chant regularly included in Shabat services, which translates to “My God, guard my tongue from evil and my lips from speaking deceit.” Cantor Cahana suggested that in this time of resolutions we choose instead to be resolute about those things that really matter.
Connection matters. Striving for justice and peace matters. Respecting the dignity of every human being matters. All of these require that I speak without evil or deceit. The current press for division is predicated on evil and deceit. I don’t know that it’s enough, but enough is often about my ego. Although it feels small, I will start here. May God guard my tongue from evil.