Dear, Liberals. A question or two for reflection...or internal reckoning:
What are the problematic issues that plague liberals, and in what ways do those issues contribute to the struggles we currently have in (American) society?
I was curious to know what my liberal circle saw as the greatest problems within our own little tribe. In all honesty though, I was more curious to find out how many of my friends would point out other people in the liberal tribe that I also saw as problematic. To be sure, a good deal of this occurred, for better or for worse.
But an unexpected thing happened as I read through the responses. There were, as might be expected, quite a range of issues illuminated. Many of the arguments ultimately boiled down to "those liberals over there aren't quite liberal enough." Another set of answers boiled down to "those liberals over there are too blind to the obvious realities." Yet another set of responses boiled down to "those liberals over there aren't very kind." Perhaps you can see the trend here: many of the responses were about what other people were doing wrong. Grant you, I agreed with the grand majority of what was posted... I could see all the ways that those liberals over there were doing a whole host of things wrong.
But there were a few exceptional responses that began from a rather different stance: "I've done a lot of this wrong, and I see that as a problem for our side." It really took me aback. I was most affected by those people who started from such a place of humility. I began to realize that I, too, had done those very things, and therefore *I* was part of the many problems that plague society. I began to look at some of the other responses in a slightly different light as a result, recognizing that "what those liberals over there" were doing were also things that *I* was doing in some way.
I have been elitist. I have lorded my education over people, and tried to make others feel dumb. I have diminished, belittled, and dismissed the needs of a vast number of people in this country because I deemed them backward. In other words, I "othered" them, and dehumanized them. I have not done the hard work of seeking out those different from me and truly listening to them.
I also do not know how to stop doing such things. But I certainly want to try.
I don't know how we as a nation can even begin to overcome the disturbing, downward, tribal nosedive we currently find ourselves on. But if there's to be any hope of rescuing ourselves from freefall, it will have to start with the humility of I: What am *I* doing wrong? How am *I* contributing to this mess? It cannot start from what those people over there are doing.
Starting from I accomplishes a couple of things, I think. First, a humble start places me on the same level of those I wish to (need to) engage. You can't resist me as a superior elitist if I've taken myself down a peg. We will discuss--passionately, strenuously--our differences as equals. Second, you can't resist me when I'm saying I'm wrong. We will discuss--openly and vulnerably--as humans who are imperfect, but trying.
So to my conservative friends, family, and fellow Americans, I apologize.
I apologize for taking on a superior attitude. For assuming my beliefs are better than yours without listening intently to truly understand where you're coming from. For assuming the worst about your intentions without giving you the benefit of the doubt. For tuning you out because you upset me. I'm sure this list will grow as I continue to take a hard look at myself . . .
If I'm being honest, I don't feel very comfortable starting from this place. There are myriad fibers of my being protesting all the ways you've done similar things to me, and how it's unfair that as someone who identifies with a number of marginalized groups, I should have to go first and apologize. This. Feels. Too. Vulnerable.
If I'm being honest, I don't trust that you will reciprocate, and fear that you will take advantage of a man who has his hands up in good faith, on a hope and a prayer. (And unless you know the experience intimately, it may be very hard for you to understand how truly horrifying it is for a Black man to choose to take an unpleasant stance that too many of us are forced to take against our wills.)
But I also realize that if we're all stubbornly holding fast to our opposing poles, trying to live up to the dictates of our tribes, that the end will be sure, and the cost will be high. I know, as a psychologist, and an armchair observer of human behavior, that someone's got to take the first step, or our gangs will destroy one another (if we don't destroy ourselves first).
I extend an invitation to come and eat with me. I can't promise it will always be pleasant, and I can't promise that I won't make a faux pas or two along the way. This little Black fly/fruit(y) fly isn't used to eating with a whole lot of other flies :) But if we can manage to tame our beasts, and we can alert each other when we revert back to our own worst instincts, I think we can make some headway and turn this ship from that looming iceberg.
I am aware that there are a whole lot of flies out there who don't give a shit about the honey I just put out on the table. Yet I also know that there are probably a good many flies out there who look an awful lot like the flies who hate honey, but only because no one has ever offered them honey before.
So if someone's got to do it, then why not me?
Why not start with "I . . ."?