Lately, I’ve been straddling the urge to shout my political views at the top of my lungs and crawl into a cave and hide until 2017. I can’t deal with how charged the political climate is in the United States right now. People have forgotten how to be kind. I have been around very few political conversations in the last few months that didn’t end in some kind of name-calling or outright dismissal of someone’s opinions.
A few weeks ago, I was attending a dinner at my synagogue that involved some interesting discussion topics. One of the presenters discussed The Curse of Blessings. In essence, an angel places the ‘curse of blessings’ on a man that has a lot to learn about being a decent person. The curse manifests by forcing the man to come up with a new blessing every day. If he lets a day go without offering a new blessing, that will be the day he dies. He ends up living a long life because he’s learned to approach others with love and understanding, and be grateful for everything the world has given him. While the presenter was reading parts of this story, the gentleman sitting next to me offered a snarky comment about Donald Trump. Like there’s nothing redeemable or be grateful for in Trump. And while I disagree with almost every piece of word garbage that comes out of Trump’s mouth, this just seemed like the wrong time to even bring that up. We’re literally talking about being grateful and understanding- and you instead brought vitriol. Immediately I thought to myself- what kind of blessing could I offer for Donald Trump?
-Thank you for giving us an example of how greed can corrupt humanity.
-Thank you for exposing the prejudiced mindsets that still exist in this country so we can improve upon them.
-Thank you for giving us a culture where anyone can speak their mind without fear of retribution from the government
I wasn’t interested in this guy’s hate. All I could think about was how he had missed the point entirely. Personally, it makes me sick to my stomach to think that there are people who genuinely want Trump, whose rhetoric is so full of hate and disdain for his fellow man, to be in charge of our country. But, I also think that the same kindness and respect that we afford our allies, should also be extended to our opponents.
Especially in this charged political climate, I am constantly trying to remind myself and people around me that everyone- even that jerk that thinks my very existence as a trans person is a threat to their ability to pee- is still a person. They have thoughts and feelings. As much as I may not agree with them, it’s my job to attempt to understand folks before passing judgement. It’s a REALLY difficult thing to do. But I try to remember that just because they haven’t afforded me the respect I deserve, I shouldn’t retaliate in kind.
This quote from Abraham Joshua Heschel has been floating around in my brain recently, “When I was younger I admired people who were clever. Now that I’m old, I admire people who are kind.” This is the perfect example of the transition of values I’m seeing in my own life right now. In arguments, I find myself caring less about being right, and more about being kind. And not just being kind to my opponent, but also trying to exert whatever power I have in that moment to attempt to make them see the value of kindness too. It doesn’t always work. Sometimes they don’t listen. Sometimes I don’t keep my cool. But sometimes, there’s a glimmer that I could have changed somebody’s mind and that makes it worth the struggle.