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What are you bringing to the table?
I got this burst of inspiration and decided to rope my friend Jeffrey Davis (author, speaker, book & brand strategist) in to conduct a video chat on a somewhat touchy subject of late. But soon after, my head was spinning with ideas and I started to backtrack. Doubt started to eek its way into the room. The more I began thinking about it...I felt like I was standing on shaky ground. Maybe I shouldn't stir this pot. Maybe I shouldn't talk about this. People are still too raw. Maybe Jeffrey is having the same second thoughts too and we should just forget the whole silly idea?
Hold on a minute. It's precisely in those moments when we've hit a nerve, when we've triggered ourselves that we need to pause and ask what's really going on underneath this. Is it all about being politically correct -- what about emotionally correct? And don't worry, this isn't a political post -- this is a human one, welcoming and inclusive of all. I wasn't going to give him or myself an out here. We tapped into something, something that has been missing since the election results went down here in the US -- the deeper conversation.
My mission isn't to save anyone (only you can save yourself), or to incite any more fear-mongering or anger (God, knows we've had no shortage of that these days). No, my intention with this post on the tails of quite an emotional election year and the precipice of a great family holiday and tradition, Thanksgiving -- is to prod you to explore that deeper conversation. How are you going to handle the subject of these election results around your dinner table, with your family, in your schools, in your community, etc.?
Never in the history of politics, at least during my lifetime, have we experienced such a nasty, hurtful and divisive election. The worst part is that it not only brought the underlying ugliness of racism, intolerance and hatred to the surface...but it feels as if it has truly divided us. You and me -- with a line in the sand, separating us as if we were not in this human experience together. So now we have further fractured our country. People are deeply entrenched in their positions and vehemently opposed to the 'other side'. Where does that leave us?
And what about Thanksgiving dinner around the large table -- an American celebration of unity, originally intended to honor the harvest. What are we harvesting -- divisiveness, hatred and the need to be right with a side of pumpkin pie? Ask yourself, what are you bringing to the table?
We could take the path of least resistance and simply hang with the people that agree with us or we could ignore the elephant in the room completely. A friend sparked this for me when she said, "I'm just going to tell everyone at Thanksgiving that we are not going to talk about politics." Like many of us, you can choose your friends, but you can't choose your family, and family members come chock full of their own free will and opinions. So chances are that you may be sitting down to dinner with someone who is on the 'other team', or at least voted for it. Remember, you are sitting with people you love even if you don't love the way they vote.
Here's the thing -- if we can't address this around the table this holiday season with friends and family, how are we going to deal with it in the larger arenas -- in our communities, in our states and in our nation at large? We don't get to just not talk about it. That doesn't make it go away.
Sadly, if you are looking for answers here, I don't have any. I don't know how I'm going to open my mind and my heart to civil conversation on a subject that I feel so emotionally charged by, and yet, there is no choice. Just in my small community, there is great anger and acts of violence in the high school -- the greatest intolerance personified, playing out amongst our children. Where do you think this came from? Home. Overhearing the conversation of parents. Media. We are responsible for this and we are responsible for guiding them through this.
If we can't find a way to talk about the tough stuff around our tables in a civil, respectful, openhearted manner -- then we are sunk. We all lose.
I know there are people who are terrorized by the results of this election. Don't tell them to get over it. You may not fall into one of myriad categories that have people fearing for their human rights, but millions are. What if we were to drop our own rhetoric for a moment and allow ourselves to simply connect on a human level -- not a you or me, us vs. them, red or blue, right or wrong -- what if we could simply sit and hear another out. And that is not a Kumbaya notion. What if instead of spewing media sound bites, we all took a good look at what are we afraid of? Could you dig underneath your anger to unpack your fear? Start shining the light upon your own darkness. Bring your own dirt to the surface. Hiding it away doesn't make it dissolve. Feel it. Ask for healing.
Ask yourself, What am I bringing to the table? Your best self, I hope.
"Rejection and attack, that's what we so often do when we see each other as different, when we feel threatened, out of our safety zone, or just clueless about how to share the human experience. We interpret difference as danger, and in covert or obvious ways, we reject or attack otherness. Sometimes we pull back, we protect, we shut down, we reject. Other times we try to control the other, bend the other, and when we can't, we give in to our fatal attraction to aggression -- we attack. Even when we adore each other, even if we know better, even if we make it our moral practice to tame the tendency to reject or attack, these are difficult instincts to overcome."
~Elizabeth Lesser / excerpt from Marrow: A Love Story
How are you going to handle it?
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