By Colette Rausch
The winds of political change have shaken my foundation. I am torn by the political storms that have followed. Having worked in countless war torn countries and seeing families and communities ripped apart by the demons of division, it pains me to see the same scourge now at work here.
Part of me wants to scream, to cry and to take to the streets in anguish over the hate, division, prejudice and lack of understanding I see all around me. I want to tweet, retweet, post and rail against those who I see as causing the harm to others and to our country.
And yet I resist. I seek access to another part of me; the quiet strength of calm that grew from having witnessed or endured many such storms before. These storms bestowed upon me the wisdom to know that fiery emotions and fierce reactions will not serve me or others now or in the long term. I deeply understand and respect my friends, neighbors and fellow citizens who fierily fight this storm. I too have fought in an attempt to assuage the visceral pain of injustice.
But now I feel a different urge. I feel the need to shore up my reserves of calm and to build a quiet resolve to do the seemingly counter-intuitive. Instead of projecting anger and judgement, I seek to understand the position of those on the other side of the political spectrum from all sides; up, down, left and right. Instead of bashing those I disagree with and insulting their intelligence, I want to hear everything they have to say. I want to hold the space for them to feel validated, valued and listened to. A space where I may not only listen to, but truly hear the voices of those who have lived experiences very different from mine. Where I can grapple with my own assumptions of what is wrong and what is right. I aspire to be a rock of compassion and a safe harbor for others, their torment, hurt and grievances. I hope they can be that for me, too.
The mystic poet Rumi wrote “out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there”. I want to meet “them” there. I want to bring “us” there too. In this metaphorical field, “us” and “them” need to come together to replace division with unity and to build peace and social harmony. We need to remember the humanity of the “other” and that, in reality, there is no “other.” We are one, beyond our wrongdoing and rightdoing, beyond our political persuasions and vision of how the world works and how it should work.
This is my intention. Yet, I am only human. I will likely get mad. I may tweet angrily. I will likely feel hopeless at times. I will likely pass judgement. Yet, I will try and when I fail, I will try again and again.
(Colette Rausch is Associate Vice President of Global Practice & Innovation at the United States Institute of Peace. Views expressed here are solely her own. This article was originally published March 28, 2017 on Medium.com)