We Need More Than a New President to Heal Our Country

Dawn Bevier

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Right now, I don’t understand the world I live in, and what I do understand makes me sad. I can’t think of a time in my forty-seven years where our nation has been so full of fury and so close to self-destruction. And as a highly sensitive person who intensely feels the emotional atmosphere around me, right now I want to shut my door and hide until all of the racial tension, political upheaval, and blatant disregard for others go away. But I can’t. Because none of the poison running through this nation’s veins will be cured until each of us does our part.

Wait. That last sentence was an untruth, for even as I write this, I realize the reality is that “each of us doing our part” will never happen. As American writer and activist, Susan Sontag writes: “10 percent of any population is cruel, no matter what, and 10 percent is merciful, no matter what, and the remaining 80 percent can be moved in either direction.”

Now, I’m not self-righteous enough to believe that I am a member of the unconditionally merciful. I’m one of the eighty percent. And I’m betting that you are too.

So, to you eighty percent, I’m begging you to help me do the right thing together. To be the anti-venom in a nation where bitterness and inhumanity have sunken their fangs into the American bloodstream.

How do we do it?

To be honest, I’m not totally sure. With the limited knowledge I possess, that is far too large a question for me to answer with any degree of certainty.

But I came across a quote yesterday that contains some solid first steps to healing the emotional sickness that continues to ravage our country. It is part of a prayer by Saint Francis of Assisi and is as follows:

“Lord, make us instruments of Thy peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.”

And you don’t have to be a Christian to embrace his words. You just have to be one of the eighty-percent that decides they want to move our nation in a better direction.

“Where there is hatred, let us sow love”

So much of what happens in our world is based on the domino effect. One person spews hate; another person spews it back. One person chooses to be vengeful; another person plans equal retribution. Let’s use the power of our eighty percent to send the dominoes in a different direction.

When individuals or even crowds are whipped into a blind rage, let’s be the force that makes them see this emotional response is fruitless. Better yet, let’s be the example of love. French writer Francois de La Rochefoucauld says that “nothing is so contagious as example, and we never do any great good or evil which does not produce its like.”

When someone openly disparages my political views, I act to show them that love can transcend all differences of opinion. When someone criticizes my race, my sex, or my religion, I met their words with restraint. I try to understand that some force, some event, some wrongdoing by another, some lingering cultural prejudice is the root of their misinformation, and I accept their words as a product of their environment. So I then attempt to make a small change in their environment through my actions. I become “water.”

“Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.”
- Lao Tzu

Let’s not let the actions of many, or even of a few, make us blind to the reality that there is some seed of goodness in every single person alive. We have to fight for this seed to grow in all humans in order to change our world for the better. And the only way to do this is to live in love, even when surrounded by hate.

“Where there is injury, pardon”

We have a decision to make. We can forgive or we can bear grudges. This doesn’t mean that we stay in situations where we are victimized in physical or emotional ways. It simply means that we try to practice forgiveness. And this act can be an act of the heart and not of the mouth. It doesn’t have to be spoken, and it doesn’t mean we have to be in our victimizer’s presence and put ourselves at the mercy of their toxicity. It simply means we set our own hearts free.

Human rights activist Mahatma Gandhi says, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

And if you have endured pain at the hands of others and still refuse to have your spirit broken, you are strong. So be strong when it comes to practicing forgiveness. It is often the hardest hurdle of the heart to leap over, but it is one of the most necessary both for your happiness and for the world’s.

“Where there is discord, union”

Right now, this is perhaps one of the most important things we eighty percent must decide to do for our divided nation. Rather than focusing on our differences, we must first remember to look for our similarities. We are more than our skin color. We are more than the circles we filled in on our ballots. We are more than who we sleep with and more than the god we pray to.

What joins us?

Our desire to see our country just and at peace. A need to be seen and recognized for who we truly are. A need to be loved by those who know how to love us best, and a need to be understood by those who know us least.

So let’s not fight about things unrelated to these needs. And if something threatens or impinges on our right to satisfy these needs, we can be active without aggressive. We can be bold, vocal, and persistent without being malicious.

We can use the emotions and desires we all share to whittle away pettiness, discord, and ignorance. We can expose our feelings of vulnerability to make others remember their own exposure to mistreatment and possibly respond with empathy. Perhaps it may not work, but perhaps this similarity of experience and emotion will unite us. Rwandan writer Bangambiki Habyarimana states:

“The world will not know peace until we learn to understand each other’s emotions”

We have to try to come together as American citizens, but more importantly, as members of the human race.

“Where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope”

Most of us right now are despairing, downhearted, and despondent. For almost a year, we’ve been battling a virus that has crippled our safety and security, and at the moment, it seems to be getting worse rather than getting better. Some of us have been fighting centuries of mistreatment, and the abuse seems to be increasing rather than declining. Some of us have been living paycheck to paycheck to feed our children and keep our homes, and the belief that things will get better dwindles away penny by penny.

The whole world seems to be drowning in hopelessness, but eighty percent of us can choose to believe. We can remember the horrible atrocities in our past in which so many have chosen to embrace faith rather than faithlessness. Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl reminds us of the fact that brighter days come after suffering in the following statement:

“What is to give light must endure burning.”

And our world is on fire. But all fires are extinguished eventually, and we must hold tight to the belief that water is coming. Days without masks are coming. Days without discrimination are coming.

But not without effort.

We must carry the water. Throw it on the flames. Work to see the flames turned into ashes. And then believe that we can rebuild on the site of the destruction.

It’s about action. It’s also about hope. And without both of these working together, the fire will rage on exponentially longer than it needs to.

“Where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy”

People are in pain everywhere. It’s not one race. It’s not one sex. It’s not one economic group. All of us shed tears: some openly, and many more kept deep inside. And in order to build the hope that will keep us striving towards peace and progress, we must commit to lifting the weight of others’ sadness.

South African human rights activist Desmond Tutu says, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”

Maybe it’s paying for the breakfast of the person behind you in line at the drive-thru. Maybe it’s offering to babysit the children of the single mother next door so she can take a bath and a nap. Maybe it’s praying with someone, holding someone, or listening with someone who feels alone and unheard.

There are so many ways we can repair the fabric of people’s hearts, and the minute we start sewing, the world’s chances of being a better place multiply.

The Bottom Line:

Many of us are excited that our new President will turn our ravaged country upside down. But the thing is, his power is nothing compared to ours. He can lay the foundation, but we must be the bricks and cement that build the house.

There’s no other way. There’s simply no other way.

So, if you decide you want to be one of the eighty percent who can make a difference, let’s start today.

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Sanford, NC
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