Why can’t we just all get along?
Let’s face it. We can’t escape the politics. Some of us are glued to CNN and others to Fox. We are getting different stories.
I made the mistake the other day at work when the subject of Russia came up (don’t remember why), and I said, “Sarah Palin can see Russia from her house.” This young lady said she liked Sarah Palin. Gulp.
I said I understand and she had some good qualities. I didn’t lie because most of us have good qualities, and I do understand that we come from different cultures and world views. This does not mean that this lady and I will not get along. On the contrary, she is easy going, kind and a great conversationalist.
I am new at this school and on day two she commended me on something I said to a student. That was supportive.
I choose kindness over any political and cultural difference. I know that all of us can agree on some things, as long we are respectful.
I know because I have some experience with seemingly different people with whom I have connected over commonalities.
In my last job, I worked with a very nice woman of the Islamic faith. She wore the hijab and expressed her femininity and personality with an array of colors. While I didn’t volunteer that I am Jewish, something came up that revealed this. It seemed instantly, both of us made an unconscious pact not to discuss the Middle East conflict.
Instead, we did share aspects of our religions and found out what I had suspected. Muslims and Jews have much in common.
First off, there is the shared “Semitic” language. She spoke Arabic and Urdu which are common in her native land of Pakistan. We acknowledged early on that Shalom and Salam come from the same mimetic root and means the same things. Hello, Goodbye, Peace and “Complete, or Whole.” Listen to the sounds of traditional Hebrew and Arabic greeting. In Hebrew, it is: “Shalom Aleichem.” In Arabic, it is: “Salaam Aleikum.” Both mean, “peace be upon you.” Over time, we found many words in common.
Then we realized we both had dietary rules and comparable holidays. The rules for dietary practices are similar. Animals are slaughtered in a painless way. For Jews, it is called Kashrut, or being kosher. With Islam, it is called Halal. Pork and frogs are prohibited in both religions.
While I do not observe dietary laws, I could well understand and accept her practice of it.
Both religion’s calendars follow the moon and celebrate two holidays at similar times. For example, around June this past year, Shavuot and Ramadan occurred near each other. Both celebrate respectively, receipt of the Torah by Moses and the Quran by Mohammed. These two holiest books regulate religious life. That we shared similar good intentions and appreciated the ironic “differences,” is how we clicked.
There was also one other person who from the get-go showed me what to do. When directions were confusing, I relied on her to guide me. I soon called this dear person, my interpreter. Then one day, she asked me, “Do you like Trump?” I was hesitant and said, “Not especially.” She told me her philosophy was best explained in a book she read, called “Hillbilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance. And go figure, I was aware of this author and his interviews with the press. He was born in poverty in an economically poor town in Appalachia. The book describes his unlikely journey to becoming a Yale graduate and successful trader.
He explains the otherwise strong values of his upbringing in Appalachia and how our leaders have ignored them. She appreciated my effort to understand and we realized—just as with my religiously different friend written above—we chose not to debate our differences. Down the road, we did talk about certain issues where we both could meet in the middle (guns, the environment and women’s rights, to name a few). We’re both extroverts, interested in movies, music and the arts. We both cared about the students.
What happened between these two women and I is what our country must do. We must entertain the idea that there is another side—a different side.
There are times to fight for our ideas—like John McCain, who modeled civility—and there are times when we must look at the other’s perspective and open our minds to change. We can still value the things we have in common. Remember we all come from the same tribe, humanity. Look at nature for reminders of this fact. Below is a poem I wrote to remind us of the beauty in diversity and the strength we gain when sharing our kindness to each other.
Colors shapes of earth, mountains, valleys, sea
Sand of pink and beige, imply diversity.
Shapes and sizes differ, textures solid, porous,
Birds, the rain and wind all sing
A dissonantly melodic chorus.