Published in the Asheville Citizen-Times, July 6, 2014…
I am concerned for our generation, but more so for the next two, with all of the political and religious acrimony floating around the political terrain in America, and far too many other countries.
I think that distrust is a normal emotion, but hatred is not. How can we transform distrust into an effort to communicate (both speak and listen) and then, finally, to a condition of basic trust?
Tomorrow my wife and I will be traveling west by car, to see family, friends and other parts of the country. I love America, in all of its diversity and physical beauty. But we do have a national problem with trust, fueled by cable news media and political operatives and politicians. Not all, but far too many.
Even next door neighbors can develop such profound distrust that lethal tragedy can result, as it did in our neighborhood on the border of Arden and Asheville.
When I observe some of the hate-mongering spewing out across the Internet, I just want to close my eyes and pretend it doesn’t exist. But it does, some of it blatantly racial, some based on class or religious differences. But closing our eyes is not the answer. Facing down the haters, liars and distorters of the truth is important, and sometimes scary. But sometimes we must face our fears and act in spite of fear.
We must watch ourselves, of course, to make sure we are not the ones demonizing political opponents, or people of another race or social class.
I can’t tell you how fortunate I feel to be living in the Blue Ridge Mountain region, and in Buncombe County, with all of its creative people, and so much cultural diversity. But even Buncombe has its problems. I think we all have a responsibility to put our shoulders to the wheel and to reach out to folks who seem to be essentially different from us — on the outside. But deep inside, I believe that a constructive spirituality does exist, and can come to the fore, if we let it. And I believe that spirituality can draw us together, whether we be Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist or adhere to another faith orientation, or to no professed faith.
We have more in common than we realize. Let us embrace that uniting center of ourselves, reach out, communicate, speak one’s truth, but also truly listen.
Frank is a poet-essayist-songwriter and advocate for the poor with a teaching-counseling background. He has counseled in school and agency settings.