All Americans…no, in adherence to my personal practice of speaking always and only for myself, I, as an American citizen, am tearfully weary of our ongoing (now, by my counting, for at least a generation) and worsening domestic pattern of what I call “governance by combat.”
Looking, forlornly, on our immediate political temporality, we are bare days past a federal shutdown and spare days, potentially, away from another. And it seems to me that the national leaders of our legislative and executive branches of government have mislaid the grace of civil conversation aimed at achieving consensus or, if not that, compromise.
A part of what underlies and perhaps drives this inability and unwillingness to enter and engage in open communication of the sort in which participants bring both clearly articulated agendas and equally evolved capacities to listen is a shared lack of respect and trust.
I believe in the power of dialogue (literally, “dia”, through + “logos”, word) to open doors and to build bridges or whatever the operable metaphor to connote making meaningful connections between and among competing and conflicting interests. (I write this mindful of the importance, indeed, the necessity that individual legislators and the president both listen and respond to their constituencies and concede their own preferences, and, I dare add, confess their own prejudices.)
I also am a highly-opinionated person who values his own thought processes and patterns. As such (and I can’t recall when I first heard and began to practice this “stretching” exercise), when confronted by another point of view, I purposefully listen in an effort to learn the ins-and-outs of that “other” outlook until I can articulate (argue) that alternate position with as much energy and integrity as my own. Seeing life through another’s worldview deepens my compassion and broadens my comprehension, reminding me of the greater humanity of which we, each and all, always share.
Democrats and Republicans, members of Congress and Mr. President, I harbor you, each and all, in the heart of my prayers that God’s Spirit illumines your eyes and minds to behold the common good and grants you, again, each and all, the grace of strength and courage to pursue its fulfillment. Amen.