Many people are bemoaning Americaâ€™s vicious public square. Few are discussing the weird common ground that most of us shareâ€”and what might be the best way to address it.
Two recent conversations brought this into focus for me. The firstâ€”with a conservative Christian friend who reluctantly supported Donald Trumpâ€”fulfilled a longing Iâ€™ve had since the 2016 election: to talk with people like her and understand their thinking. Over the past two years, Iâ€™ve asked my Trump-supporting friends for a conversation, but almost none of them would engage with me.
I thought I knew why, and my friend confirmed it: theyâ€™re scared to death. Theyâ€™ve been disparaged and harassed and even attacked by some people on the left, or theyâ€™ve heard reports of such abuse, and they donâ€™t want to get hurt.
If youâ€™ve listened to progressives, you know theyâ€™re scared to death too. Their fear (from what Iâ€™ve heard) seems to focus more on the damage Mr. Trump might wreak onÂ our rights, our system of government, and our world. Iâ€™m sure some of them also fear being attacked by members of the right.
Itâ€™s not a big stretch to say, in the colorful language of my father, that weâ€™re all scared shitless. Fear is a weird common ground, but common ground it is.
Yes, we can argue that one group or another has a lot more to be scared about, or has endured more decades of disparagement and harassment. In many cases, those claims deserve careful reflection and appropriate action. But what if we also focusedâ€”in a separate context, or just for a whileâ€”on our common terror? What if we admitted that the person on the other side who makes our blood boil is likely as fearful as we are?
Have you ever noticed what happens to your heart when a child tells you sheâ€™s scared? Mine melts. I want to hold her and let her know sheâ€™s safe. My love for her overflows. Could the same happen when an adversary says sheâ€™s scared?
That leads me to the second conversation, which contains a weird idea for addressing this fear. Iâ€™ll post about it next week.