Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The World Is Wide Enough

The other morning, while solo parenting, I negotiated a sibling dispute. Slowing down my bright, quick, passionate children and engaging their frontal lobes rather than their brain stems took every ounce of attention, skill, and experience I possess. But when they’d settled things, I realized I’d just seen something crucial to our world.

Let me set the scene.

As we ate, the topic of circus came up. Shocking, really, considering S. spends AT LEAST twelve hours a week there. We talked about various different types of acts, then Little A. confidently proclaimed his opinion.

“I like ALL the clowns and ONLY the clowns!”

Now, I knew he was just playing with words. Once he said “all” he (subconsciously) created some parallel structure and cool contrast between “all” and “only.” He’s been doing that a lot lately—probably because he’s reading books with better prose lately. But S. didn’t like it one bit.

“That’s just wrong! Why would you say that?”

She probably would have kept going, but I cut her off. “Wait. Why are you upset?”

“I’m offended because *I* like other acts and he shouldn’t say that—” Her voice went up an octave.

I jumped in. “Whoa! Whoa! The world is wide enough for both your brother and you.”

Hamilton references always diffuse tricky situations in our house, so we were able to dial things down a bit. We went on to have a discussion about how Little A. can hold his opinion (and maybe even change it someday) while S. holds hers. They can be opposite opinions and that’s OKAY. What’s in one person’s mind does not negate what’s in another person’s mind.

And really, isn’t that the tragedy of Hamilton? Burr realizes, too late, that he and Hamilton could coexist without negating each other. “The world is wide enough for both Hamilton and me.”

And really, isn’t that the tragedy of our society right now? I’ve heard our political environment compared both to a sports league, where rivalries generate ratings and everyone’s a rabid fan of their team, and to dog fighting, where the powerful throw scraps down for the powerless to fight over—at least in part to distract the powerless from realizing they probably could break free if they stopped fighting.

And then I heard this phenomenal podcast. Essentially, it’s an interview with two South Carolina politicians—Jamie Harrison, chair of the state Democratic Party, and Matt Moore, chair of the state Republican Party--about issues affecting the judicial system. But the quality of the conversation struck me far more than the content. Not only do these two men have a fantastic rapport, but they clearly have profound respect for each other. And they actually discuss the unfortunate enmity between various groups in our society, the possible causes, and potential solutions.

And then I ran across this excellent TEDTalk on how to make that happen—a spiritual and political practice that could restore America, which is much more of a tossed salad than a melting pot.

Listen to these folks if you can. Even if you can’t, remember this:
The world is wide enough for both everyone else and you.

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