Fear and the American Dream

Reconciliation is a word that keeps popping up in this moment. That we cannot truly go forward respectful of one another until a good deal of reconciliation has taken place to genuinely, empathetically, sorrowfully address the wounds of the past rising up within our own selves through our ancestors.

I am not particularly religious and have a titch of discomfort with the word God though I carry out several spiritual practices. But I always have spontaneous tears when I witness examples of people attempting to bridge some divide, even if they do not fully know what to do or say.

A story crossed my path about two churches in the South attempting this journey with some success of people understanding, some for the first time what the “other’s” experience has really been.

Divided America

Then I happened upon Martin Luther King, Jr.’s sermon, The American Dream, given 16 months before I was born.  Some of the spoken sermon departs from the transcript, but both feel resonant today. I used the term “schizophrenic” to describe what is happening in America today in my last blog post, and was surprised to see that same word used in his speech.

(I have actually had a friend who suffered from schizophrenia, so I do not think it is literally similar, just a figure of speech to describe the disjointed, disconnected, fearful states we can find ourselves).

Certain things have shifted, namely desegregation in schools since 50 years ago.* And most impressively a first African American president whose inauguration and inspiring family still give me goosebumps today. But in some ways the ideal of universal dignity for all peoples in America can seem light years away. It is still possible for people to live their entire lives in an American city without ever speaking directly to someone of another racial background or nowadays to truly engage outside a technology bubble

*I just learned that schools in the US are as or more segregated than in the 1960s.

Recently, I had a discussion with someone expressing great fear over the current protests. I find myself in the camp that sympathizes with those resisting and see the vast majority of them being nonviolent, but I stayed silent in this discussion. Then it hit me like a flash: We could agree that this year has been stressful for ALL of us, regardless of “camps” or “sides.” And we could agree that both are afraid.

One group fears their security, safety and prosperity is compromised if they don’t make the choice they did. The other group fears their security, safety and prosperity will be lost if they don’t resist the choices being made.

For those living in Appalachia where incomes and access to healthcare are much lower than the rest of America, I can deeply appreciate wanting change.

For those whose ancestors endured the homegrown terrorism that is slavery, I can barely imagine, no actually I cannot imagine what the level of that trauma is. My ancestors experienced persecution inside an authoritarian dictatorship. That is the fear that I innately respond from when I recognize echoes of it.

If we all want security, safety, and prosperity but we see only threat from the other side, wouldn’t it be wonderful to practice listening to what in someone else’s experience causes them to have their fear?


About Erin W

A sensitive plant, bamboo strong.
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