COVID has me hunkered down, mostly isolated from both family and friends, but I understand why, and now that I have my vaccination dates, I can see the light at the end of this tunnel. The continuing estrangements are not medical necessities, but personal choices. Presidential politics, masks, riots, burnings and assaults on the capitol, and variations on those themes have caused longer lasting personal “lockdowns” in my life than COVID and all of its variations.
That is the subject of today’s 10-minute episode.
Isn’t the answer to the why question our priorities? Which is more important, existing, long term relationships or cleansing our lives of “incorrect” people? And which is more important, new, wonderful friends, or limiting our lives to associating with only those with whom we agree politically? BTW, if you really and truly believe that your positions and policies are so important, so vital, then why would you put yourself in a position that you are always and only speaking to the choir, never being able to try and convert the unconverted?
Digging into separate camps is exactly what happened in the trenches in WWI. The troops on both sides were dug into fixed, deep, well-defended trenches for months that stretched into years. They slept, ate, defecated, and killed each other there. Millions died with little if any change in territory either gained or lost. Quoting Time.com, “The only break came on Christmas Eve 1914. Most accounts suggest the ‘truce’ began with carol singing from the trenches on Christmas Eve, ‘a beautiful moonlit night, frost on the ground, white almost everywhere’, as Pvt. Albert Moren of the Second Queen’s Regiment recalled, in a document later rounded up by the New York Times. Graham Williams of the Fifth London Rifle Brigade described it in even greater detail:
First the Germans would sing one of their carols and then we would sing one of ours, until when we started up ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’ the Germans immediately joined in singing the same hymn to the Latin words Adeste Fideles. And I thought, well, this is really a most extraordinary thing – two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war.
The next morning, in some places, German soldiers emerged from their trenches, calling out ‘Merry Christmas’ in English. Allied soldiers came out warily to greet them. In others, Germans held up signs reading ‘You no shoot, we no shoot.’ Over the course of the day, troops exchanged gifts of cigarettes, food, buttons and hats. The Christmas truce also allowed both sides to finally bury their dead comrades, whose bodies had lain for weeks on ‘no man’s land,’ the ground between opposing trenches.”
Then the so-called leaders stepped in and abruptly ended the truce. The British punished their involved officers, and the Germans sent their officers to the Russian Front. None of this getting along nonsense, we have a war to fight. Nevermind that no one could give a cogent reason for why they were fighting, why the war even started in the first place. And the singers started killing each other again. The marketing slogan for the WWI Allies was “The war to end all wars.” That did not age well. Before that the slogan for the Spanish American war was “Remember the Maine! To hell with Spain!”, a lie about how the USS Maine blew up in the Havana harbor in 1898. President Johnson’s lie about the Gulf of Tonkin allowed him to have American troops fight in Vietnam, citing “Communist aggression.” Today’s misguided, damaging slogans include “Lock her up!” and “Dump Trump!” These slogans help our leaders to keep us apart and fighting each other, not singing to each other, flourishing by cooperating.
The attacks on our capitol are simply another–and ugly–example. “MAGA” and “Stop the steal!” are miserable excuses for trespassing and violence. As are “Black Lives Matter” and “Hands Up, Don’t shoot”. Black lives do indeed matter; there can be no controversy here. And all black lives matter as well. The organization Black Lives Matter is a highly manipulative, self-described Marxist organization. “Hands up, don’t shoot” was a lie from the beginning.
The bottom line here is that if you were opposed to violence from the “other side”, then you need to be equally opposed to the violence in the capitol. If you kept your mouth shut previously, then keep it shut now. And vice versa. Burning someone’s business, reducing a family’s livelihood to ashes, is as much an attack on democracy and decency as assaulting the nation’s capitol.
It is useful to have slogans, but only as far as they reflect common goals, common interests and the truth. The mission statement that is forming in my mind is, “I am my Brother’s Keeper, holding common interest with my brothers and sisters, seeking common goals with them.” The slogan might be, “Common Goals!”
As much as possible within the COVID safety restraints, we need to be fact-to-face with each other. Breathing the same air. Aware of body language, acknowledging each other’s humanity. Pause for a key point: The further we are from each other, the greater the physical and emotional distance, the less civil we feel we need to be. Allow me to share a valuable lesson I learned by accident years ago from one of my sons. When he was talking to his young lady friend on the phone, the conversation was pleasant and polite. When they switched to email, it became noticeably more risque and less restrained. Switching to text took the conversation several steps in the same, wrong direction. Same people, moments apart. As the technology provided more of a barrier, things went south. Beware of social media exchanges.
Speaking of singing, here is another lesson related to the same son. When I first walked onto the rugby pitch at Harvard B-School in 1978, I had no idea how to play. None. And there were no coaches; there were enough players with experience, including a few international players of quality, that they just muddled through. I learned what I could mostly by osmosis. But I loved the sport and, more importantly, my teammates. After the matches, no matter how aggressive the play, and how high tempers might have flared on the pitch, there was always drinking and singing afterwards. Lots of both. Loud and bawdy. Physical violence and ill feelings morphed into even stronger feelings of celebration and enduring camaraderie. We can certainly do that in our daily lives, including with our politics. We simply choose not to. To our harm and shame.
Are we here for each other, or to be better than each other? Are we here to raise each other up, or ridicule those who do not “believe”? What is your answer to those vital, must-answer questions?
Tell me what you believe. I and many others want to know.
As always, whatever you do, do it in love. Without love, anything we do is empty.
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Will Luden, coming to you from 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.