This morning I ran across an article in the LA Times that provided me with a message I really needed to hear. Let me give you a little background to help you understand why I say that.
Like many progressive folks, I have been pretty bummed in the days following last Tuesday’s elections. I’ve been bummed because I’ve been concerned about what lies ahead in terms of some of the issues I care most about (i.e. affordable health care for all, women’s right to comprehensive health care, equal rights for all Americans seeking to marry the person they love, etc.).
In the midst of this funk I ran across an article in today’s LA Times titled “Voters in North Texas Town OK Fracking Ban”. The article went on to explain that voters in Denton, TX approved a ban on hydraulic fracturing. This is significant, the article said, because Denton is a north Texas town that lies “at the heart of the nation’s oil and gas boom.”
So how did community leaders in Denton manage to get 59% of the voters to approve something that – at least on its surface – went against much of what many think the area stands for?
In order to pass the ban, the article explained, leaders in the community formed “a coalition of environmentalists and conservatives”.
“A coalition of environmentalists and conservatives”?! That’s not a phrase you run across very often!
So how did they pull such divergent groups together?
They did so by emphasizing common interests and concerns. Molly Hennessy-Fiske reported those common concerns included the perception that “big government [was] infringing on their health, safety, and land rights.”
The article lifted my spirits tremendously because it reminded me of an important truth. We human beings have a remarkable (and seemingly innate) tendency to separate ourselves from one another over thousands of differences. We separate ourselves from one another due to the color of our skin, our political philosophies, our belief systems, our gender, the gender of the person we love, our favorite sports teams … you name it. And once we separate ourselves, the next thing we do is convince ourselves that OUR group is better than THEIR group. Let’s face it – most of us in the United States are addicted to this two-step process.
Along comes an article like the one in this morning’s LA Times and reminds us that despite our differences we actually DO share some things in common with one another. If we have the strength and courage to overcome our arrogance and fear and actually TALK to folks who represent “the other”, things we once thought impossible CAN get done.
As I put down the article, I walked away encouraged for the first time in days. I don’t have to buy into the notion that things will only go well if the people who think exactly like me are in power; I can buy into the notion that if we invest time and energy into TALKING with those who are different from us, we can discover common interests and values. We can work together to change and better the world. And we don’t have to wait two years for the next election cycle to do that – we can do that TODAY! That got me fired up.
Today, I invite us all to live into the spirit of the article and reach out to those who see things differently than us. The time and energy that you put into building new relationships can cause unthinkable things to happen: in Denton, Texas – and in your own neighborhood.
See you next time.