Perspectivizing Defeat

Every weekday morning, I wake up and read the Skimm.

Sidenote- For those of you who don’t know, the Skimm is a daily news outlet that sends a brief email to all of its subscribers every weekday morning between six and seven.  It’s always concise, always contains perspectives from advocates as well as adversaries on any issue, always addresses news both domestic and international, and always contains links to more information if you’re interested.  It’s the best news source conceivable for less than ten minutes a day.
If that got you interested in subscribing to the Skimm, let me know and I’ll send you an invite!  When I invite people to subscribe, I get “Skimmpoints,” which I think I can trade in for a hat or something eventually.

Normally, reading the Skimm is a relatively enjoyable way to start the day. I appreciate the often-clever writing, and I particularly appreciate being well-informed.  Lately, however, these morning informings have been torning more alorming *cough cough* I mean turning more alarming.  The content I read in those daily emails has started affecting me somewhat more profoundly, and certainly more painfully.

I read about cabinet appointments who are more than just unqualified, getting confirmed.
I read about refugees being denied refuge at every turn.
I read about sacred land and essential water being forsaken by the government.
More each day, I read about the lives of millions of human beings being compromised by our congressional custodians in a cornucopia of increasingly calamitous ways, and I’m beginning to find myself utterly stupefied at how bad things can seem.

I feel like we’ve lost.

Feeling lost in a such a way can produce a variety of reactions.  It can and does make me want to fight.  It can and does make me want to hate the people who beat us.  It can and does make me want to ignore the issues that make me care whether I “win” or “lose” in the first place.  It can and does elicit anger, confusion, and despair.

But it is also a gift.  It helps me understand something which I feel I need to understand.

The devastation and defeat that I’m experiencing now is not unlike the defeat people who disagree with me experienced when I was rejoicing.  When Obama said that we’d take in 10,000 refugees, I rejoiced at the defeat of others.  When the Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage was legal across all fifty states, I rejoiced at the defeat of others.  In my adult life, I have had many occasions to rejoice at the defeat of others, and I have rarely bothered to consider the reality of their despair in relationship to the reality of my jubilance.

The first thing most children are taught from the very first time they ever win at anything is to respect their opponents who lost.  Nobody likes a sore winner.  And yet in the political arena, we get so infatuated with the justice we purport to serve, that we fail to acknowledge this basic principle.

I want to be perfectly clear here, that the point of this post is not to suggest that we even begin to let up on that infatuation with justice.  To do that would be to sacrifice everything, and accomplish nothing.  At the same time, I find myself convinced that as we continue to pursue justice, to fight for the rights of the dispossessed, and to support the marginalized people in our communities, we must also make every effort to show humanizing sympathy to those who disagree with us.

Whether they are right or wrong is not the point.  Whether they are good or bad is not the point.  Even as we continue to struggle against harmful values which they might hold dear, the point we must consider is that they too, are bearers of the Imago Dei.  Whatever atrocities they may support, I find it hard to believe that we’ll be able to instigate any long-term change until we change the way we relate to our enemy.  As long as we continue to disregard their emotions, and polarize their thinking (as well as our own), it will continue to be a fight.  The pendulum of partisan control and revilification of one another will continue to swing. There will continue to be defeat on both ends.

As I and those of you who hold similar opinions to my own sit in that defeat right now, I pray that it will help us learn how to love one another.  I pray that it will teach us to love our enemy as well as we love our other neighbors.  I pray that we might someday be able to defeat defeat itself, and work together for the good of all.

I pray also that that conclusion doesn’t sound too schmaltzy, and that the point I’m trying to convey, however ineloquently, can still reach you through the syrupy goo of my uncharacteristic idealism.

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