On healing and forgiveness
The post that I wrote a couple of weeks ago about resuscitating civility came to life for me yesterday in an interaction at my synagogue. I was at the synagogue with both of my children, waiting for religious school to begin. I saw one of the teachers, one that I did not know personally, as she teaches the older students, but we’d exchanged greetings and smiles in the hallway in the past. Yesterday, as I was standing in the hallway, she approached me.
“I don’t believe we’ve met in person”, she said, “but I wanted to introduce myself. I’m M. We had a bit of a disagreement on Facebook a few weeks back.” I frantically thought back, trying to remember which argument she was referring to in those raw early weeks after the election, and then I remembered. We’d had a heated exchange on a Jewish forum, where we argued over the Obama administration’s policies toward Israel, and the Trump administration’s plans.
My cheeks flushed a little, and I said, “I’m sorry that was such a testy exchange. I appreciate you introducing yourself.” She said, “I just believe that it’s important to recognize different perspectives. And I hope that we can begin to heal. People’s emotions ran very high from this election.” I didn’t quite know how to respond, as my emotions are still running quite high, and I’m not unique in that aspect. So I smiled, and said, “It’s nice to meet you. Thank you for introducing yourself.”, and walked away.
I thought about this exchange a lot as I was driving home, as I made dinner, and went through the motions of the evening routine. In all of the interactions that I had with this woman, I found her to be warm and lovely. She has beautiful green eyes, and a kind smile. She was gracious toward me, despite our heated back and forth. I found myself crying as I was driving, because I am so tired of this anger inside me that has only increased since November 8th. I’m tired of feeling so divided and disappointed in America. I wanted to believe that it’s possible to move on, that we can “heal the wounds”, as she said.
But the more I think about it, I realize that it’s just not possible. I can be civil and pleasant toward those who cast their ballot for Donald Trump, but I cannot forgive them for this vote. To do so would be to normalize this election, and everything that we stand to lose right now. To forgive would be to pretend that this election was like any other, when it most certainly was not. I can forgive a vote for Mitt Romney or George W. Bush. These are not men that I agree with, but they did not espouse the hate of specific minorities as Donald Trump has. They did not disrespect the democratic norms as Donald Trump does. So no, I cannot forgive those who enabled the current crisis of democracy that we have on our hands.
I have found other ways in which to heal my aching soul. My healing comes through meaningful relationships with my family and friends. It comes in my classroom, where empathy thrives through the musical art form. It comes through singing, where I find sweet relief through the arc of a phrase. It comes through writing, where I can pour the emotions and thoughts that are continuously swirling inside me, into organized form. It comes through daily political activism, and through being a voice of patriotic peaceful protest. My healing will take many forms, and I will utilize these tools to find beauty and love in this often frightening and ugly world. But I cannot and will not normalize this election and what has subsequently followed. I will stay outraged, because I believe that these are times of fierce urgency, and we cannot afford to be complacent. I will remain civil, but for now, forgiveness will have to wait for another day.