I love challenging questions within small, safe conversations. But politics scare me. I’m horrible at citing policies, remembering dates, or interpreting statistics as fast as needed in a heated political discussion. The last thing I want to do is make a strong political stance. But as a language and culture teacher, a language and culture learner, a mother of three, a cross-cultural neighbor, and a daughter of immigrants, people have been asking my perspective on our current political atmosphere around immigration and the refugee crisis.
These 4 political observations come from being a lover of peace and equality in my home and in diverse communities. With an odd number of personalities in our family, peace talks are a daily drill at our house.
- War, and the displacement it causes, is a worldwide problem, not just a U.S. problem. There are many countries, like Greece and Jordan, maxing out their infrastructures to accommodate the refugees who are pouring in with no other place to go. Comparatively, it seems that the U.S. has more room, more infrastructure, and more capacity to share the worldwide burden than we are currently.
2. Lately we have been cultivating a national bad attitude of “me first”. In fear we tend to operate out of scarcity rather than generosity. As a mom, I work on these issues with my kids EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I want my children to learn to get along with others, be kind, and share. If our country were my kid, I would want to teach her baby steps towards kindness, not away from it. And maybe give her a timeout or two to think about her attitude and choices.
3. As a world leader, our country is positioned to be influential. Rarely do leaders have a neutral, zero impact. The U.S. has the power to do good in the world and influence others to follow our lead. We are also responsible for our negative attitudes and actions. They do not go without impact. An insane number of children are dying in Yemen because of a civil war where both sides are receiving help from opposing world powers. Our country has been contributing to this crisis financially. After years of innocent people dying, we are just now making better choices about how to help the desperate rather than contribute to their dire circumstances.
4. The best problem-solving of difficult issues comes when people work together. The polar opposite political extremes in our country are intense right now. Extremes point fingers at them–the other extreme. But what about the radical, intentional middle places, where we don’t point blame, but rather focus on problem solving, compromise, and caring for others?
Recently, my oldest daughter was rewarded by her grandparents for her excellent academic achievement. My other two kids were also recognized for their good grades, but her excellence was dually noted in the form of an extra $20 bill, handed to my middle daughter to pass along to her sister. This could have incited an all-out war at our house. What to do? 1) pray for discernment in navigating towards a peaceful resolution 2) recognize the complexities and potential hurt each might feel 3) guide each one to consider the other’s perspective 4) give them space and responsibility in arriving at creative solutions together. Ultimately, my oldest daughter decided to treat the family to FroYo. Not all family squabbles arrive at peaceful compromises, but we are always learning and striving towards a “we” solution.
I realize the world is a messy and complex place, and the last thing I want to do is minimize the work of those who labor towards peace by oversimplifying things. I would rather run away from politics, especially when things get tense and mean. I’m not in it to win it. But I am in it to understand someone else’s point of view. Sometimes people just need to be heard and want to be understood. Sometimes hurt people hurt people. Sometimes they are scared too. I’ve learned that whatever the issue is, things become much less political as they become more personal–that point where issues have names, faces, stories, and favorite foods.