“We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural vs. urban, conservative vs. liberal.”
This week saw the beginning of a new administration. President Joe Biden is the 46th U.S. President and in his Inaugural Address, his most striking line was his call to restore mutual respect to public life, “to end this uncivil war”. When Joe Biden speaks of “Unity”, I don’t believe he means consensus. At the core of Democratic government is the premise of disagreement.
In fact, you could go as far as to say, society thrives on opposing opinions. But Biden, in his call for Unity, is offering a genuine plea to Americans to practice empathy towards one another, to listen and learn from one another and find common ground. It’s a difficult time to do this. We’re currently shut away from each other due to the pandemic; the virus silently looming and keeping us all apart. The only way we’re going to find common ground is to meet each other and talk face-to-face. I dream of post-covid block parties where we can dance in the streets and celebrate the slaying of the viral dragon.
In the meantime though, we can have aspirations of unity. We can look for a softening in our hearts and practice an intention of kindness to people we don’t agree with. There’s a prayer exercise I was told of once where you draw concentric circles in your mind. Firstly, you offer a prayer of peace to those in your inner circle; your family and friends – the ‘easy’ ones to pray for. Then you move out a circle and offer a prayer of peace to those you may feel hurt by or those you disagree with – the ones less easy to pray for. The last circle is the most challenging. This is the circle where you offer a prayer of peace to those you feel angry or hateful towards. These will most likely be people you’ve never met, but who represent to you, the most diabolic of humans. It will be hard to offer peace to these people but I would encourage you to try. When you open your heart to forgiveness towards those you feel hate towards, you will lose the feeling of hate altogether. When you no longer feel hatred, you will only feel love.
Unity is going to take time, but practising an intention for loving-kindness towards those we consider different from us can start today.