The coming storm of incivility scares me.
I see the harshness, the unkind words, the rude behavior in the American political landscape, in our social landscape, in our personal interactions online. Our mood as a people has darkened. And I wonder where we are going.
The Tao says, “If you want to shrink something, you must first allow it to expand.”
I say this to people who approach me in frustrating times, to comfort them and give hope that their pain will end in the future, that the ache will ease some day. Now I repeat this line to myself, as I watch our country’s darkening mood rising like a storm across the desert floor.
Years ago, when I used to ride my mountain bike across miles and miles of the desolate and achingly lonely Mojave Desert, sometimes I would see storms arise far away and evaluate how fast they were moving. This was important. You had to make a guess about how quickly you needed to get out of the open desert and towards shelter. Or if you knew you were too far out to make it to safety, you started to search for a gully because if lightning came with the storm, it would come fast and deadly and your best bet was to not stick out like a rod above the hard, baked Earth.
This storm in our world may come, it may veer off, or it may disappear altogether. But this I know: it’s expanding.
Keep your eye on the horizon. Head for shelter if you need to. Hope that shrinking is the next step, but be ready if it is not.
I’m not telling you this to be dour or prophetic. I’m saying this because I think we still have a chance to alter the course of this storm, as crazy as that sounds.
Sure, many things are out of our control. But what about the things that are in our control on a daily basis? What about our own reaction to the world, or just to our neighbor? Can we make that better? Can we make it less fraught with tension? Can we make it more civil? Can we sometimes see from a different viewpoint? Be willing to find common ground?
I’m not asking for peace from everyone.
I’m asking that we all be willing to see things differently sometimes, and that we remember most people are trying as hard as they can. Let us allow ourselves to be human, and allow each other the same courtesy. I’ll keep doing my part. I hope you keep doing yours. Maybe we can head off the storm. But it’s going to take almost all of us.