A few months ago, my wife and I were driving to Chicago to visit our family. We typically make the drive during an evening. There’s a long stretch around Lake Michigan where it’s dark and fairly isolated. During this stretch, the stars pop out more and the miles pass in a methodical way that’s good for low music and conversation. We have our deepest talks, often, in the car and this particular evening was no exception. Generally speaking, in our dynamic, I’m more into concepts and she’s more into facts. She reads a lot of blogs, excels at Twitter, and has a good pulse on what’s going on around us. I prefer long-form audio, documentaries, and books (or articles) for my information. I like to take them in, let it all marinade for a while, and then talk about it.
This drive’s conversation was some blend of news, our reactions and commentary on that news, and the tangents that come along with it. Two of the topics were the border wall and health care as it applies to the elderly. I’d been on some tangent when she looked at me and said, “So let me get this straight, you’re against immigration and for planned death?”
We both started laughing.
The reasons for our laughter should be explained. The first reason her comment was funny is that it would win a debate. Had we been running for office, that would be the headline: The Real Tom Bratt Hates Immigrants and Wants the Elderly to Die. Which couldn’t really be further from the truth. The second reason her comment was funny is that you could take what I’d said and make that spin; you’d be putting words in my mouth, for sure, but it wouldn’t, technically, be incorrect. So we laughed because of how easy it is to tell a shape the narrative that you choose to tell. The third reason her comment was funny, which is really the point of this series, is that calling someone anti-immigration is, essentially, labelling that person a conservative. But the particular points I was making on immigration that particular evening were actually quite liberal. And it got me to thinking: isn’t most of life like this?
Most of what we all believe is so much more complex than a Tweet. Our experiences with others, both personally and professionally, blend with what we do or do not believe about God, and come out in a way that sometimes makes sense and sometimes appears to be contradictory. This is compounded with headlines. With a 24 hour news cycle that labels nearly everything as “Breaking News”, implying that to miss this factoid is to be behind.
I do not like this. I do not think it makes us better. In fact, I think that by getting caught up in the details, we can miss the larger point. In doing so, we miss out on so much. We miss out on conversation. On dialogue. On growth. On understanding.
Another thing: it’s possible to win the debate, but lose something much larger. By getting someone to concede that they are ignorant, you may actually make them racist. We see this happen often when instead of extending grace and understanding, we label and judge. This doesn’t work. It gets people to double down on their ignorance when the goal is understanding and change.
We have much more in common than we do not. Humans are integrated beings that are vastly more complex than one single issue. We are blend of mind, body, and spirit and to isolate any one part is to miss a part of what it means to be human.
There’s a term that’s gained traction over the past few years, and that term is “Woke”. It’s origins and derivatives are not the point here, but it essentially means this: you’re aware of injustice, and you do something about it. (The term has a lot of good, but it has an underside, too.) But in this series, we’re UnWoke.
UnWoke means that there are many sides to most issues. Being UnWoke means listening to the other side, hearing their complexities, and attempting to find the common ground. Being UnWoke means admitting that you have contrary thoughts, but that does not make you a contrary person.
Throughout the course of 2019, I will be doing bi-weekly posts in the series. The theme will change with the month, and attempt to cover all things that make us human. If you like this work, and want more content, you can look here:
January’s theme, which I’ll hit again during Lent, is a teaser and called: Faith in the Times of Trump.