Wednesday was designated a National Day of Mourning to reflect upon the life and contributions of former President George H. W. Bush. Democrats and Republicans joined together in praising President Bush’s commitment to both public service and family, providing us with a less partisan moment than what we’ve experienced over the past months.
In her book The Opposite of Hate: A Field Guide to Repairing Our Humanity, progressive political commentator Sally Kohn addresses the cultural divisions characterizing current political discourse. Kohn spent many years committed to liberal causes, working always to elevate the individuality and humanity of those she served. At the same time, she railed against those groups whose views she felt limited the opportunities for others, and her ire was often directed at members of the Republican Party. Over time, she came to the realization that she was treating Republicans as the “other”– seeing them as a group and not as individuals, attributing a universal group mindset to individuals instead of trying to see the humanity of each person with whom she interacted, in effect, doing to Republicans the exact same thing she accused them of doing to others.
Eventually, she got a job at Fox News and became friends with many people who held opposite political views from her own. She got to know their joys and concerns about their children, their hopes for their careers, their excitement about passions and hobbies. She realized that she had been contributing to a culture of hate through her own inability to see the humanity in each and every person with whom she connected – regardless of their group affiliations.
In the end Kohn concludes that the opposite of hate is not love, but connection. Although she never came to love the views of her colleagues at Fox News, she was eventually able to see and respect them as individual human beings and appreciate the aspects of their lives that overlapped with her own. In this way, she was able to connect and build relationships that were strong enough to sustain disagreements.
This is true in a connected community like ours at DCD, where we always strive to see the humanity in each other regardless of the group affiliations we hold. This allows us to find points of connection, and these many points of connection, like Bush’s thousand points of light, are just what our school and country need to cultivate at this point in time and especially on this day of remembrance for one of our nation’s leaders, a moment when we both reflect on the past and look towards the future.