Recently, I jogged through McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, trying to catch a connecting flight. There is something about that airport that cranks up my stress level. I think it’s the slot machines, with their constant whirring and blinking. Or maybe it’s not the machines themselves, but the people sitting in front of them, staring dully at the spinning numbers, feeding their money into the machine.
About the time I’d worked myself up into a judgmental fit, I remembered something my Mom often says:
“Thank God we’re all different.”
It’s something she says fairly often to remind herself that, just because she doesn’t care for something, it doesn’t mean that others might not enjoy it. She (or I) may not understand the appeal of gambling, shoe shopping, crocheting or camping, but others would be as mystified by her love of polka music or my adoration of the smell of a horse barn.
Thank God we’re all different.
I’ve been thinking about this in the time since the election, desperately trying to understand how and why the results turned out as they did. Listening as attentively as I can to voices of those who voted differently than I did, trying to understand why. Watching with growing concern as the days go by and more and more people with documented histories of racist and sexist views surround the new president.
I’m trying to find gratitude in our differences. It is not easy.
As I listen, I hear the fear and dismay that has plagued so many of my fellow citizens for the past eight (or longer) years. I hear the sense of disenfranchisement – justified or not – that has made them feel hopeless and distrusting of governmental institutions. I hear a longing for a solution, any solution, to their uncertainty.
While I don’t agree with their choice, I can hear their intention. While I still can’t understand how they can be appalled by the words of their candidate and yet cast their vote for him, I can hear where they despaired of any mainstream candidate making things better. While I raged on the night of the election for all those who chose not to vote for president or to vote for a third party candidate, I have to acknowledge their right to do so.
Thank God we’re all different?
Since the election, many liberals and progressives have been doing their own share of searching for someone to blame: pollsters, campaign strategists, the FBI. I’m not as interested in those conversations. Instead, I’m thinking about our differences and our similarities. I’m thinking about who needs protecting and whose voices haven’t been heard for too long. I’m thinking that no endemic problem or macroeconomic challenge will ever be solved by one person or one strategy.
Instead, I must work to make sure that all voices can be heard in our American conversation. I must work to protect the vulnerable. I must work to encourage our leaders to uphold all of the Constitution and not just their favored bits. I must work to remember that most people want things to be better for all, even if we don’t agree on how it’s to be done.
Our country has always had divisions, and we still carry the scars of the worst of those divisions. And yet, we have also managed to endure for more than 200 years, despite our differences.
Maybe even because of them.
We are all different. Would we have it any other way?
All photos by me with an iPhone, taken as
I paced the streets trying to find something beautiful.