At a time when I’ve never seen my country more divided, I was reminded of the following post I wrote in 2017. The answer to every problem that exists between people or groups is always, always more communication and attempts at understanding, no matter how challenging or even hopeless the odds of a true, productive dialogue seem.
The vast majority of people are good and are doing their best to make responsible, workable decisions for themselves, their families and their communities. Finding common ground can be incredibly challenging when efforts to divide us are so prevalent and the volume of the cultural conversation is turned up to ten.
But now, more than ever, I hope that sane, analytical voices prevail and we find a way forward together.
After seven hours of a passionate but civil public dialogue, more than 170 Americans came together to decide the future of their community. They went for openness, inclusion and religious freedom, granting approval for a new mosque to be built in suburban Virginia.
The town meeting that started at 7:30 p.m. and went past 3 a.m. was a safe forum where every opinion was allowed to be voiced, regardless of who it belonged to or what they had to say. It was democracy in action as I think our Founding Fathers intended. The details can be found here.
As a devout member of a minority religion that has experienced prejudice and discrimination across the globe, I appreciate this statement from a Muslim-American who attended the meeting: “We love U.S.A… We migrated to this country with the notion that this is the best place in the world, and we find out this is the best place in the world.”
They went for openness, inclusion and religious freedom.
He is right. America has long stood as a beacon of hope, decency, generosity and fairness. It’s considered by many to be the custodian of human rights, a vitally important role in a world where human rights are routinely violated with impunity.
In these turbulent times, we are encouraged again and again to find the reason violence, war and general discord are so prevalent, which usually means finding a group or individual to blame. It never works.
But successes like the one above give me hope that sanity will yet prevail despite all indications to the contrary. And it reminds me that politics and headlines may profit from dividing us into categories that pundits can throw around, but the great American experiment lives on every day in the courage and respect that individual citizens show one another when we come together.
We are reminded every time we do, that having faith in one’s fellow man is the hallmark of a truly free society.
You’ll never see news like this on the front page but that’s where it belongs.
We need to hear it now more than ever.