Yesterday I read a blog post that I have not stopped thinking about. I won't link to it here because the part that I have been thinking about has since been deleted by the author. But it was a political post in which the author affirmed her commitment to a presidential candidate and did so in a joking manner. After that, she then made just a few quick comments along the lines of being tired of driving through the South Side of Chicago and seeing people brown bagging and smoking and that she didn't want to have to pay for them anymore. Lots of people responded, some in favor of what she had written, some (myself included) not quite so in favor. The words that were written and the consequent reaction have been in my mind ever since.
My response to this post was of the tone that I live on the South Side of Chicago in one of the poorest, roughest neighborhoods and have known many people that put my work ethic to shame. People working 60 or more hours a week, with only one day off, on their feet in 120 degree temperatures. And I made the offer that, since we both live in the same city, that if she did not know such people that she was welcome to come visit and I would introduce her to a few. I also cautioned against making broad generalizations on the internet.
Others also voiced their opinions about poverty and injustices. And those voices have since been drowned out in the overwhelming support of the author and the tendency of some people to "leave their negativity out there," to generally just go crazy anytime politics is mentioned and to not be able to take a joke.
In blogland, there's this idea that one must always be positive. That everything must be light and funny. When people began responding to this particular blogpost and respectfully disagreed, the blogland community came out in droves, condemning the negativity of those who disagreed.
I have since responded to my original comment with the following:
"The part of the post I was commenting to has been deleted (which I appreciate!). For me, it's not really about the politics. I don't really care much about democrat/republican/whatever. For me, it's about treating people with grace and recognizing that if we have found ourselves among the financially stable, we are lucky. It just as easily could be any one of us out there hoping for government aid, if the circumstances were slightly different. That's all I was trying to say. To treat people with grace because you just don't know what led them to that point in their life and you can never be sure that given the same upbringing and circumstances that you would have done differently."
I believe the ideas I spoke of are the very opposite of negativity. I advocated for grace, understanding, gratitude. That before we make judgments, we take a moment and really get to know people and try to understand.
There is this notion in the U.S. that people who are poor are poor because of their own choices or lack of ambition. Those of us who have money often think that if we ever found ourselves in a similar situation, that we would pull ourselves up by the proverbial bootstraps. We don't consider the traumas that may have occurred, the abuses committed by the very system we attack the poor for abusing, or the power of someone routinely saying by words or by inequalities in education or by lack of access to proper education, "No. You will never be anything."
We love to think that given the same circumstances, somehow our character would shine where others haven't.
That prejudice, that condemnation. That thinking of "that would never be me. I would do x, y and z if that were me." That is negativity. Negativity does not reside in advocating for the poor, for grace nor for understanding.
This, for me, was never about politics. It's not about who you vote for and who I vote for. It's about treating people with dignity and with grace. It's about understanding that, statistically speaking, given the very same set of circumstances in life, the strong majority of us would make those very same decisions that we judge and condemn.
And it's about being thankful. Grateful that I've never been in a position where I've had to make those choices. Grateful for my exceptional education and for the opportunities afforded me by my life circumstances. And incredibly indebted to my parents for instilling in me that I am no better than anyone else.
When I considered writing this post, I wondered what the inevitable fallout would be for going against the grain and whether it was worth writing. The conclusion I came to is this: My blog is and will always be about love. And sometimes love isn't popular.
Love "rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." (Corinthians 13:6,7).
Happy Wednesday, friends.