We started writing letters, my father and I. Long letters. Letters about politics, culture, family, war, and the world.
I worried that we were different ... like fundamentally different, like different species different. I knew he was intelligent and articulate and that he loved me and everything, but I feared that he must be lacking in essential pieces, or that he must be secretly cruel or stupid or broken inside. Yet I knew my father. I know my father. He is thoughtful, educated, loving and generous. He has read hundreds of history books. And still, fear and judgment started to manipulate the image I had of my own father. I knew that if we did not talk, or write, the news cycle would eventually pummel every good thought I ever had of him. And that isn't fair.
Now we write letters, my father and I. Long letters. Letters with love, respect, fast-penned-fury, questions, despair, and hope. We both have hope. He trusts the Constitution. I trust human progress. He is a good man. These letters remind me of that.
We have become a country of armies, armies fighting a vitriolic civil war, a war where civility lies dead on the battlefield, a war where either a conservative or a liberal victory stands as our end game, not peace, not collaboration, not love, not community, but angry absolute power. Yet we need each other. We need the thoughtful conservative historians just as we need the liberals calling for equality. We deserve representation that is as diverse as our beautiful, unique nation.
Don't let these competitive politics separate you from the ones you love. Don't ignore that person in your life, don't drift from them even, but reach for them. You don't have to convince one another of anything. That's not really how it works anyway. You just need to speak and to listen. Things are complex. People are complicated. For some reason, many prefer to agree with the attractive, articulate stranger screaming on television or in print, over their relatives. I think it's ok to be angry and to stand up for what's right. We should protest, debate, and read. But be wary of hate. For hate leads to extremism and extremism to violence.
Martin Luther King said it best, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that."
So start with love. Start with paper letters. This is not work for email. For email has the expectation of a rapid response, while paper letters can lay on your desk for days before you feel ready to read and write. And when you feel ready to read, be open to receive. And when you feel ready to write, be honest and kind. We are all so much more alike than we are different. If that is all we learn from writing and receiving letters, that will be enough.