I’ve had lots of thoughts swirling this week, about the Democratic National Convention, about work I’m doing right now with couples in therapy, about all I’m soaking in from Ibram X. Kendi’s Anti-Racist Teach-In. I’m going to attempt to weave it all together in this blog, because in my mind, the thoughts intertwine and build on each other.
This blog is about values…my values…the values I’d like to think are American values, although I’m not quite sure of that anymore.
Several years ago, I became a Certified Daring Way Facilitator, after attending a multi-day experiential training led by Brené Brown. One of the activities during that training, and one that I have done since then with many therapy clients, is about clarifying values. It’s called the lantern activity because the point is that our values light our path, showing us the way to be true to who we are. The values I identified as core to who I am were hope, family, connection, compassion/kindness and growth (as in knowledge and learning). Those are still my most important guiding values.
Hope. Family. Connection. Compassion. Growth.
This came to mind as I watched Michelle and Barack Obama make their convention speeches, because it truly feels like those values are what this election is about. It doesn’t feel like there are really any political issues at the heart of this election.
It is simply about choosing between kindness and brutality. Between connection and divisiveness. Between hope and cynicism. Between knowledge and ignorant denial. Between growth and fear. Between thinking only of self and thinking of the common good.
As a therapist, I work with many couples after an affair. We talk about the fact that after an affair, a couple can’t go back to their old marriage. They have to build something new. Upon examination, we often find that the old marriage had cracks even before the affair, but the problems were ignored or denied or avoided and the affair broke things open and shined a light on all the ugly truths that were hiding there all along. So the work isn’t about getting things back to how they were…it’s about building something new and different and better.
Trump shined a similar light on America, showing the ugliness that’s been here all along, which many of us were already well aware and others of us are only now starting to see.
“Liberty and justice for all” has never been a truth in America. At best, it’s been an ideal, although I think there have absolutely always been people who don’t like the “for all” part. When the constitution was written, it was not written for me (as a woman) or my gay brother or his multiracial kids or my adult children (who don’t own land). But it is mine now because other people fought to have me included. And I want to be a part of changing it to actually encompass all the people of these United States. For there to actually be liberty and justice for all because those are admirable values as well.
During Ibram Kendi’s brilliant conversations with Isabel Wilkerson, Bryan Stevenson, and Brit Bennett (and others, I’m sure, that I missed), one of the metaphors that stuck with me was the idea of inheriting an old house. You had nothing to do with the upkeep of that house. You didn’t lay the foundation or build it or paint it or clean it. Yet it’s yours now, and it is your responsibility to take care of it. If the foundation is cracked, you have to repair that, even though you didn’t crack it. If it needs paint, it’s now up to you to paint it. If the pipes are leaking and your basement is filling with water, it’s a very bad idea to stay out of the basement and ignore or pretend that problem doesn’t exist.
This is our America. There are cracks in the foundation. It needs substantial repairs. But it’s ours. It’s our responsibility. We have to get to work fixing it or it is going to crumble down around us.
I’m ready to get to work. With hope and compassion and knowledge. For the purpose of perpetuating hope and compassion and knowledge. And the only way to do that is together. We have to bond together, embracing the basic values and ideals that are important to all of us…justice, equality…basic kindness and love.
Although I’m scared we might not be able to do that, I am also refusing to give up hope that we can. I am perhaps a little stubborn…I’d rather call it determined…and I won’t give up. Because although they aren’t my essential core values, determination and responsibility and perseverance are also values I hold dear, and which we all need to summon as well.
What are your core values? How will you uphold them, fight for them, share them with others?