For a solid week, I found myself churned up about the supervisors’ meeting that exposed our slice of Virginia to the change taking place in communities all over the U.S. To some people in each of those communities, the issue blossoms into roses of opportunity to strengthen the fabric of a place. To others it presents nothing but thorns.
But it grows around the legs of each of us, a symbol of something we can’t avoid if we want to keep walking upright. It’s not the topic involved — gay marriage — but the divisions that underlie our official stories. Christians of all persuasions can become enraged and bewildered at the people their doctrine insists they love. Liberals and conservatives can be enraged and bewildered at the people expressing the philosophical differences inherent in the freedoms they stand to preserve. People who care about each other at the gas pump and the corner store can eye each other with suspicion in the very meeting hall that’s built to represent them all.
Of course, there isn’t a “them.” Only an “us.” And within the us, a wise saying goes, one finger pointed at you means three are pointed back at me.
Maybe the ultimate message of American independence is not our individual authority. Maybe it’s how each of us individually governs the only thing a person can govern — his or her self — in the course of our undeniable dependence on one another.
People tried really hard to be reasonable with each other in the discussion last week. Even those who laid painful opinions bare were trying to reason. As a person who spoke up, I say this (first to myself, then to others): I would rather we cut the talk and show the love. Then maybe we won’t have to go through that kind of community agony again for a good long while.