To Exercise Virtue

‘Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without it you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.’ -Maya Angelou

I’m thinking a lot about this quote and the idea it contains today.

Last night we elected a man to lead our country who I find to be dangerous. And I’m a white, middle class male. I can’t imagine the fear that my darker skinned brothers and sisters are feeling right now. I identify with them and I agree with them and I vote with them, but I am disciplined in acknowledging always that I am not in their shoes. I cannot have their perspective, even if I empathize with it. I am not the father of little girls nor am I a woman. I’m a native English speaking American and don’t have to fear being rounded up. I advocate for the disabled, both professionally and personally and I’m not them, watching a man openly mock an actual person with a disability, bullying him while doing his job from the podium with flags flying and crowds cheering and guffawing. I’m an advocate, but I’m protected.

I’m from the disaffected, largely white area of the country that would appear to have given the Presidency to Donald Trump. I know that the people that voted for him see something other than a dangerous, white supremacist, misogynistic monster. From my angle I’m afraid that that thing they saw allowed them to think they were supporting someone of virtue. Someone who would prioritize them without hurting others. I fear that they similarly can’t see what this feels like to fellow, hard working Americans with skin darker than theirs. Or the hard working immigrant families who’ve sacrificed whole lives, whole histories and all social standing to come to the place where hope lived only to find it lead by a man threatening to deport, insisting on building a wall and enthusiastically able to belittle and dismiss the sacrifice of families who’ve lost loved ones in defense of our highest ideals.

I don’t have any idea what I can do but stand up and try to find a sliver of light in the dark where I can try to send love through. It’s hard to listen when you are afraid. I am afraid. But it’s incredibly important to listen. I will try. I’m pretty sure I’ll fail a lot of the time, but i will keep trying.

What I do see is there is a lot of anger. There is a lot of fear. The air has been thick with it for years. My instincts in this moment are awful. I want to scream. I want to yell and lash out and blanket the land in judgment. It would feel good to do that. The fights that would ensue would make me feel like I was doing something. But I’d be working against the solutions we need. The fact is that this is a time that demands virtue. You can’t defeat the dark without light. You can’t address fear with fear. Anger will not go away with louder anger.

Patience. Love. Understanding. Compassion. Empathy.

These are the virtues we are lacking. There are real world problems that require real world answers. Yes. But if we can’t hear each other, if we can’t understand and empathize with the real fears than we can’t even begin the difficult conversations we need to have. We can’t ever learn to understand why something so confounding, how something so terrifying ever could have happened. I’m scared, I truly am. For me to overcome it’s going to take courage. It’s going to take courage to be patient. To listen. To try to reseed humanity, whatever tiny little portion of it I can effect with love.

There’s work to do. We must shine light into darkness. We must stay curious. We must seek out hate and counter it with love. We must find fear and meet it with empathy. We must meet anger head on and do whatever we can to show people compassion and love.

We must have courage and exercise our virtues. This is a time for our better angels to reveal themselves.

Love Is Our Value Proposition

via Daily Prompt: Sincere

Love is our value proposition.

This idea was presented in the waning moments of an hour long lecture on the state of affairs in my profession. There were more numbers and percentages and dire situations presented than I could keep up with, and I can keep up with a lot. It was a discussion intended to wake up professionals serving people with disabilities to some realities that happen so far above the ground level work we are so furiously engaged in that it can be and usually is invisible to us, even though we are swimming in the murky waters he described.

But this isn’t about how this relates to my work. Not solely at least. What first caught me was the way he spoke about the troubling horizon we could see. He spoke honestly and forthrightly and it clearly is causing fear on some level. But he didn’t stop there. He pivoted to hope. Earnest, honest, sincere hope.

This type of sincerity is brave. To speak honestly about that which is most under served, our vast potential to provide love in a sincere way is a show of vulnerability. It’s an honest acknowledgement of something so obvious but so unspoken: we all need love. It is crucial to well being. It is vital to having meaning and a sense of purpose. I think it might be the antidote in fact to all the roiling, free-floating rage that seems to be polluting our skies and sullying our connections to each other, ourselves and anything approaching the sublime.

There is a severe lack of sincere expressions of love and of need. There is an overabundance of hate and insecurity, masked in anger. We have come to define ourselves solely by what we are not. Well, the antidote is to stand bravely, remove our reinforced armor, one piece at a time and stand up and say what is true. I need love. I need to give love and receive it. I need to understand that my most daunting, most feared rival needs the same. We are all in this together and we need to love each other. We need to get comfortable with the thought that we all have needs and they all require others. It is not weak to need love, it is strong to say it. To stand bravely and risk embarrassment and shame and try to say our truth. We are all of us alone if we choose to reinforce layers and layers of defenses. We are failing ourselves and each other if the love we share and hold and hide in our homes and with our families isn’t a seed we take out into the world and try to plant inĀ  the minds and hearts and souls of others. In fact we will lose what little we have if we attempt to put walls around it and bind it and keep it from the rest of the world, who needs it so badly.