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Defined by Divide: A Poem

Defined by Divide: A Poem

Today I tried.
To understand the other side.
Tried to cross the divide.

A conversation overheard-
offensive in almost every word.
How to respond?
With attack and hate?
with protests,
with rallies,
with satire that deprecates?

But you see, I know you-
you love people,
you serve my God,
we may even agree on a thing or two.

But with these words,
these ideas,
these fears nationwide,
it is easier to define you
as being on the other side.

We both boldly believe
all men are created equal-
with the right to life and liberty.

But I advocate for the refugee.

And you fear America’s lost her identity.

Will we allow this partition
to enter our holiday time,
our family conversations;
can we get past the headline?

Or because I’m with her,
and you finally feel heard.
Are we no longer defined
by our values,
our passions,
our pride.

Today I tried.
To understand the other side-
a citizen of the states united.
I fear history will define us as divided.

This poem has been rolling around in my head for the last few months.

On the afternoon of November 9, 2016,  the day after Donald Trump was elected to be president of the United States, I drove home from my clinical hours at a nursing home, listening to NPR, just like any other day. Like most, I was shocked by the election results. Like most, I experienced divide over the election even in my own family. I vividly remember driving down the freeway, hearing the radio host ask listeners to weigh in on the latest discussion, “how will the election results affect your holiday family time?”

The stories stunned me. Some expressed concern about how to communicate respectfully with family that voted for a different candidate. Some described a family divide that had been present long before the election, but was exasperated by the recent rhetoric. Some even explained they would be staying home with their spouse and kids, rather than travelling to be with family they now struggle to respect because of a candidate preference.

I grew up during the Clinton and Bush presidencies. My childlike innocence protected me from much of the ridicule either of these men received. Of course I remember the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the controversy surrounding Bush’s decisions as Commander and Chief. But more than these differences, I remember the nation’s unity after September 11th. The divisive election of 2016 shocked the young girl in me that still remembers when the nation joined together in suffering and fear, when people of all beliefs came together in prayer, when the bed of most every pickup truck proudly sported our nation’s flag.

How did we become so far divided over two candidates that we were willing to redefine our family relationships? “Will we allow this partition to enter our holiday time, our family conversations; can we get past the headline?

Even in my Christian family- “I know you… you serve my God”- there was disagreement. Our holiday plans did not change, but most of the time while together we found it easier to not address the divide that had so recently plagued our country. On one occasion, I overheard a political conversation- “offensive in almost every word”- and literally had to remove myself from ear shot. The temptation was too great. “It is easier to define you as being on the other side.

I hope time will heal. I hope we learn to seek understanding even when we don’t agree. I hope that we define our relationships by love, respect, values, common interests, trust… elements that far outweigh our political divide.

This post reflects the views of the author, and is intended to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Or, if you’d like to hear some overall thoughts on the topic of politics from Christians at THRED, you can find those over here.

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Molly Talsma
Molly tends to get caught up in the moment. Some of her favorite moments involve snuggling with her 3-legged cat, talking about the deep things with real people (as opposed to fake people), reading young adult fiction and drinking coffee that tastes like earth.

1 Comment

  1. Chewing on what you said…I wonder if the recent election and the subsequent issues it’s raising are less a cause of our divide, and more the catalyst that’s making us talk about our differences. For a long time, it feels like our culture has become increasingly unwilling to talk about the things we deeply disagree about—increasingly losing our stomach for conflict, because it’s easier to live like a united country when we don’t talk about our differences. We chose silence over engagement. Because in a country as diverse as the US, engagement is hard.

    And so we gave up the opportunity to practice having deep disagreements within solid relationships. And now that the election and questions of immigration are preventing us from staying silent, we’re realizing we’ve forgotten what it’s like to disagree and stay close. Because we stopped practicing it.

    So many people feel like they have to choose. Or maybe we just need some time to re-learn. My hopes are with yours, in your last paragraph.

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