One of my biggest interests is finding areas of commonality amongst diverse groups. In working with my students, for example, I’ve come to realize that we Americans are often not nearly as polarized as the media pundits and politicians make us think. I’ve listened to students with different backgrounds and contrary worldviews discuss their beliefs about hot button issues, and discover to their surprise that they actually have much in common with the folks on the other side of the aisle. They often are stunned to realize that their bottom line views are not as far apart as they would have initially thought. Alternately, they discover that their bottom line positions are different, but their underlying motivations and values are actually the same or at least have similarities. Of course, that doesn’t happen with every issue. But it happens more often than we might think. However, we cannot have such epiphanies if we constantly vilify others and do not even try to listen to them.
Along those lines, I was intrigued by a recent news story about Sarah Palin. Governor Palin is someone who epitomizes the kind of polarization that has befallen the United States in recent years. Many adore her. Others are horrified by her. I have to admit I fall more into the latter category. But I try to keep an open mind and look for areas of commonality.
In that vein, I was encouraged by Governor Palin’s recent interest in the people of Haiti. I was glad she decided to travel there on a humanitarian trip. I was also glad to read of her deep compassion for the human tragedy in Haiti. I was also intrigued (if not surprised) by her suggestion that our government ought to give more aid to help the people of Haiti.
The bottom line is that although I disagree with her on many issues and her political tactics cause me great concern, I do appreciate her shedding light on the suffering of the Haitians, which continues to be so great almost a year after the earthquake. I always appreciate people in the spotlight using their fame to bring attention to overlooked human suffering and tremendous need.
My reaction to this news story does not mean that I’ll be voting for Governor Palin any time soon. Her politics are generally contrary to mine. And I try to not be a Pollyanna. I always have a healthy skepticism about anything that politicians say in front of a microphone and/or camera.
Nonetheless, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt and I try to acknowledge the good I see in people. As a Christian, I believe we are all made in God’s image and he loves each of us infinitely. As a result, it is my responsibility to try to see others as God does. It undermines that responsibility if I vilify people with whom I disagree. Vilification denies the good in my brothers and sisters.
The link below contains an article on Governor Palin’s trip:
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.