As we gathered together to celebrate Independence Day, I found myself with mixed emotions. I had a renewed excitement for the prospect of once again getting to celebrate holidays with in-person gatherings. Yet, I also felt the continued weight of the deep political and ideological divisions that currently grip our country.
Certainly, this is not the first time we’ve been polarized as a nation and it likely will not be the last. However, recently it has felt particularly disheartening. This is in part because I’m more aware now than in years past. Also, the heaviness of the pandemic has left me wishing for more unity and less tension as we move forward into a new season. And, as I wrote about in Finding Compromise Together, my husband and I continue to daily navigate our own microcosm of division since we associate with two opposing political parties and adhere to quite differing ideologies.
At times it feels like I am experiencing on a personal level the depth of the division that currently faces our country. Some days, that is really tough. Certain issues are naturally polarizing and there are different ways that these issues seem to find a way into our daily lives. Over time, my husband and I have had to learn by continual trial and error how to more sensitively navigate these specific topics. However, the bucket of divisive topics seems to have grown exponentially over the past few years.
And so, here we are, having just celebrated the Fourth of July. And yet, everything still feels unsteady, broken, divided. The excitement of the holiday seemed tempered by the fact that, depending on one’s perspective, our country’s history and/or the present day are too broken or too full of fallacious beliefs and policies to fully embrace. Of course this is true, both history and the present day are very flawed and filled with examples of injustice and gross abuse. However, I think there is also a challenge to recognize that both history and the present day also include countless examples of healing and growth.
During a recent conversation with a friend, he mentioned the need to take the good with the bad. Although our conversation revolved around a completely different topic, this idea stayed at the forefront of my mind as I pondered my mixed emotions leading into the holiday and the direction of this post. Of course our country is not “perfect.” No country is perfect. Every country has a history filled with imperfections, a present with innumerable imperfections, and a future that will undoubtedly contain countless additional imperfections. However, a deeper examination will show that the past also contained good, there is undeniable good in the present, and good will be found in the future as well. Throughout, there has always been good with the bad.
Similar to the concept that there is always a presence of “both” good and bad in our daily lives, this ever-present dichotomy of good and bad will always be a part of our country. Now, acknowledging this is easier said than lived. I know all too well the difficulties of attempting to reconcile a sense of both. I am a person who is typically conflict averse, and I often excuse myself from situations where I sense tension (even to the point of abruptly leaving a room). Clearly, I am still working on seeing the “good” within situations that are full of stress and passionate, divergent perspectives. And yet, I find myself holding a sense of both every single day, as I push myself out of my comfort zone to learn and grow my understanding on the depth and complications of various historical and current events and leaders. Through this learning process I have developed an increasing realization of the need to not lose sight of the good with the bad.
Although many of us will have differences in what we might label as being “good” or “bad,” the truth is they are both a part of our reality. Taking the time to increase our comfort level in holding both the good and the bad at the same time will remind us to not simply dismiss the whole situation or to dismiss every opposing viewpoint. Recognizing “both” is a reason to continue to work together to acknowledge nuance, find common ground, and create compromise.
So, in light of the fact that our country continues to navigate intense political and ideological division, I encourage you to take a deep breath, to shake off some of the entangled shadows of the divisive polarization that has muddied almost all areas of our everyday life, to extend grace to both yourself and others, to not get lost in the discouraging divisions, and to remember that through it all there will continue to be good with the bad.
Wendi, her husband, and their two kids live in Minnesota and are currently perfecting their best “ya sure you betcha” accents. She is co-author of the blog The Unexpected Ever Afters and a member of the podcast Moms Who Wine.
*photo credit: personal photo*