As you may remember, I’ve committed to having no enemies this month, and a number of you have written to say that you are joining me in this experiment.
I have to say that it’s not been so easy. Maybe it’s because it is April, but I doubt it. When Governor of Virginia Robert McDonnell announced that April would be “Confederate History Month” without mentioning slavery, saying that it was not a significant part of Virginia’s history, I found myself working hard to remind myself that I have no enemies. It was similarly difficult when Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed into law an anti-immigrant bill (SB 1070) legalizing racial profiling against those whom police suspect to be immigrants, making it a state crime to be in the country illegally and requiring local police to enforce federal immigration laws. The Tea Party folks aren’t making it easy either. Perhaps I should have waited to experiment with this until May or June…
I had a good moment when, after breakfast with a friend one morning, I stopped at a table of police officers and thanked them for their service. They looked up at me with surprise, and then with gratitude for being acknowledged. I felt quite proud of myself until my friend looked at me with outrage – clearly upset that I was consorting with the “enemy.” Then it wasn’t so easy again.
As hard as it’s been for those trying to get through European airspace lately, I’ve been relieved that I didn’t have to go looking for someone to blame. I can’t be enemies with a volcano, or an earthquake, even as they make life hard or impossible for a lot of people. Why is it easier to be neutral about a tornado than about Sarah Palin? I have the same degree of control over both of them.
What does it mean for a progressive, 21st century leader to refuse to have enemies? Do we risk being perceived as “sell-outs” or not being “down with the cause?” It is challenging to attempt this in an either/or bad/good right/wrong context. In a binary system there are only two choices, and they’re very limiting. We need some other options.
Jelaluddin Rumi wrote: “Out beyond the ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing there is a field – I’ll meet you there.” It is easy to see how we might do a field romp with folks who look like or think like ourselves. Less easy to imagine how a romp with Governor McDonnell might go.
As difficult as it might be, the only way out of the mess we’re in is through connection and a refusal to “other” someone or to allow ourselves to be “othered”. Like it or not, McDonnell, Pearce and Palin are an integral part of the human community. They are our neighbors.
Fortunately, most of us aren’t troubled by living and working in concert with volcanoes or Tea Parties most days. Most of us are surrounded by people we admire and respect. Even then, having no enemies can sometimes be difficult. The progressive left is famous for tearing apart rather than lifting up our leaders, for looking for enemies among our own ranks, and our movements suffer as a result.
I invite you to do a scan of your kinship networks. Is there an “enemy” lurking with whom it might be time to make peace? A relationship that could use some tending and mending?
What might you do to repair that relationship?
What could change if you did so?
How might it help your organization, family, community or movement?
I’d love to hear how it’s going for those who are experimenting with me in this month of no enemies. If we can do it for a month, perhaps we can do it for a year. And if a year, then perhaps for a lifetime.
Imagine. Imagine a lifetime in a world without enemies.
From my heart to yours,