What if there was no Us vs. Them?
What if there were no Democrats vs. Republicans?
What if there were no sides to take?
What if we were all just humans trying our best to live satisfying lives? What if we were one?
There isn't. There aren't. Nope, we're all on the same side. And we are all humans. We are one.
Right now, these times and the way I'm feeling as a human living through them, remind me so much of almost 15 years ago when I first became a mother. I didn't babysit much when I was young and I wasn't someone who spent hours dreaming about becoming a mom someday. But when I became pregnant with my first child, I was thrilled. I immediately began to envision all the possibilities, all the adventures ahead, and all the love that my husband and I would shower upon our child.
A huge part of that vision was the inner knowing that I would become a mom. I would join the ranks of my ancestors and my friends who were also becoming mothers and reporting back that it was a downright brilliant experience.
And then my baby was born. And then I became not just a mom, but a nursing mom. A stay-at-home mom. A disposable diaper mom. A mom who would eventually feed her kid hot dogs and fruit snacks and may even let him try ice cream before milk was recommended by the ADA. In the process, the narrative being built around me pitted me against the formula moms. The working moms. The cloth diaper moms. The moms who held true to their preconceived notions of the very best ways to feed their children.
The lists grew and I kept thinking, "But WAIT! WE ARE ALL MOMS!!!" I didn't understand why we were fighting against each other over very personal choices we were making for our families when we could have been talking about the real fights we were facing together as moms. The fights for sleep. For our marriages and relationships. For our children. For a shower.
The stories we are fed about what it means to be a mom are parallel to the stories we hear about what it means to be a democrat, a republican, a feminist, and a woman in America. The people feeding us these stories rely on us to believe them. They take it for granted that we will believe them. They profit from us believing the stories. They keep power over us with these stories. They assume we will always believe and uphold these stories.
It is time for us, especially those of us who identify as women - all women, not just any one kind of woman - to write new stories.
We are the ones who get to define what it means to be a woman.
The definition is not likely to be the same for each of us. That's okay.
As individuals, we have the power to define womanhood, motherhood, fatherhood, marriage, and family for ourselves. That's it. We don't have the power to define it for anyone else. That's not our job. We're off the hook.
When we let go of the need to be "right" or on the "right side" of an argument. When we allow each other to speak and when we listen to each other while each of us is speaking, we will move mountains, as the saying goes.
We need to stop fighting against each other and instead stand alongside each other.
We need to look each other in the eyes and see each other as humans. Let's also acknowledge that a woman of color's experience as a woman in America is influenced by the color of her skin and as such, the challenges she faces are not the same as those a white woman faces. We must acknowledge that. We must acknowledge that those with wealth, with access to resources, and with privilege move through their lives with much more ease than those who are struggling to eat, to keep a roof over their heads, and even to survive. Let's open our hearts to the reality that being a Muslim woman is not the same as being a Christian woman in America. We must do that. Let's honor the fact that marriage equality isn't a mountain that heterosexual women are asked to climb. Let's listen to the stories of transgendered women whose everyday lives are complicated by the ways in which most places are set up to accommodate cisgendered women. There are so many incredible women with stories to share. I know there is a much longer list of ways women identify and I apologize for not mentioning every single kind of woman. We're missing out on these women and their stories - here and in the broader dialogue happening in our country.
In the midst of all these arguments, I wonder what are we really fighting about? Do we even know the people we're trying to defend? Do we even know what we're talking about? So much has been called to question.
I do know that beneath our desire to "win" an argument, most of us have the capacity for infinite compassion. I know there is so much more love than there is hate in the world. I know if we focus on that love for each other as humans, we will want nothing more than to help each other. We won't care how any of us voted or who we sleep with or what we feed ourselves or our children. We won't care who we pray to. We will realize how beautiful it is to be united as one human family.
Yes, I am an idealist. I can be naive. I tend to hope for the best. That said, this is not an airy fairy forecast for an impossible Utopian future. This is all possible.
Unity is possible.
Love is possible.
It starts with each of us getting real clear on who we are, what we prioritize, and how we're willing to show up for each other.
Then, we open our hearts and minds to new ways of understanding our fellow humans. No judgment. No expectations. No need to negate another human's experience. We just listen.
As we listen (truly listen, not the kind of listening where you're thinking about what to say next or what to make for dinner), we soften. We acknowledge and honor the ways we are different and we start working from the places where we are the same. Humans. Deserving of love, justice, and freedom. All of us.
The we write new stories. Our own stories. From our own hearts. We shape the narrative. We share the profits. We share the power. We share the love.
Let's get started.