“Were you here for the Women’s March?” The woman joining me as I waited for the hotel shuttle to the airport was friendly.
“Yes!” I responded.
“Where are you from?”
“How about you,” I asked.
“Were you here for the March?” I was expecting to launch into another conversation about what a wonderful event it had been.
“No,” she said, “we were here for the inauguration,” indicating her adult son who had now joined her. He was wearing a knit cap with TRUMP stitched across the front. I then noticed her American flag scarf. (7:00 am is way too early for me; I wasn’t as observant as I might have been later in the day).
Then she went on to say, “We’re some of the ‘deplorables’ you’ve heard about.”
Oh, boy. I responded by shaking my head and saying something like, “No, no. Let’s not go there. We have to learn how to talk with one another.” They agreed.
The conversation continued in the shuttle. Mostly I listened. I did state my own opinion several times. I wasn’t trying to hide or play down my own position. I explained to them about my book and that I think the process of the intrafaith conversation could be the same for an interpolitical one. She took down my email address and book information and said she would check it out. She said I was “level-headed.”
I thought about this encounter often over the next several days. I wondered if I had sold myself short by not speaking out against some of the things she’d said. I worried that I was becoming a hypocrite, advocating interpolitical dialogue, but then going back to my Bay area bubble where I can easily speak out against He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named.
When I boarded the Amtrak train for Philadelphia, I found it was filled with women from the March. Yea! I was back among my peeps! I even met two ELCA women who were sitting right across the aisle from me. We had a grand time talking about the weekend and discussing next steps in the resistance.
But that shuttle conversation keeps nagging at me. Will I ever have the courage – or the will – to bring together an interpolitical group? It would have to have the same safety and respect guidelines that I wrote about in my book. And the same expectations – that, while participants positions may not change drastically, the ability to listen respectfully would.
Because it’s got to be about relationship-building. I don’t agree with a whole lot of the political opinions of my friends on the shuttle, but I don’t feel good about calling them names either. I have a feeling they’re going to stay in my mind, nagging at me and challenging me to put my money where my mouth is. One thing I’ve learned about discerning whether something is a calling is that the thing you don’t want to do is often he very thing you’re being called to do.
More discernment is definitely necessary.