I stare at the two envelopes in my hand and feel the fury rise in my throat. I am helping my parents sort through their mail after a trip, helping settle them back into their tiny independent living apartment, helping.
The rage astonishes me. Rage toward political sites and copywriters who target elderly people with stark, trigger-button words: “leftist,” “socialist,” “Clinton,” and astonishingly, “slave-master”—all these just on the envelope. Anger, too, knowing that my father will probably write them a check, feeling that he is doing his civic duty, whether or not he can afford it, whether or not the words carry meaning or truth. I am incoherent with anger, trapped in a now-familiar corner of my worldview up against what is incomprehensible to me. Blessedly, I can’t speak.
Just as suddenly, the second wave crashes down. I am undone by the grief of the deep divide and revulsion I feel. This is my beloved father! A man I know to be honourable and kind. The first person to help anyone. A man who left a certain and lucrative future for a life of Christian service to the underserved, and who never once put himself forward for attention or even appreciation. He truly believed that those he served were better than himself. He celebrated their achievements—and mine.
In the receding tide of that fury, I know that I am more the same than different from even those who write the hate-filled letters in my hand. The fear that underlies the catastrophizing of events is one I recognize in myself and in my father. We want so much for the world to be a better place for our children, and we hope intensely that what we have done in life will have meaning. We are afraid that the ideas and actions of people we don’t trust will destabilize forever the goodness and richness of the life we love. Perhaps most importantly, our shared faith defines the hope we feel for our lives now and in the next world.
The battle of anger and division still rages, even in me. But I want to choose weapons of peace—listening, compassion, even and especially silence. I can’t give up the effort to support a truthful and compassionate civic life. There is much to stand for and against, and outrage is often both justified and needed. This is not a surrender or even a truce. I will continue to seek truth and pursue justice as I understand it. But I will keep peace with my Father.