Managing Dissent and Embracing Diversity
Author: Nan Carle Beauregard
On leaving her job and her home after many years, Nan Carle wrote this moving piece on how we deal with the challenge of respectfully confronting disrespect, anger and fear. As the political scene seems to bring forward more temptations for hate-mongering and scapegoating Nan's thoughts are particularly timely.
As I write this the coyotes are making known that they have found their morning breakfast and the siren of an ambulance is making way to enter the local teaching hospital. Both are distinctive sounds of urban Tucson.
This is harder than I thought.
My time living, walking and being in the Sonoran Desert is coming to an end. The smells that follow the desert rains, the beauty of the flowers crowning their chosen cactus, the starry nights and morning light, the people I have loved – and those I have not, all will become memories to cherish as they weave deeper into my life’s tapestry. And although I am looking forward to building a new life in Vermont with my fun and loving husband, it hurts to say goodbye.
Within this clash of emotions, the practice of Managing Dissent and Embracing Diversity is raw and challenging. In my custom of saying goodbye to people who have mattered to me, one conversation continues to reverberate throughout my being. It’s important to me to hold it in front of me, calling me to action.
Each year Tucson hosts an enormous Gem Show bringing in 50,000 people and $120,000,000. The Gem Show is a gathering of all things rock and mineral and other interesting wares as well. My friend “Mack” comes every February to sell his beautiful Afghani carpets. Many of them grace our home.
Mack and his wife fled their homeland during the wars of the 1980’s and immigrated to the US in search of safety and freedom. They have made their way, raising a family, building a business, staying connected to their families and creating new communities as well. I have always looked forward to his presence here as signaling the arrival of spring. Over the years we have shared our stories of life along with our hopes and dreams for the coming year. For several years he was able to go directly to Afghanistan to collect carpets and to visit his homeland.
This year, he told me he could not return. He had been asked to serve as an interpreter, but as he is an American citizen, it is no longer safe to do so, regardless of the handsome income. In the last few years, 24 American Afghani’s have gone as interpreters but only 12 have returned. The other 12 were beheaded. He knew each of them.
And, now in 2016, with the climate of our Presidential campaign, he no longer feels safe here. He is Muslim. I cried. I cry. What have we become? How can it be acceptable for the candidates for President of the United States to say hateful things about Muslims, Mexicans, women and people with disabilities? Why is there such a following for these hateful views?
And how do I be? How do I embrace a difference of opinions and not boast an “us and them” mentality? If I believe strongly that it is our diversity that makes us strong, how do “I be” in the toxic environment of our political process? How do I stay true to the values of Inclusive Leadership?
These are the questions that I cannot shove under the carpet – especially not a beautiful hand woven Afghani carpet.
As one way to work this through, I took the opportunity to lead a discussion at an inclusive service at St. Philips in the Hills. As part of my reflection, I offered the ideas of Parker Palmer that appeared in his recent blog.
A healthy discussion followed so I offer them here for your reflection.
Remember that “civility” in political discourse is not primarily about watching our tongues and minding our manners. It’s about valuing our differences, knowing that only through the creative conflict of ideas has the human race ever accomplished great things. Under the right conditions, all of us together are smarter than any one of us alone.
2. Right Relationship
Understand that it’s more important to be in right relationship than it is to be right. This does not mean compromising your convictions for the sake of “niceness.” It means holding your differences with others in a way that can sustain dialogue over time, giving everyone a chance to speak, listen, and learn. The issues that divide us are complex; if we don’t hang in with each other long enough to sort them out we will never get anywhere near the best solutions.
3. From Ire to Inquiry
Next time you talk with people who hold political beliefs that set your teeth on edge, turn from ire to inquiry. Ask them honest, open questions that allow you to learn something about their lives and help you understand why they believe what they do. The more you know about other people’s stories, the harder it is to dislike, distrust,
or demonize them. Be prepared to tell your story, too.
4. Religious Communities
If you’re active in a religious congregation, keep asking if it is truly safe for diversity. This means not only visible diversity but the invisible forms of “otherness” (from political persuasions to sexual orientations) that exist among people who look alike. Remember what the writer Anne Lamott once said:
“You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates the same people you do.”
5. Demeaning Situations
If you find yourself in a situation where someone is demeaning people who are “different,” don’t remain silent and don’t pick a fight. Say, very simply, “Those words are personally hurtful to me. I want to live in a world where we respect one another.” But say it only if you honestly feel connected with whoever is being demeaned because you know we’re all in this together.
These pearls of wisdom are helpful to me in thinking through my conversations as I travel across the country and back and forth across the sea. I am particularly rising to the challenge of changing “Ire to Inquiry”. I welcome your thoughts, feelings, and questions. It all helps to keep us working in the direction of building healthy communities, able to include us all regardless of race, colour, creed, sexual orientation or ability.
All means all.
Be kind to yourselves.
The publisher is the Centre for Welfare Reform.
Managing Dissent and Embracing Diversity © Nan Carle Beauregard 2016.
All Rights Reserved. No part of this paper may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher except for the quotation of brief passages in reviews.