The implied message of “Peace, Salaam, Shalom” for me is that everyone wants peace, not matter what language they speak; and that even two parties as entrenched in conflict as the Israelis and the Palestinians can find common ground. And to take it one step further, the inclusion of the English word for peace implies that Americans like myself can meaningfully advocate for this Middle East peace.
I see this in a totally different light today. If writing “peace” in Hebrew and Arabic characters symbolizes a possible bridge between these two warring peoples, what would symbolize common ground for Republicans and Democrats today? How do the slogans “Black Lives Matter” and “Make America Great Again” have any room for agreement? And rather than seeing Americans as enlightened, democratic, and peaceful—ones who look across the world and wish for peace in other lands—today I think the tables have turned. Today I think that people in other countries might look at us and feel the need to send us good wishes for healing our violent, entrenched partisan divide. I’m not an artist, but if this message were to go on a T-shirt, it might include an image of a Republican “red” state and a Democratic “blue” state with a unifying circle around them.
The death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg this week has made politics even more distressing than it already was, and I am worried about my mental health from now until the election. I listen to and read the news every day, and I have a lot of fear and anger right now. The fact that we are a country living under minority rule is more clear than ever, and the prospect of the minority party continuing to win elections and otherwise consolidate power is alarming.
The remedy for this political distress is two-fold. First, I must do what I can to work for the change I want to see. In my life as minister, this means embracing the UU the Vote initiative that our denomination is putting forth, and supporting the Fellowship’s strong efforts toward voting rights locally. In my personal life, this means volunteering for the candidate of my choice. Second, I must take care of myself through prayer, exercise, journaling, meditation, and connection with loved ones. This way I can keep politics in perspective and remember that this is a chapter in my life and the life of the human race and in the grand unfolding of the natural universe.
On the day after the presidential election in 2016, I happened to have an appointment with my therapist. I told her how upset I was about the election and I asked her how she dealt with it. She said, “It doesn’t bother me, because I just let go and trust God.” I may have a different idea of God than this woman did, but I still find wisdom in her words. The universe is unfolding, and I have hope and faith enough to believe that I am loved, that I will be OK, and that I will still be connected to you no matter what happens. This helps me to keep going in a fearful and scary time.
Spirit of Life and Love that knows no boundaries and no political parties, hear my prayer.
May my country be healed of the bitter divisions that separate us in this season. May people of good conscience listen to the divine within and exercise their power and their vote for the common good. May we be wise enough to see through misinformation and lies. May we be forgiving and patient enough to listen to those we disagree with. May we find purpose in working with one another for the world we envision, and may be find perspective in our connection to Life, Love, and the great mystery beyond ourselves.
May it be so.
Salaam. Shalom. Peace.
Rev. Andrew Frantz