It seems to me that we have become a nation obsessed with issues. Debates about which one way is the right way are the rule of the day. Give me just a few seconds to think and I can name the following issues being passionately argued over Facebook, via ‘news’ media, in magazines and on various websites, and in homes and workplaces across the country: marriage equality; responsible gun ownership; a woman’s right to make her own reproductive choices; the cost and quality of education from primary school to advanced degree programs; the role religion or lack thereof should play in politics, education, and justice; the appropriateness of breastfeeding in public places; breastfeeding versus formula; whether or not a stay-at-home parent is necessary for optimal child-rearing; the size and shape of ‘real’ women; the appropriateness of government spying in the name of ‘security’; the death penalty; the necessity and validity of the wars and conflict our country currently has its hands in; the list could go on and on. Each side of each issue has its own rallying cry, symbols, and figureheads, and the fighting between ourselves just continues.
Sometimes I wonder if we’re losing our humanity, if we’re losing the ability to care about a person beyond what he or she means for whatever cause is close to our heart. Behind the issues, beyond the issues are real people. People who matter, not because of what they represent for our particular position, but because they are human and their pain, their struggles, their deaths should mean something to us beyond a talking point for our next debate with the other side. Behind the gun control issue are real people who are alive today because the right person had a gun at the right time and people who are dead because the wrong person also had a gun. Behind the reproductive issues are real women and girls having to make gut-wrenching decisions many of us will never have to make in circumstances many of us will never have to live through. Behind every single parenting issue are real parents trying to make the best decisions for the welfare of their child in the midst of the chaos of professional opinions, studies, new information, and everyone else thinking they know the best way to raise children. Behind each statement of what ‘real’ women look like or do are real women living and loving as best as they can. Behind the debates on national security and the validity of our wars are people having their human rights violated and dying on a daily basis and people who credit our country with making their own better.
Behind every single issue are individual humans. Messy, complicated, confusing, beautiful, exquisite humans. And they are being forgotten in our rush to judgment, in our hurry to prove that our way is the right way. It’s easier to feel certain when you erase the names, faces, and lives of those affected by the issues we argue about and just focus on the ‘proof’ that we unequivocally know what is right and what is wrong and how to run the world. But life isn’t certain and right and wrong aren’t often easy to accurately define. By embracing uncertainty and leaning into the fear of what we do not know maybe, just maybe, we can get better at doing this human thing. Maybe we can start loving and grieving and celebrating and mourning the humans behind our hot-button issues. Maybe we can start encouraging and helping and embracing and understanding those who are different from us if we remember how much we have in common instead of focusing on the few things that divide us. Maybe we can start becoming a source of healing connection if we remember we are all human.