PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot The Rapids — We Must Work Together

To my Trump supporting friends:

I am not your enemy.

You know me, you know who I am and what I represent. Sure, I’ve been a political creature since about the time I could talk. I did, after all, write a letter to Richard Nixon in 1970, at the age of 5, questioning the morality of the war in VIetnam.

However, I have lived my entire life respecting the opinions of people who are different from mine. I have fought tooth and nail for the liberal ideals I hold dear, but I nonetheless count among the people I love and respect those who share opinions that are just as strong as mine but have different priorities. We have always been able to thread that needle no matter how much we disagree.

The quality shared by those with whom I do not agree was integrity. I always sought to surround myself with people whose values were lived out in their lives — the kind of people who, when they said it was the church’s responsibility to help the poor not the government, were always willing to open their wallets to live what they believe. People who had a different road, but we were always headed in the same direction, led by compassion, love and equality.

You know that I seek to live my life, however flawed, with that same integrity. I don’t just talk the talk. I walk the walk. I protest peacefully. I am willing to stand up for the rights of the marginalized. But I am also willing to engage in thoughtful discourse, to hear the fact based opinions of those with whom I disagree. Although I fail, as we all do, I try to elevate the conversation, living out my life motto that “the view from the high road is always better.”

I own it when I am wrong, I apologize, and I change my mind when I am shown the error of my ways. I seek to be fair-minded and open-hearted. Those are qualities I have valued in my friends.

You also know that I am a person of faith. Am I a sinner? Absolutely. But you can’t, in your heart of hearts, deny the depth of my commitment to Jesus Christ or the way that it centers my life, day in and day out. You can’t honestly write me off as a “godless liberal” when you know how much I love God and seek to walk in the Spirit of God’s love. My faith may be different than yours, but the sincerity and depth of it is at the very core of my being.

You also know that I am a proud citizen. I have never missed a vote for any election. Have I marched? You better believe it. Because free speech and assembly are rights enshrined in a Constitution that, although not perfect, is about as good a ruling document as any nation has ever produced. You know I don’t favor anarchy and I value the rule of law.

So when you are being told by a leader that anyone who doesn’t support him is godless, or not patriotic, or wants violence or destruction or lacks character or decency, you know it is not true. Because you know me.

I am terrified by what is happening in this country because these divisions are moving beyond politics into a level of vitriol and hatred that hasn’t been seen since the Civil War. We have moved to a place where the Great Divide has created a chasm so great we are ceasing to see the humanity of those with whom we disagree. I fear where this is leading. When the opponent becomes the enemy.

I know, deep in my heart, that the issues we face are not so deep that they can’t be bridged by what unites us, rather than what divides us, if we can get back to a place where we see one another as humans, instead of demonizing them and making them “the other.” If we can figure out a way to work together.

But in order for that to happen, you have to remember that I am not your enemy. And perhaps the problem is not that we disagree on politics but that we have a leader who is upping the ante to make it solely about him, not the country. By creating division. By making it all about “us vs. them.” By making me the enemy.

So, perhaps, when someone is trying to make me, who you know, your enemy, then it is likely more  about him — not us. And not the U.S.

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