I am blessed to have as my friend the Reverend Matthew Wise, Associate Rector of my parish – St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. Reverend Wise often reminds our congregation of the ‘Both/And’ nature of our world and encourages us to stop viewing things through the ‘Either/Or’ lens. With the ongoing struggles facing our nation, I have increasingly given thought to this principle. Imagine what this might mean in the current context. What if we live in a society that is both founded by a document that states all men are created equal and was written by an individual who owned slaves? What if we should both respect the rule of law and those law enforcement officials who serve to protect us through community policing and condemn the actions of those officers who betray that trust by taking the lives of our brothers and sisters of color while in their custody? What if we should both respect everyone’s civil liberties and wear a mask to protect each other from a terrible disease that is ravishing our nation?
It is human nature to attempt to simplify the information we receive to develop our worldview. As a survival mechanism, the human brain attempts to generate a belief of how our world exists using the least amount of energy possible. However, our society is not so simple. We live in a world filled with complex interrelationships that require critical thinking to develop the best possible outcome. Our founding fathers developed a government with three separate and equal branches of government to ensure that we became a republic where representation of multiple voices led our government, not a single tyrant sitting on a throne – a government that was designed to inherently slow down the process of law making so we could think through all viewpoints and consider all options. I implore my fellow citizens to commit to this concept – to seek to understand before being understood. Perhaps we are not a dichotomous society of liberal snowflakes and conservative hicks brainwashed by Fox News. What if we are a society of individuals who both value and respect each American for their contributions to the greater good and have our own worldview that has been created by our lived experiences?
David A. Byrd, PhD