I wrote a novel, The End of Innocence, a book about a community overcoming identity politics. In its context, there was a brutal war (World War 1) with real atrocities, real espionage, and civil liberties were not well-protected for even the highest ranking members of Boston society.
These tears were real to people 100 years ago. Your tears are real to you. It’s not a competition, but the tears actually do have to be dealt with. Wounded memories linger.
“Now you’re meddling!”
For your heart’s sake, these resources illustrate a little of the wonderful, difficult cliff face that one climbs on this journey. Reconciliation is not easy. It’s about serious growth. It wouldn’t be hard if you or I had all the tools we needed to do it. But we don’t start out with them. We acquire the tools we need to reconcile as we wrestle with these issues authentically. Think of it like a computer game – if you don’t collect the basics in one level – say self-compassion and throwing off religiosity – you actually don’t get to pass onto the next level – freedom from the pain of the past.
The other party must too – and that is something we cannot control.
Interrupting a cycle of identity politics
In theory, finding our identities in our common humanity – not our tribe, family, etc.- help people see each other as humans worthy of respect and dignity.
In theory, telling the truth about the past identity-based violations allows a culture to mourn, show remorse, decide who they want to be going forward, and take those steps (hopefully those are steps that lead to flourishing).
It practice, it’s messy and highly emotional. Identity politics are.
The tidal wave of anger & shouting
Some people’s identities are so firmly rooted in unhealthy places – a victim (who may have become the aggressor) or aggressor (who now claims victimhood). It should be no surprise that the crazy-making actions of the past have literally driven some people crazy – that is, beyond the ability to have civil conversation about the past, to become unstuck, let alone remember correctly and fairly.
I have met and been wounded by these people too. I know how easy it is to get drawn in and become part of the shouting! Thankfully it’s often just shouting or shunning. Too many areas of the world quickly escalate to violence.
To the extent I can (and one can’t always control it), I will not let crazy people veto my health or the health of communities I care about. There are some people who can work together. Truth and light at the right time can interrupt cycles of violence. Maybe not today. Maybe in a decade. But it can and does happen around the world when people seek health.
It is my hope that more local communities will be willing to have the courage address the sad parts of our past. I am not talking about the U.S. apologizing. It is easy to have the “U.S.” apologize. It’s very hard to ask a family or community member to address past harms or to reach out to those who have been harmed (when the result is often a tidal wave of anger coming right back at you which no rational person gets up in the morning and wants to face.)
These are toxic waters. The reason for doing the work is because toxic waters hurt our families and communities.
And some people are so crazy angry that they wish everyone to die alongside them. Nuts! as they said at Bastogne.
For those who choose health, I wish to support that path. The novel is about the relief one feels when adults get it together to build a bridge to a healthier future.
Here is a list of people who have successfully punctured the glass of identity politics to build “a new we.” In doing so they were gravely wounded, but their hope for their community has been contagious, and their success, the world’s happiness.