As I watched the election returns, the divisiveness of our country so vividly displayed by the red and blue state blocks, I thought about our times. It was enlightening to listen to various commentators analogize these days to the polarization after the Civil War, or the economic chaos after the Great Depression. The point being made was how Abraham Lincoln worked to bring our nation together as did FDR in the 1930s.
Such behavior by our country’s leaders at those times is not unlike the role parents have when quieting their squabbling children. So often the little ones are unable to see the viewpoint of their sibling. Each knows he or she is right! The disagreements can lead to real fighting, not unlike the violent unrest of some of our protests. At such times, just as a child is not able to remember they are related to a brother or sister, so too, during times of civil upheaval, those involved can forget they share a common heritage. Although both children have the same parents, birth order and different life experiences have given each child somewhat of a different world view, not unlike the differing viewpoints in the various parts of our country of what would be best for them, and for others.
When their children squabble, parents know it is not in the children’s best interests for parents to take sides. Good parents want to help their children learn how to resolve disputes kindly and make wise decisions that are good not only for them, but also, for those around them, including for their disgruntled sibling. It is through wise conversation and example of the parent that the emotionally charged children can grow into thoughtful, caring adults.
HaShem has created the model of the family as a training ground to learn these crucial life skills. We pray that He raises up good leaders. Lord of the Flies by William Golding gives us a glimpse of the result of the lack of good parenting. As it relates to societal good, the leader of our country is as a parent to children, the need being for one who can calm a squabbling nation just as a parent counsels children to learn how to live together respecting each other’s differences. The need for good leaders in our world cannot be overemphasized as the fragile goals of peace, and progress, hang in the balance.
Just as Abraham Lincoln loosely quoted the Gospel of Mark with his famous quote, “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” so too, the diversity in our country can be a building block, not an obstacle, to a better society. The differences among us need to be properly respected and accepted in order to create a more tolerant, more robust, future. Hateful attitudes must not be tolerated, as any good parent would teach their children. Our democracy is built on welcoming the other and embracing differences, the differing viewpoints and ideas working together to create a place overflowing with depth of rich experiences. As we are encouraged to respect our parents and support the family structure, so too ,we are to respect the democratic process, to watch red and blue become the royal color purple, representing not loss of individuality and identity, but rather, emulated leadership, and tranquility.
Parents make mistakes all the time, as do leaders. Yet in analyzing the outcomes, so long as our children feel loved, most mistakes are not irreparable. Parents want peace and love in their home, as should leaders for their country, and for this world. When parents can help their children see the other’s side, to walk in their sister or brother’s shoes, shalom bayit can return.
I encourage you to continue to pray for our leaders whose responsibility as such, from HaShem, is to lead with love and to nurture love among all of us.