As she stretched my muscles until a tear rolled dripped into the bowl of rose water beneath my face the massage therapist said, “You never find comfort being comfortable,” and proceeded with a little lecture on posture while working.
She was right in many ways. And I thought of all the people who seek comfort by making their world more comfortable. And all the pain we cause ourselves and others.
I am really sorry, Representative Huffines, that Muslims make you anxious. And Dan Patrick. I feel bad for you that transgendered people kind of creep you out. And I’m very sorry Senator Cornyn that you are more afraid of losing the life of a zygote than the lives of thousands of women alive today because of Planned Parenthood. And I’m sorry Senator Cruz that refugees who arrive penniless, powerless, abused and weak somehow make you so afraid. And Governor Abbot, I’m sorry that you’re so afraid of being left behind in the parade of paranoia that against your own good sense you finally jump on the bandwagon whether its bathrooms or borders.
Soon-to-be-former-mayor Van Duesen, I feel bad that you are afraid of Shari’a Law. And I feel bad for all those Texas state senators who share your fear and have advanced their various anti-sharia bills. Same for those of us who fear for our guns more than we fear for the innocent lives lost to gun violence.
We all seem to want laws that will make us more comfortable. But we won’t find comfort.
Bobby Jindal worried that Republicans would be the party of stupid. In fact they have turned out to be the party of scared. Because it is easy to see that behind the flurry of legislative activity there is fear.
But parties aside, I feel bad that for all of us who are possessed by the various phobias that seem to have taken over our lives: xenophobia, Islamophobia, gynophobia (particularly strong at Fox News these days), allodoxaphobia (those pesky town hall meetings), and most of all metathesiophobia.
That’s right, the fear of change, and with that change the fear of losing an identity reinforced by shared customs, morays, skin color, fashion and attitudes. I am really sorry for those who fear change, and want to find comfort by stopping it. I feel sorry for all of us who want to settle back into a society that fits us like that old worn lounge chair in the den. Because here is the truth: change and diversity are happening, and will continue to happen at an increasingly rapid pace. The lounge chair is going to end up out on the sidewalk with the bulk trash, and if we don’t improve our posture we aren’t ever going to be comfortable with the new furniture.
Even without immigration internal economic forces and inevitable demographic changes will inexorably diversify even the most exclusive of neighborhoods simply because choices about housing and schools (and thus about where to live) are based on class rather than race or religion. Our children will go to school with children of different races and religions and life experiences. Some will marry their classmates who are different, and our grandchildren will not look like us or go to the same house of worship, if they go at all.
Diversity in the media is equally unstoppable, and has the same economic drivers. If you want market share (and who doesn’t) then eventually you seek a more diverse audience that requires a more diverse appearance. Did you notice Fox dropped O’Reilly?
American in the future will not look like, act like, think like, or be like America in the past. Either fearing or mourning that reality is as silly as fearing and morning the change of the seasons or the rising and setting of the sun. It is as silly as fearing growing old or seeing the young take over. America today is not America of 1950. And America of 1950 is not America of 1850. Thank God.
So instead acting out of futile fear I’d like to suggest a couple of stretching exercises that will do a lot to help us reach a state of better inner balance that is less likely to hurt us and others than acting out of fear.
The first is fundamentally spiritual.
Lean into the teaching of Christianity that all good things are preserved by God. Nothing is lost in the life of God because everything good is beloved of God. Just as God raised his own Son from the grave so God will raise you, your identity, your love of country, and indeed that time in our nation’s history that you loved. “When change and tears are past, all safe and blessed we shall meet at last.” So why do you fear?
The second is social.
Overcome fear by stretching your social network and getting to know the people you fear. A human connection, dialogue that exposes shared concerns, the beginnings of mutual understanding can go a long way to alleviate fear.
Ultimately we all end up on the massage table of history while reality begins to work us over. You’ll fear it less if you do some stretching, and it will hurt less in the end.