This is the season of family reunions and gatherings nationwide. People travel near and far to reunite with family members to share memories of those members who have passed on and to celebrate all the newest additions to the family, both by birth and marriage. It is a time of the barbeque, the fish fry, and the commemorative Sunday church service, all in an effort to recognize and celebrate our ancestral familiar connection one to another. It is a time of meeting new people while at the same time reconnecting with loved ones we haven’t seen in years. And just with any family gathering, reunions always come with challenges too. There are family members who don’t get along or who are holding grudges from long ago. There are unaddressed wounds, hurts and misunderstandings. Many times, these family feuds have caused some family members to shy away or refrain from these annual gatherings. They even cause some branches of the family tree to forget that as members of the same family, we are all part of the same family tree sharing that tree’s root system. There’s an old saying, “You can choose your friends but you cannot choose your family.” Because we are related and tied to the same family tree, it behooves us to make the most sincere effort as possible to “get along” with one another. That is to say, whenever and wherever possible do everything in our power to make peace not war.
We the people also tend to have these dogmatic disagreements within religious circles and among people of faith, forgetting that we are all different branches of the same tree. Within Christianity, the religion based on self-sacrifice, based on Christ dying for the love of humankind, there is so much dysfunction and dissention it’s embarrassing. Then you have Christianity against Islam, Islam in-fighting among the Sunni and the Shia, the Rabbi preaching against the Imam, the Bishop against the Pope, and the Apostle against the Buddha. We tend to get fixated on speaking “as if” we were speaking for God when we attack other faiths. We get so convinced in our individual or collective “righteousness” that we tend to forget that the basic tenet of the faith we proclaim is LOVE. The faith that we proclaim is not the faith we exhibit when we denigrate the faith of others by our words or actions. Truth be told, we are simply different branches of the same tree.
The same should be said, in these intense times of political dysfunction and divisiveness, of the citizens of the United States. Regardless of political affiliation, we are all Americans. The United States of America is a “created” entity and our foundational beliefs are ensconced within our Declaration of Independence and Constitution. At some point it has to be said that we are all Americans, different branches, same tree. However, like the great author James Baldwin, I too believe, “I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” It’s time to recognize that our national history and “family tree” is inextricably bound one to another. We better learn how to deal with our differences, which are necessary and ever present, or they will destroy us.