Mirror images

It’s become painfully obvious in the last 12 months what unites the left and right probably more than anything else: We’re all bad. 

I think this is where we need to begin if have any hope of achieving any semblance of peaceful unity in this country. Every one of us needs to look in the mirror and see what ugly specks of hate and hypocrisy are reflected there. If it feels unpleasant, think of how unpleasant it looks to everyone else who sees us.

The recent horrifying events at the U.S. Capitol and the various responses to them can serve as that mirror. Just as when you look in a mirror left is right and right is left, the 2021 DC riots are like a mirror image of the 2020 DC riots. In May of 2020 folks who mostly would have identified as on the left vandalized businesses and burned buildings and cars in response to the killing of George Floyd. Many folks on the right condemned them and called for more aggressive police action, while those on the left criticized the police as the problem. This year’s riots feature individuals on the right causing destruction and mayhem and the left very much in favor of more aggressive police action.

What we criticize in others, if we’re bravely honest enough to look in the mirror, we often see in ourselves. Hostility, hypocrisy, and a willingness to cause chaos and do damage are not partisan sins. Though of course our tendencies to do bad things vary by degree. Most of us can’t even imagine ourselves trashing congressional offices or destroying businesses. But have we condemned the same behavior committed by the opposition that we ignored or condoned in those on our side? Have we characterized millions of people as deplorable for the deplorable actions of a few? Do we deep down despise others simply because they have different beliefs and viewpoints than we do?

At the end of the day, left and right . . . we’re not so different. We’re all flawed human beings for whom being human means failing to live up to our own standards. Failing to always do right and succeeding at often doing wrong.

We can’t have true unity without true humility. Only when both sides see ourselves when we look at each other, and see the hated opposition when we look in the mirror . . . only then will we see all of us as one.