Why We Must Tell Stories Of Suffering This Election Season
By Rev. Nancy McDonald Ladd
These are anxious times. History is being written right now, and the story we’re telling about ourselves as a nation isn’t a particularly affirming one.
This political season has been nothing short of traumatic for many of us around the country. I would venture to say that statement applies to persons across the spectrum of political ideology.
A litany of minimization in many forms has taken root in our culture and will long outlast the final results of this election season itself. You know the phrases. You’ve heard them, applied by more than one candidate over the course of the last 18 months.
“They’re just words.”
“I’m sorry if you’re offended.”
“I didn’t mean it that way.”
“Boys will be boys.”
“I’m not a racist, but . . .”
“It’s just locker room banter.”
Politically, these phrases of minimization are repeated in an effort to guide our gaze away from the systemic suffering and even overt violence toward women, people of color, and other identity groups in our nation.
They are meant to make us look elsewhere, anywhere but directly upon the face of oppression. And they are meant to make victims of that same oppression feel blame and shame instead of the righteous indignation due to those who have been assaulted or attacked.
If you are among those whose experience and pain is minimized, I want you to know that your pain is too important to talk around or distract ourselves from. If you are among the many people in our beloved community who have been shamed for your own suffering, I want you to know that you are powerful, loved, and important.
Words matter. They create the world we live in and the way we make meaning of it. They create the story you will tell about your life. So, as we move forward together into the remainder of this political season, my hope is that we can attend thoughtfully to the stories we tell about one another and our nation.
Let us speak honest words that make room for one another’s suffering. Let us speak mournful words that genuinely lament both our pain and our shortcomings. Let us speak loving words that call us into the very best versions of ourselves.
Rev. Nancy McDonald Ladd is pastor at River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation