COVID, Capacity and Politics on the Arise Podcast's "Critical Conversations"

Tune in to a new episode of the Arise Podcast where Danielle and I connect over having a new imagination for what it’s like to live in these COVID days. Having once thought, “perhaps this will all blow over,” we are now knee deep in changing family dynamics, changing what it looks like for kids to “go to school” with distance learning, and adults shifting to a more long-term working from home situation. Normal is being redefined. 

Even still, nearly six months in to COVID-19, things feel raw and exposed.


With the end of summer and the beginning of the school year, there is a sense that we are just not ready. Naming the feeling of being ill-equipped to teach children at home while also helping to them deal with social isolation… Simply put: We are not able to meet all the needs for all the kids. Danielle names there is a hard balance: how do we manage screen time and engage with our kids and work (from home)? We are having to trust our kids lot more and these family dynamics are continuing to develop as we find ways to deal with losses and managing emotions.


As we enter into the political season it feels more divided than ever across our nation—people seem to be lining up to pick sides!


We can ask ourselves: How much capacity do I have in this season, in a global pandemic, being maxed out with personal and/or work life, do I have to engage people who aren’t like me… or who disagree with me, when I still want to connect and be seen and heard?


Danielle says the reality is we just don’t want to know people who are like us and yet we do just want people to know people like us. We want to agree because it feels good. And when we disagree, we aren’t just having disagreements [about politics], people believe that these things are connected to the core of who they are.


As we engage in debate and discourse this political seasons, ask yourselves: Am I in my body? Am I present with what I'm thinking? When you’re in your body you have a harder time accusing and dehumanizing another person. Honor humanity by being a human: be in your body.


What if I am in my body and my neighbor isn’t in their body? Start by asking questions, “You don't seem to be with me right now, where are you?” Start with curiosity. Acknowledge what you see them, it disarms them.


If we can have a conversation with someone without being seen and heard, what was the point of the conversation?


If someone hears what you said, they're going to remember what you say. They remember it in their bodies, for good or bad.


Danielle’s tips for engaging with others in this political season who may disagree with you:

  • Practice hospitality to the other person.

  • Offer yourself kindness. — If you’re not ready to engage or in a place to engage, then don’t.

  • Have self-awareness—what am I feeling? And where am I feeling it in my body?

  • Stay with it: Danielle believes that our culture wants to disconnect from the conversation around race, racism and white supremacy because there is a sense of SHAME. But we need stay with it: take breaks, do work on your own, but then reengage in this important conversation.

  • Don’t engage over social media because you remove the human part of being human—our bodies. Our bodies regulate with other bodies. When one person’s body is dis-regulated it disrupts other bodies present. Therefore engaging over social media takes away our ability to regulate our bodies.

Anger can be arousing and exciting over social media. And yet anger can cause damage that will require repair that you may not be able to over social media.


When we enter into a place that requires repair there can be this sense of despair, hopelessness, "this isn’t going to get better.”  We need sit in that for moment and mourn. We need to feel the weight of our grief for there can be no movement out of grief without engagement. We must allow space for our anger to transform into grief so that our grief turns to lament and morning which leads to repair and reconciliation and healing.


There’s been much debate around Abortion / Pro-Life this political cycle and it is not as black and white  as much as we’d like it to be, it’s so much more nuanced. There is this sense that if we are supporting the dismantling of systemic racism and white supremacy that somehow we’re also supporting abortion. Danielle asks why do you think these two are linked?

We can not do “the work” for others. If we give someone the completed work or “the answer,” without the scaffolding, framework and structure, it has no place to land.


When we do story work engagement, sometimes others may be able to “see” clearly what’s happening but the person who is sharing does not. To just name or tell them what’s happening without building the framework to support that idea, it won’t hold and stick for the person.  Danielle says this is why math teachers tell you to “show your work” and not just give the answer. You have to know the steps involved in how and why you got there. When you compare your answer with another person on how you got to a conclusion, you can look and see where things are the same and where they aren’t the same and use that as a basis for repair, if needed.


We simply need community. We need someone else’s eyes and ears, to guide and walk with you. And we can still do that even in COVID. We can still make phone calls, send text messages, have FaceTime/zoom meetings… We still have the ability to connect and reach out. 


Some ground rules for difficult conversations around politics:

  • Honesty — Honesty requires truth-telling

  • Honoring Boundaries - honoring the agreed upon time frame or topic of discussion

  • Openness — Are you willing to really hear another person’s point of view?

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