When we lived in San Bernardino, anything could and would grow in our back yard. The top soil was 3 feet deep and it had been a chicken ranch at some time in the past. We planted fruit trees and raised our own lettuce, tomatoes, squash and peppers. There was a persistent weed that grew there, one that I thought was particularly ugly. I spent a considerable amount of time trying to eradicate it.
One night at the Farmer’s Market, I put a bunch of what I thought was broccoli rabe into my basket. When I was checking out, they asked me if I liked lambs quarter. I said “What?” Then I thought “Why not?” The next day as I was preparing dinner in a well-lit kitchen, I took a good look at the strange vegetable. And then I rushed outside and identified it as my hated weed. As it turned out, it was absolutely delicious. It is also very nutritious and, moreover, free. I no longer hated the weed, but protected and encouraged it.
It is too easy to judge something we know nothing about as undesirable and disgusting. It is too easy to judge someone we know nothing about as uninformed, stupid or evil.
I believe the worst political problem we face is polarization. I am guilty of it and I bet you are too. Our polarization makes us want to “weed out” people or politicians with whom we disagree. We believe they have no useful purpose and are, in fact, evil. It makes it almost impossible to solve any of the huge problems facing our country and the entire world.
We want to win. We want to win bad. We want our position on our favorite issues to win. We want the opposite side to be defeated. We don’t want discussion. We don’t want to hear what they have to say because we know we won’t believe it. We don’t want compromise. We want to win. We do not want to admit that these other people might have something valuable to contribute.
If our intention is to act as Christians, that is to follow Jesus, then we will realize that life is not about winning. Our identity goes beyond our political labels and our nationality, even beyond which baseball team we love (even if it IS the Dodgers). Our true identity is that we are beloved children of God, each and all of us. And God loves each one of us, no matter if we are Democrat, Republican or Independent, no matter if we are Ukrainian or Russian, no matter if we are gay or straight. The God who loves us is sufficiently abundant to have provided ample resources so that we can have a world in which each of us has enough to thrive.
Jesus told us not to judge but to love one another, even our enemies. And how do we do that? We give special care to the Poor and Vulnerable. We work for the Common Good. We stand in Solidarity with suffering everywhere. We protect the Rights of Workers. We work to protect the Earth, our common home. This is called Catholic Social Action. It is also the implementation of the Gospel.
We can’t do any of this if we are so sure that we are the only ones who are right and that everybody else is a weed.
Jeanette Arnquist is a former Director of the Department of Life, Dignity & Justice for the Diocese of San Bernardino. She is retired and living in Tucson, Arizona where she remains active in social concerns ministries.