Responding to Political Discourse

The Fist   by Mary Oliver


There are days

when the sun goes down

like a fist,

though of course


if you see anything

in the heavens

in this ways

you had better get


your eyes checked

or, better still,

your diminished spirit.

The heavens


have no fist,

or wouldn’t they have been

shaking it

for a thousand years now,


and even

longer than that,

at the dull, brutish

ways of mankind—


heaven’s own


Instead:  such patience!

Such willingness


to let us continue!

To hear,

little by little,

the voices—


only, so far, in

pockets of the world—


the possibilities


of peace?

Keep looking.

Behold, how the fist opens

with invitation.


I am disturbed, God, of course by the shooting in Orlando, but also by the discourse of family and friends following the tragedy (I know this says more about me than it does about anyone else).  It has provided a perfect political storm–gun violence…in the hands of a Muslim…shooting gays.  Add to it the election rhetoric already agitating the masses and social medial was bound to implode.

Yet, must the conversation about violence beget more violence?

Unease and discomfort are typical and potentially even helpful feelings when engaging in conflict or confronting assumptions and bias.  They are helpful when I own them in myself and when I honor them with awareness and care in another.

How do I share my opinion with and move to understand those with a different perspective?  I try to start with a question, something  genuinely don’t know that will help me see what I might not see.  And then, I ask another question, again to understand from where the other person is coming.  The third question may then relate to my opinion and how or why it is different than the one we have been discussing.  This curiosity is followed with a story, a personal example illustrating why I hold the belief I hold.  For example, I remember discussing immigration with a relative.  I simply told stories of the amazing people with whom I lived and worked, shared who they are and their dreams.  Issues look different when real lives are attached.

I can truly understand the point of view of relatives and friends who do not want additional gun regulations.  A fear pervades that if the people cannot protect themselves, the government could use force against its citizens.  Could that happen?  Yes.  Could someone walk into my house right now with a gun and use it against me and those I love?  Yes.  Could I potentially stop such an event if I, too, carried a gun?  Yes.

Why then do I think differently?  I refuse to live in fear.  I would much prefer to give the government–give people–the benefit of the doubt.  I believe, by living in fear, I give life to the fear until it becomes a reality.  Why choose hate when I could choose love?  Why choose separation when I could celebrate the oneness in God in which we are held bound?  I don’t think guns are necessary–any of them.  I am not afraid of Muslims and do not attach the actions of a few to the faith of millions praying to the same God who hears my prayers.  And I believe that love belongs to God and I will celebrate love with whomever is bold enough and committed enough to advertise it with their lives no matter one’s sexual orientation.  And, as Mary Oliver says, I will not shake my fist, but patiently open to the “pockets of the world suggesting the possibilities of peace” and put myself there.


2 thoughts on “Responding to Political Discourse

  1. Mary McGlone CSJ says:

    This morning as I was praying about all of this I got struck by the incongruity of the fact that I can’t go to the pharmacy and buy morphine and there are cleaning products that the government has taken out of circulation because they are too dangerous. But I am sure it would be as easy for me to buy a multi-round gun today as it would be to get marijuana if I were home in Denver. Now why can’t I get some products that can be dangerous to me if I abuse them but I can easily obtain something with which to injure or kill dozens of others.
    Isn’t this insane?


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