Dec 9, 2016

When We Can't Even Talk to Each Other

By Anna Ilona Mussmann

How quaint it seems that once, most Americans called our country the best place on earth. It is not that the U.S. was free from injustice or cultural battles, but that the majority of the population felt united by common ideals. These days, the one thing we all have in common with our political foes is a fear of what “the other side” will do if given half a chance.

Some of us see political activists determined to free our country from the influences of Judeo-Christian beliefs by demonizing all who would live by those precepts. It is a fear that is mocked by many progressives even as they appear to further that agenda.

Some of us see the coming of xenophobic public policies and the rise of an “alt right” based on white identity politics. It is a fear that is dismissed by many conservatives even as they seem unconcerned about the sufferings of non-whites.

All our fears are heightened by the apparent blindness of our neighbors. How can we talk about a problem that others can’t see? The impossibility of communication erases the possibility of an answer that includes us all. What can be done when each faction insists it is the victim of a looming hegemony, and all of us are angry at the those others who claim the status of victimhood?

I will tell you. We can brew tea. We can rake the leaves in our yard, bagging them and dragging them to the curb. We can read old books to our children and make beautiful things. We can hear the Word of God and kneel at the altar. We can receive all these good things with gratitude.

It is not escapism. It does not require a retreat from the world. Instead, it is a reminder of true reality. Progressive ideology puts man at the center of the universe and requires that humankind perfect itself so as to create a new heaven and new earth. No wonder they play such a white-knuckled game of tug-of-war--they think the fate of all humanity hinges upon it. In contrast, Christians know that even though justice and human righteousness are blessings to pursue, we humans are not the gods of the universe. No matter which way the political winds blow, we are not lost.

Brewing tea and reading books remind us both of human frailty and of the wonder that exists in this world outside of ourselves. They help us take our eyes away from the tug-of-war rope and up into the faces of our opponents. We are more likely to be able to treat our adversaries as human beings (and thus, should God be merciful, to be seen by them as humans in return) if we look them in the eyes and speak with compassion.

It is not wrong to play an active role in politics. Indeed, it is part of our vocation as citizens. Yet if we are to be citizen-politicians, let us go to the altar in humility at least as often as we wax eloquent on Facebook in anger. The truth is that whether or not America is the greatest land on earth doesn’t matter nearly as much as whether we can see the humanity in our neighbor’s eyes even when he himself has forgotten ours. How else can we offer him a cup of Earl Gray?


After graduating from Concordia Wisconsin, Anna taught in Lutheran schools for several years and became so enthusiastic about Classical Education that she will talk about it to whomever will listen. She is a big fan of Jane Austen, dark chocolate, and the Oxford comma. Anna and her husband live in Pennsylvania with their two small children. Anna's work can also be found in The Federalist.


  1. YES! Precisely how I feel and think. Thank you.

  2. (Which didn't mean thank you for agreeing with me, it meant thank you for putting it into words so nicely.)


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