That elusive kernel of truth

The most elusive kernel of truth is that in the other person’s point of view. It hides behind all those things that are horribly wrong, misshapen and downright evil that shout out to us demanding rejection in the strongest manner. It is to that kernel of truth that I beckon you; to that most elusive bond between humans; it is to that most unlikely seat of our shared soul I wish to pay homage.

As so often happens, political, religious and personal differences are all that seem to matter today, not only here in the U.S. but nearly everywhere. These can seem irreconcilable, urgent and clear cut to us with such force and visibility that we justify attacks upon each other both with words that batter and arms that shatter. So it is today one faction assaults another; husbands attack wives and the favor is repaid; and on these pages we are so convinced of our rectitude that we call for the removal of those in the sight of our eyes of truth, justice and all that is holy and pure.

I have just put down an amazing book, A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (author of The Kite Runner)and was moved to tears by the brutality suffered by the women of Afghanistan in recent times. Not only the Taliban treated them as animals but their own men did so on the personal level. It is sobering to see how cruel we can be to fellow humans. Of course any well written story succeeds because in telling the story it exposes a hidden piece of the human condition that we share.

So it was that I was led to wonder at the anger and outrage recently expressed at both President Bush and the Democratic Congress. What shred of truth must be ignored to allow this rage to live on? Can we be humble enough to pause in our tirades, set aside our grudges, and look for common ground?

I wonder. These days people no longer just make mistakes – they are evil conspirators out to rob us of all that is good and need to be removed, punished or dealt with by force and angry rhetoric. Could it be that the temperature of our response to them is as much a measure of something in ourselves as their misdeeds? Could it be that they are, in ways unimaginably bad to us, seeking a goal very much in line with our own?

I hold to the belief that even the darkest soul is animated by the same light that shines so brightly in ours. Sometimes it is exceedingly difficult to find that spark, but knowing it exists has led me to hone my skill at listening, observing and paying attention to others. So it is with that in mind that I respectfully demur to calls for impeachment, constitutional crisis, and verbal assaults on those who are so clearly wrong.

Inside this bubble of shared reality there is just barely enough space and time that we might actually work things out without killing more, destroying more, damaging more or living another day inside the searing acid of hate and prejudice. I struggle every day, every hour for this time and place.

There's a place for us,
Somewhere a place for us.
Peace and quiet and open air
Wait for us

There's a time for us,
Some day a time for us,
Time together with time spare,
Time to learn, time to care,
Some day!

We'll find a new way of living,
We'll find a way of forgiving
Somewhere . . .

There's a place for us,
A time and place for us.
Hold my hand and we're halfway there.
Hold my hand and I'll take you there
Some day,
Lyrics Leonard Bernstein


  1. Sandra Price

    This was a good read for me this morning. I have been trying to defend individual freedoms to a bunch of Conservatives and the insults and threats were terrible.

    We Americans are taking a terrible hit from most of the other nations but the place where we should be united is within our own individual desires for our own people. Somehow we must unite as a free and independent nation facing terrorism from others.

    Do Americans even realize what peace and respect for other Americans means and even exists any more?

  2. Jellicoe

    Should we have hugs and kisses for those who brutalize the world, in our name and on our dollar, and strip us of our rights — regardless of motivation (which, by the way, is way beyond suspect)? The description is so obviously apt that one needn’t even name the criminal. Politics is not a love fest, especially when we are talking about the fate of nations and perhaps the world as well.


  3. Phil Hoskins

    Applying this to, for example, the war on Iraq, I have been enraged since before the invasion and often since at the entire affair. But I am not sure that rage does any good in the long run. Possibly the short run, but I reflected upon our national experience in Vietnam as I wrote this piece.

    I was one of those in the streets, acting out my rage at the insanity of our involvement. In the end, my rage and that of millions others brought down the House of Nixon. But now we have the House of Bush so what really was changed?

    Possibly it is a function of aging to look for longer range solutions instead of quick fixes. I see a need for structural changes in politics as the strangle hold of big money wipes out any real democracy. I see a need for the general public to pull away from its addiction to fast fixes and easy ways out before any meaningful change in our foreign policy is possible.

    We need to find a better solution of Iraq now that we have bungled our invasion badly, but leaving precipitously would put huge segments of the population in a horrible mess, maybe no worse than now, but that isn’t saying anything.

    As i mentioned in the article, reading A Thousand Splendid Suns plunged me into deep sorrow about the fate of the Afghanis, especially the women, caused by constant war, part of it our fault. In reflecting on my sorrow I saw that we will just keep inflicting pain on the world until we wake up to our own evilness, which is often cloaked in good intentions.

    We, as a nation, need to grow up and realize we aren’t some attractive teenager who just needs to get used to his strength anymore. We are a mature nation with gigantic responsibilities in the world. Those will not be addressed by rage, however heartfelt or honest.

    We must address our responsibilities with a view toward the weakest, the most oppressed and then act with reason, compassion and humility. None of those are compatible with rage.

    Phil Hoskins

  4. Tamarlass

    Yesterday I saw a rerun of Khaled Hosseini’s appearance on C Span (Books).

    He read the first chapter of his lastest book and than answered questions from the audience. One of the first questions was from a person wanting to know how she could help women in Afghanistan.

    His answer was simple, change will have to come from within. He explained the Taliban wasn’t responsible for the brutal treatment of woman, this has been a given for hundred of years.

    It isn’t our responsibility to change distressing aspects of other cultures as we often make the problem worse rather than help. It would be lovely to see change but it will not be forced on these people in my opinion and it will take time.