Rusty’s Vision

Think back.

Think a LONG way back.

Think back to the first time you can remember fantasizing about what THE FUTURE might look like.

When I think of that time, I immediately think of attending the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadow, New York with my younger brother, Douglas and our Aunt Janette. I was 12 years old (or so) and everyone still called me Rusty.

The iconic figure from that World’s Fair was the famous unisphere in the middle of the fairgrounds… a huge metal globe sitting in the middle of a beautiful fountain. It looked like this: unisphere

World’s Fairs were all about creating a vivid, exciting vision of what the world might be like in some far distant future… maybe even as far in the future as the year 2000!

Of course those visions contained flying cars, picture phones worn on your wrist, pneumatic tubes that instantly whisked us from place to place and – naturally – robots designed to wait on humans hand and foot.

I don’t remember a whole lot of other details of my 12-year-old self’s vision of the exciting new world of the 21st century. But then last week, as our country laboriously dissected the results of the 2016 presidential election, I was suddenly reminded of one distinctive element of that long-ago vision: I recalled that in my youthful vision those “people of the future” always treated each other with an overriding level of warmth and kindness.

We all waved cheerfully at each other as our flying cars whizzed past. There was never a middle finger salute or road rage (socan it still be called road rage if there aren’t actual roads?) in evidence. There were never any lock-ups or data overages or poor cell service on our wrist phones.

And certainly no evil robot takeovers.

I am sure we can attribute the utter rosiness of this picture of the future – in part – to my age. How many 12-year-olds, after all, imagine that pent-up rage, or chronic dissatisfaction, or resentment, or fear about the future, or anxiety, or even outright racism might lurk in the hearts of the people they will one day grow up to be?

And yet, here we are one week after one of the most contentious presidential elections in the history of our country… many of us with voices still hoarse from yelling at each other… absolutely incredulous that ANYONE could be (choose one) gullible, naïve, stupid, racist, xenophobic, anti-Christian enough to vote for HIM/HER.

Family relations have been strained. Facebook friendships have been ended. Some real life friendships too, I suspect. So far no election-related divorces have been reported, but it may just be too soon to know.

Sad as I am to break this news to 12-year-old Rusty, it turns out that there really are some significantly dark places in the hearts of each of us. And then when we each become the targets of political campaign strategists who know negative attack messages move the needle more effectively than positive vision messages, those dark places within us rise quickly to the surface.

Looking back, I think we can agree that attacking the fundamental humanity of the candidate instead of critiquing the candidate’s ideas is wrong. If we can say that wrong comes in degrees, we can say that attacking the fundamental humanity of that candidate’s followers is even more wrong.

But the place where this campaign became so soul-damaging was when it veered into attacking the fundamental humanity of whole groups of people… portraying them as “threats” from which the country needs to be saved.

In the days and weeks ahead I pray that we can collectively recognize and repent of these dark, harmful expressions that got turned loose in us in the pursuit of political victory.

Personally, as a middle-aged, educated, white, straight male, I am about as unscathed by this warfare as anyone could possibly be. But I know people who have been hurt and are still hurting because they were turned into rhetorical targets… by both sides. They are women. They are Muslim. They are Hispanic. They are gay. They are the “non-college educated.” They are immigrants. They are poor. They are unemployed. They are young. They are the disenfranchised.

The healing that is needed today will not come as a “program”… delivered from the top down. It will come only as the “less wounded” reach toward the more wounded and offer “a cup of cold water” in practical acts of reconciliation. It will only come when I make an honest, uncoerced effort to listen to you… without seeking to correct or rebut your expression. It will only come when we risk trusting another person with the full expression of our heart… even when we know it might come back to bite us.

It will only come when you and I truly see each other as God sees us: as whole, unique, and beloved children.

And maybe then when that happens we will take a step or two toward realizing little Rusty’s vision of the future.

3 Responses to “Rusty’s Vision”

  1. November 16, 2016 at 4:46 am

    I have a picture phone watch! Tell Rusty!

  2. November 16, 2016 at 11:51 pm

    Loved your memory of the World’s Fair Russell. I lived in NYC (Staten Island) during the Fair but could not afford to go. A lot of my friends in High School went and I wish I had too.

    And yes, we have not made that much progress on the social front. I hated the harsh rhetoric and criticism that folks shouted 8 years ago. I had higher expectations this year. Apparent takeaway is that both left leaning and right leaning folks feel a need to vent hatred, anger, disappointment and/or frustration when their candidate loses. These days it just makes me sad to STILL hear people call people names just because they disagree with the way that they voted.

    In the end your conclusion is spot on: “It will only come when you and I truly see each other as God sees us: as whole, unique, and beloved children.”

    • November 17, 2016 at 5:20 pm

      Thanks, Bob. I really appreciate your comment and insight. You know, these campaign managers have figured out that “going negative” produces more results for their candidate, so it becomes the approach of choice… especially when the race is close. They fail to realize (or maybe don’t care one way or the other) the influence of a widely broadcast tone of negative rhetoric. Words matter. Tone is infectious.

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