“And don’t console yourself that you are the 99 percent. If you live near a Whole Foods, if no one in your family serves in the military, if you’re paid by the year, not the hour, if most people you know finished college, if no one you know uses meth, if you married once and remain married, if you’re not one of 65 million Americans with a criminal record — if any or all of these things describe you, then accept the possibility that actually, you may not know what’s going on and you may be part of the problem.”
You may be part of the problem.
Sure, we may not live in San Francisco or New York, and live in a city with an above average Latino population. Our Whole Foods is 45 minutes away, but we have a co-op doing innovative things within walking distance. And it can be incredibly easy for me to surround myself with people like me, who also match the majority of the descriptors above, and find myself in a bubble.
I remember the day we moved to Colorado, driving on 76, in the eastern part, before you can see the mountains. We stopped for supper at an Arby’s, and a man walked in with cowboy boots and his hands on his belt buckle, and we were out of our comfort zone. It wasn’t unsafe, and there was no indication that he even realized we weren’t from around those parts, but my reaction was to get back in the car and keep moving towards Denver, where there would be people “like us”.
But it isn’t just in the wild wild west that I encounter this. I’ve lived in Goshen off and on for almost 7 years now, and there are so many restaurants that I’ve never been to. There’s the ones in my bubble- the non-smoking bar with good food, the certified neapolitan pizza place, the diner where I worked after college. And then there are the Mexican restaurants- where I feel comfortably uncomfortable.
It’s the ones outside of these realms that I haven’t gone to- the ones frequented by the factory workers who came from Kentucky, the people who wouldn’t feel safe coming in to the places where people know my name.
There’s overlap, for sure. But there’s still a mental hurdle for me.
Given this, how then do I “immerse [myself] in that other country, bear witness to its hopes and sorrows” in order to build a more merciful country?
Well, since I like food, maybe that’s where I start. Maybe I’ll venture into those restaurants and become comfortably uncomfortable.