Last week I made an important contribution to disaster relief in Texas. I write this though was raised with the biblical injunction, "When you do merciful deeds, don't let. your left hand know what your right hand does", counseling me from my childhood on that it is inappropriate to talk about, let alone boast, about one's charitable deeds. But in this case, I have a confession, not a boast of that sort, to make. To bring myself to make this contribution, I had to wrestle with and overcome my biases about Texans. Yes, as an interculturalist I have my biases, the narrow knee-jerk frames that kick in all the time and need to be replaced, upon reflection, reconstructed with more appropriate thought and action.
Politics are important for getting things done in many areas of public and social life, and I want to do everything I can to humanize them as I engage in them. Yet, from somewhere deep down, my image of Texas surfaced–an ultra-right nest, a breeding place of racism and exploitative capitalism, big, boastful, etc. Maybe deserves what it gets. It was easier for me, shocked by Buddhist violence (a positive bias gone awry), to make a donation to UNHCR for the Rohingya on the borders of Bangladesh, than to proffer aid to the Texas of my bias. In the end, I did set that bias aside and took action, feeling a twinge of shame for having held it, and feeling better for overcoming it and learning a bit more about myself. Was my donation well used? I will probably never know.
I still haven't sorted out where and how politics fades and human solidarity takes over. It is certainly triumphed in the current situation as many everyday Texans were moved to risk themselves, heroically rescuing others, without thought of race or class, many motivated by religious faith that might seem exclusive in other circumstances. One hopes, of course that after disasters, neighborliness, having reached new heights, might persist when normality is restored. But we forget too easily. We return to the piggy, picky, and picayune, though hurricanes, earthquakes, and other disasters, both natural and human made, will recur to remind us of our communality and our connections.
Certainly, there will be vicious politics in the USA to decide how to pay the mounting bills for disaster relief in an economy that is undertaxed and overspent in perhaps all the wrong areas, but I won't dip into those biases for the moment. Rather I want to work at creating a new bias that continues to encourage me to remember and better support, as best I can, those who are in my life whether I know them personally or not.
Last night I made a phone call to a classmate of 60 years ago, someone I hadn't spoken to in many seasons. He was in tears that I cared to call, as he and his family hunkered down and huddled in their coastal Florida residence, shutters down and locked, expecting the worst and hoping for the best. How important to remember to support each other whatever the distances between us!