What we call “change” is often more like death. With every significant transition or transformation, for ill and even for good, an old world perishes and a new one takes its place. The new world demands adjustments and adaptations, long before we’re ready to make them. First comes grief, which will not be denied its moment.
At least since the era of post-war American preeminence, we have not made much of a place for grief in our national life. The economic and social upheavals of recent decades have swept away whole worlds. Many of the displaced, convinced that they’d been cheated out of their rightful inheritance, embraced hatred. And many who emerged relatively unscathed looked with quick condescension or contempt on those whose cherished worlds disappeared. Neither allowed grief its moment.
Now it’s the previously unscathed who feel displaced. The 2016 election brought more than change. Worlds crumbled, and their prospective replacements appear undefined, frightening or both, depending on the day, to many.
No one escapes the loss of cherished worlds. Thus grief has the power to gather us, even across deep divisions. It points us toward repentance, and forgiveness. Where, when and how have I, or we, failed to acknowledge the reality of another’s loss? Or considered our worlds exempt from the destruction that has befallen others? It’s not too late to hear the promptings of grief, and to ask ourselves these questions. The work of binding up the nation’s wounds require us to do so.