This election, man. We’re crumbling, aren’t we? The tower we’ve built for ourselves – America the beautiful, America the great – is beginning to crack in the corners and really, we all know it’s not going to take much to knock the whole thing over with our heels.
I’m trying to choose careful words here, but I’m also trying to choose honest ones.
Do we want America to be great again?
Do we want America to be kind again?
But that’s not America’s job.
Remember the biblical story from years ago, from older days of brick and tar? The tower of Babel? As the story goes, God’s people in the land of Shinar united themselves to build a tower of worship – a mark, a mission, a monument.
“And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” -Genesis 11:3
But this wasn’t supposed to be the plan.
The plan was to scatter, to spread, to share – to make a name for God. The plan was never to make a name for themselves.
What God asked for was a common purpose, but a common project.
Perhaps God wanted a movement, not a monument.
As the story goes, God stopped the people from finishing the tower by jumbling their words. Many believe this is the origin of multiple languages; others believe it’s only a myth.
“Come, let Us go down there and confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” -Genesis 11:6
The very thing the people didn’t want – lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth – was the very thing that happened.
We are a nation of names. We have spent decades building monuments from which to stand upon, feet planted firmly in crumbling soil. We have made towers with our choices and we have elected watchguards to uphold them, to keep us safe, to supply us with bricks and tar to patch what is broken, to rebuild what is cracked, to stack higher what is not.
In God we trust, our coins say.
In Us we trust, our conversations say.
“Come, let Us go down there and confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”
This is the world in which we live. A world where we cannot understand one another’s speech. Where progress is measured by monuments, by the watchguards we elect, by the projects they promise, by the bricks we lay.
You over there.
Me over here.
I have lived a short life, but a long portion of it has been spent watching confusion. I have heard groups of people stack choices over one another and seal them with tar: Breastfeed your kids, but not for too long. Welcome refugees, but not too many. Be a feminist, but not too feminist.
We build towers.
Let us make a name for ourselves.
We grow confused.
That they may not understand one another’s speech.
We have more speech swirling around us now than ever. There are Tweets, articles, statistics. There are lies and injustices, fact-checkers and controversies. There are front page celebrations and back door politics and side-by-side comparisons that we’re told will eventually stack up to some version of the truth.
Stack up to where?
I don’t know how to un-twist the tongues of our country. I don’t know how to right my version of this nation’s wrongs. I don’t know how to elect my version of this nation’s right candidate.
I know only to stop building the tower.
I know only to set aside the bricks.