Wednesday, October 21, 2020

TRUST by Pete Buttigieg


"Laakum diinukum wa lii diinii" is the Arabic sentence that came out of Pete Buttigieg's mouth in a tense moment when he and another American found themselves in a marketplace, on the streets of Somalia (TRUST, Buttigieg, 2020). The tension began when rather than pretend that he and his friend were Canadians (which many Americans were doing while in the Middle East (in order to avoid receiving the negative attitudes toward Americans)) they declared to the people in the marketplace that they were from the USA. As tensions about politics and religion rose in that moment, Buttigieg (a devout Episcopalian) uttered that sentence which translates in English to: "Your religion for you, and my religion for me." Buttigieg explains that it is "the final sentence of a sura in the Quran about how Muslims are supposed to speak to unbelievers."

At the heart of most faiths is that God wants me to believe. Not through force, but free will. Makes sense to me because like God, I want to receive love from others—not through force, but free will. Forced faith isn't faith. Forced love isn't love.

After a string of blisteringly hot days, I see clouds rolling in as I look out the window from where I write. Much-needed rain will come. An isolationist would want me to believe that the rain that falls on me is MY rain, produced by MY land. America first. To hell with everyone else.

But science teaches that rain happens through a phenomenon called bioregionalism, where atmospheric rivers transport moisture from the tropics to other parts of the world, and that 30-50 percent of California's rain comes through "atmospheric rivers" that originate in places like The Philippines (How to Do Nothing, Odell, 2019).

Yesterday I attended a zoom conference held by The Hammer Museum where speakers were talking about the troubling lack of storytellers telling stories about climate change. One reason is that storytellers can more easily tell stories by looking at something that has happened in the past. Wars. Famines. Disasters. Climate change isn't something that happened in the past. It is happening.

To take action and care not only for what is mine or what I think is mine (e.g., God, rain, etc.) we need to find a way to strengthen trust in experts and institutions who provide not conspiracies based on innuendo and mistrust, but evidence through research, study and good faith. As addiction to conspiracies and misinformation continue to spread, it feels daunting. It feels like a tug of war between isolationism and global cooperation. Between forced faith and faux faith. As much as it feels tempting to give up and let go of that rope, I hold on, and meditate on the final sentence in this book where Buttigieg says: "I trust that we can meet that moment, if only because we must."

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