Many faith traditions, of course, place a great deal of emphasis on respect and kindness for strangers, on the duties of hospitality and of caring. Kindness is important, but for an immigrant country it is not enough. It is not enough to divide the world into “us” and “strangers” and be nice to strangers. The real test of a country and city that absorbs immigrants is that the strangers have to become us. You can’t just be nice to them and say, “Oh yes, they are green, or black, or chequered, and they are from far away and they stutter, and they don’t know what we mean when we say PMO. Poor dears, let’s be nice to them.” The strangers are us and have to become us. Beyond the openness, it is necessary to think of us together with the strangers – to give up that appeal to “be nice to others” and to see the others are us.
(From “Canada and Social Justice” in Ursula Franklin Speaks, 56–63.)
“The strangers are us and have to become us. … the others are us.”
I’ve turned to this line and this sentiment often since I read it, a few weeks ago. For me, it captures so much:
- Us/Them and Self/Other are artificial dichotomies.
- Inclusion doesn’t mean merely tolerating other people, but making space within ourselves for everything those people bring, a widening.
To forgive is to assume a larger identity than the person who was first hurt, to mature and bring to fruition an identity that can put its arm, not only around the afflicted one within but also around the memories seared within us by the original blow and through a kind of psychological virtuosity, extend our understanding to one who first delivered it.
This idea also operates at many levels:
- In a big, societal sense, when we consider the living together of different “groups”, as Franklin speaks to.
- But also in a small, personal sense, as in two people working together and making space for both to exist comfortably.
- And, of course, at every level in between. I see this particularly within my context at work, where “we” (at CDS) are partnered with folks from other departments—in that coming together, we need to see each other not as “others”, but as fellow people just trying to get along.