Lessons in Living Together


Living in a global society as we do presents many relationship problems. These associations—whether personal, professional, social, or political—can be intricate, complex, and abstruse.

People have always understood the human need for close relationships. We have long accepted that deployed military personnel often meet and marry their spouses in the lands where they are serving.

The world of commerce accepts the reality of trading commodities. Financial institutions and businesses have created mutually beneficial atmospheres in which all can profit.

Perhaps the most complex and ambiguous relationships are the political alliances made between countries that have similar interests and values. Even more difficult to manage are the relationships between countries that were former enemies or those whose human rights policies violate our own.

A case in point is our tenuous relationship with countries such as Saudi Arabia. On October 2, 2018, Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who openly criticized Saudi Arabia’s government, entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. He never came out because assassins inside the embassy murdered him. 

Various versions of the incident were reported, but the world had seen the video of Khashoggi entering the embassy and never coming out, so no one questioned his death; however, some authorities continue to debate the manner of his death.

Because Khashoggi wrote for The Washington Post as well as several other publications, his assassination drew world-wide attention. Many in the U.S. and around the world questioned whether they should continue a business relationship with a country that practices assassinations of dissidents.

Although democracies quickly denounced the Saudi prince’s role in Khashoggi’s murder and threatened sanctions, most countries quietly continued their business arrangements with the Saudis because the economic benefits and need for oil outweighed their moral outrage.

I have mentioned a mere handful of examples of complex relationships to highlight the context of my thesis in this essay. As I assimilate information about cultures around the world, I try to figure out how, as a global family, we could live together more humanely and peacefully.

The United States, as well as many other countries, seems divided politically. Over the last two decades in our country, I have observed in many people a blending of politics, morality, and religion into an overriding philosophy of life.

In my own life, I try to compartmentalize politics, laws, social policies, government, and religion. My religion compartment is very personal and does not have a denominational label. My spiritual self transcends my politics, moral tenets, and denominational affiliation.  

Though morality often relates to religion, I view my moral code as a pattern of behavior that I can live by unless it interferes with another person’s life. I find myself often questioning why so many people insert themselves into the moral and spiritual aspects of other people’s lives. Some of these issues relate to marriage, sexuality, alcohol, and medicine (reproductive issues, end-of-life decisions).

I would love to see people band together as human beings in important and substantial ways to promote our kinship rather than exploit our differences—race, gender identity, political leanings, and gun control.

I see the humanity, generosity, kindness, mercy, and unselfishness in almost everyone when a disaster strikes. Think of how people behave when tornadoes rip apart communities, floods wash away entire towns, earthquakes crumble large areas of a country, famine wreaks havoc in poor countries, a gunman invades a school or church or business, killing viciously and randomly.

We rush to help without regard to race, sexuality, economic level, or political party. We care about another human being whose life has been completely upended, and we identify with that pain. We thank God we can help.

When we see pleas from children’s hospitals like Saint Jude or Shriners or hear about Doctors without Borders, we care only for those children in need of medical care. We sympathize with parents who cannot afford that care. We help because we are human beings.

Why can’t we approach the “other” with the same mindset? We will never agree on all matters. It is the same in our families. Just because a sister has an abortion or a father is an alcoholic or a brother announces he is gay, we don’t end our relationships.

I find myself feeling despondent when I hear vile, cruel, contemptible language that aims to hurt others. I long for a world where human beings respect each other’s humanity. I am reading a series of stories, The Cadfael Mysteries, by author Ellis Peters, who sets her stories in England shortly after the Crusades. 

In spite of the factions warring for control of the English throne, the narrator recognizes the human tendency to succomb to despair and depression.

We could all learn from the assessment of that attitude: “There was, after all, a great deal of human happiness in the world, even a world so torn and mangled with conflict, cruelty, and greed. So it had always been, and always would be. And so be it, provided the indomitable spark of joy never went out.”
Nancy Patrick is a retired teacher who lives in Abilene and enjoys writing

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