This week, on these opinion pages of The Beachcomber, we offer a bipartisan treat in the form of twin commentaries by Zen Buddhist Abbott Koshin Cain and evangelical preacher Mike Ivaska.
The pair approached The Beachcomber a while back, asking if the newspaper could provide a forum for them to discuss their friendship.
In these divisive times, how refreshing, right?
Cain and Ivaska don’t agree about a lot when it comes to their spiritual practices, but they’ve found a way, through conversation and a kind of fascination with each other, to not only get along but also learn from each other.
We can all do the same with people we disagree with, right?
Maybe, maybe not.
The stakes are so high, and emotions are running hot right now, and it’s fine to acknowledge that.
These are disembodied times, quite literally, as we near the unspeakable tragedy of half a million lives lost to COVID-19 in the United States. On Vashon, it is still not possible, and won’t be any time soon, to gather together in person to discuss the issues facing our island and our nation.
What we have left, in terms of public discourse, is public meetings on Zoom, social media, and, of course, the homespun, old-fashioned medium of 300-word letters to the editor of the local newspaper.
And there is so much to talk about.
This week, our newspaper continues to cover the process of our school district’s efforts to phase in hybrid education — a maze that involves labor considerations, ever-changing public health guidance, and the too-slow roll-out of vaccinations, despite the Herculean efforts of our local providers to get shots in arms of all islanders who are currently eligible.
Last week, school board members and administrators were also told by members of Comunidad Latino de Vashon that the district’s racial equity efforts were lacking, because district leaders had not shared power or engaged in true collaboration and dialogue with Latinos — the largest community of color on the island, whose children comprise 13% of the student body of the district. Top-down decisions about programs affecting these children weren’t working, they said, and were in fact hurtful to the entire student body of the school.
Our fire district has also dealt with labor issues of late, only last week signing a memorandum of understanding with their union that implements a policy of paid leave is in cases where career firefighters are infected with or exposed to COVID-19.
What is at the bottom line of all these issues, and our interactions with each other as we continue to navigate the seemingly never-ending age of coronavirus?
Let’s turn back to the Buddhist Abbott and the evangelical preacher. Read their columns, and you might see what makes it possible for them to engage in dialogue across the divide of their beliefs.
We think the answer has something to do with radical respect and open-mindedness. With a lack of entitlement and rejection of old, hierarchical ideas that no longer work. With humility. With empathy. With sharing. With a heart that is open and inclusive and isn’t filled with certainties.
We think these are the qualities of character that will help bring true unity to our small isle, and our nation, in these hard times.