Very early in my marriage, my wife and I read Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. Laugh if you want, but it got us through that first year. One of the take-away messages was that you can’t dictate your partner’s feelings. No matter how irrational or misapplied, you just can’t tell your loved one “You shouldn’t feel neglected/offended/angry/sad/whatever. You should actually feel ‘X’ because I’m actually doing/not-doing ‘Y’.” It doesn’t work like that. People feel the way they feel, rightly or wrongly. At best, you can help them work through their negative emotion and come out the other side. You don’t do that by telling them how they’re supposed to feel, you do it by guiding them to a resolution. Or, other times, the best thing to do is leave them alone and let them work it out on their own.
I’m reminded of this as I see discussions about the “mosque” near Ground Zero. Whether community center or religious shrine, it has the right to be there. It’s as simple as that. Our constitution protects us all equally and I’d have it no other way. However, I’m alarmed by the people who frame the protest strictly in terms of religious intolerance, ignorance, or bigotry. I realize that the media thrives on controversy and a certain amount of this frenzy has been whipped up to sell air time or ad space. I’m sure politicians love it because it deflects, for however briefly, the real injustice in how partisan politics is tearing this country apart. However, don’t forget that some–maybe many–people are genuinely hurt and deeply offended by the presence of this center. I find it grossly insensitive when I see people write “Oh, you shouldn’t feel that way.” Try saying that to your significant other the next time you have a disagreement and see how well that goes over. That one sentence marginalizes one’s feelings in a way that would lead a couple to divorce. No wonder this country is so divided! Rather than berating people for feeling hurt or betrayed, maybe we need to help one another deal with the anger and hurt that still hasn’t healed. Maybe we need to accept that for some, it is simply too soon.