This morning my Facebook feed was full of people doubting that Pope Francis had really met with Kim Davis, the Kentucky un-clerk. Then, this afternoon my feed was full of people expressing disappointment and disbelief at the news that he had met with her. People are shocked and upset.
I am disbelieving of the disbelief. I was equally surprised to find people surprised to find out that Caitlyn Jenner is somehow transgendered and a Republican and against marriage equality.
Where have all these surprised people been living? Have they never met someone they liked who held beliefs they didn’t like? Do they not have relatives they love who say obnoxious things? Have they never met a gay bigot? An African-American anti-semite? A Jewish homophobe? Did they never learn that Thoreau slept with Emerson’s wife?
Somehow we’ve gotten in to this way of thinking that we are all one thing or another. We think that if we share some beliefs with someone we must share all our beliefs with that person. So we find ourselves shocked that a Pope could espouse income equality and not espouse marriage equality.
I was raised in a somewhat knee-jerk liberal home where all Republicans were considered stupid. This home was in Kentucky, not exactly a bastion of liberal thought (see Kim Davis). It took me until college to start to see shades of grey and nuance in people’s political beliefs. It was finding out that Marx could sacrifice his own family to his cause, that Thoreau could be both self reliant and bop someone else’s wife, that the guy I worked with could be sexist and still be kind that helped me see beyond a simple dichotomy.
But lately it seems that we find ourselves refusing to believe that someone can be intelligent and well meaning and believe anything different than what we ourselves believe. We unfriend and refuse to have conversations with people in different political parties or with different political beliefs because we’re convinced that everything is all or nothing.
When Walt Whitman wrote “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.” He was not just talking about himself, he was talking about the country and people in general.
The Pope believes we should work to fight climate change and income inequality. He does not believe in equal rights for women or marriage equality. He is a brilliant and kind man with some noxious views. Maybe all of this shock and surprise is because more of us are like that than we want to believe.