Kaepernick, Kavanaugh & Rapinoe… & the value of proximity

Megan Rapinoe has made news in recent weeks. While leading the U.S. women’s soccer team to victory in the illustrious 2019 FIFA World Cup, the talented co-captain protested during the National Anthem and got into a non-face-to-face, rhetorical tit for tat with the President of the United States.

Collin Kaepernick made news last week — as documented here — in his rebuke of Nike’s 4th of July shoe promotion, asserting that its design which included the “Betsy Ross Flag” was offensive due to its perceived association with an era of slavery.

Supreme Court justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Brett Kavanaugh also made some news, as when Ginsburg sat down at Georgetown to speak about gender equality, she praised Kavanaugh, noting that this is the first time more women than men will clerk for the court — and “it’s thanks to our new justice, Justice Kavanaugh.”

(Pres. Donald Trump and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also have made news. Granted, they each make news rather regularly.)

No doubt we each have varied reactions to all of the above. What strikes me is the location of our vantage point.

What would happen if our vantage point changed?

Look how far away we are. What would happen to our opinions if we formed them from a closer vantage point? Would there be more respect? … empathy? … understanding? Even amid any disagreement, would there be more respect? … empathy? … understanding?

Allow me, for a moment, to share a seemingly most simple example. It’s personal… but profound…

On Sunday, our church took a day to intentionally invest in our community — simply to love on the people around us in tangible, practical ways… not in ways we decided — but in ways that were shared as specifically meaningful to them.

Among the means of investment, were weeding at the Y, power-washing at a health clinic, and delivering care-packages and personal thank you’s to local emergency personnel. One place, still, stood out to me… one visited by my sweet friend and her family and more. They spent time with seniors at a nearby retirement community.

I couldn’t help but smile hearing the account of my friend’s 4½ year old son playing checkers with a lady named Ruth. He’s quite the formidable young man. I’m sure he gave Ruth a competitive run for her money. 🙂

And then there was Jeannette. She will soon be 94.

Jeannette was approached by my friend’s 7½ year old daughter. The 7½ year old had gone up to her, innocently placing her hand gently on Jeannette’s back, and gave her a small card, saying something simply along the lines of “God loves you. Have a great day!”

Jeannette absolutely lit up. She then meekly asked if she could kiss the 7½ year old on the cheek. The young girl agreed, and after the brief interaction, Jeannette began to cry. She couldn’t stop. She hadn’t kissed anyone in years.

What strikes me about this interaction, however simple it may seem, is that the differences between a 7½  and 94 year old are huge. They don’t look like each other nor act like each other, and sometimes each says what could be considered by the other as some outlandish things; from far away, they could craft all sorts of seemingly legitimate judgments about one another. As long as they stay far away, those opinions and judgments can be fully supported and fueled.

But notice what happened when the vantage point changed. Notice what happened when they got closer. Notice the impact proximity has on opinion.

While the differences clearly remain, there emerges more of a willingness to refrain from judgment when we are closer; it’s less of an attempt to eradicate the very real differences, than an allowance of increased understanding to affect the formation of one’s opinion.

I would thus absolutely love to sit down with Rapinoe, Kaepernick, Ginsburg and Kavanaugh… I’d sit, too, with Trump and Ocasio-Cortez. It’s not because I think I will become more like them or they will become more like me, but proximity makes a difference. Changing our proximity — being close enough to another to more clearly comprehend why they think, feel, act and speak as they do, allows our perspective to be more thoughtful and also accurate. 

Anyone up for a game of checkers?