What a bittersweet few days. I had begun to despair of the possibility that healthcare reform would pass. The shrill, venomous and uncompromising voices of the opposition were such a turn-off that I felt sad for what this represented about America.

But the days and hours leading up to the vote recovered my sense of hope. Perhaps justice and compassion could actually carry the day.

My husband and I watched the deliberations, and when I found some of the speeches painful to hear, I had serious indigestion. But it was too important to ignore, and I was reminded of the adage that legislating is like making sausage: you wouldn’t want to watch either in the making. So I uncovered my ears and eyes, voiced my own responses in the privacy of my home to the speeches that riled me, and I stayed tuned. It was worth it. Watching the vote was both suspenseful and exciting, and it was humbling and uplifting to witness the history-making conclusion. We did it; America is restored as a nation. Justice and righteousness prevailed.

But not entirely. Righteousness was evident as a bit too much self-righteousness. And among those who stubbornly refused to endorse any form of healthcare reform, were some individuals who were more than sore losers. Racial epithets and gay slurs, physical violence and frightening threats have made their mark on this historic moment as well. This is a most unhappy outcome, in my opinion. This is not just a case of sore losers; it’s a contagious bitterness that is pernicious.

Life is an exercise in learning to cope and graciously lose without poisoning ourselves and our adversaries. Most of us are winners and losers in a myriad of ways throughout our lifetimes. The great challenge of life, the defining quality of character, is in how we manage disappointment, learn from it, and use positive energy to continue to be our best self going forward.

The rabbis of the Talmud tell us that the second Temple was destroyed because of sinat chinam/ baseless hatred. They understood that when a society has reached a tipping point wherein maliciousness spreads like a virus, it can weaken and even destroy that very society.

I pray that in celebrating the passage of this legislation, there is humility and compassion for those who wished for a different outcome. And I pray that the opponents of this reform will take a deep breath and come to find open-hearted ways to approach those on the other side of the aisle in the spirit of concern for doing the best good for all people. This would fulfill the prophetic call for righteousness, the call that has inspired generations and is our hope for the future.

The words of poet Langston Hughes have been reverberating in my mind this week. Let’s say them out loud and spread the dream:

I dream a world where man

No other man will scorn,

Where love will bless the earth

And peace its paths adorn.

I dream a world where all

Will know sweet freedom’s way,

Where greed no longer saps the soul

Nor avarice blights our day.

A world I dream where black or white,

Whatever race you be,

Will share the bounties of the earth

And every man is free,

Where wretchedness will hang its head

And joy, like a pearl,

Attends the needs of all mankind–

Of such I dream, my world!

From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, edited by Arnold Rampersad (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994), p. 311.

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