What is our time?
It is a time when Americans are more divided than ever, gridlocked over social issues, race, gender and the economy. According to Divided America: The Fracturing of a Nation, compiled by the Associated Press: “It’s no longer just Republican vs. Democrat, or liberal vs. conservative. It’s the 1 percent vs. the 99 percent, rural vs. urban, white men against the world. Climate doubters clash with believers. Bathrooms have become battlefields, borders are battle lines. Sex and race, faith and ethnicity . . . the melting pot seems to be boiling over.”
We are building walls, and the American spirit is paying for them.
Are Americans able to truly listen to those on the other side of these walls in order to understand why they believe – and feel – the way they do?
“Is it possible, without changing our beliefs, to know others from the inside, to see reality through their eyes . . . that is to cross the empathy wall?” asks Arlie Russell Hochschild in her book, Strangers in their Own Land.
Can we cross the empathy wall to listen to what Laurel Parker, a new mother and “proud white trash” in Evan Linder’s play, Byhalia, Mississippi lives by? “There’s too many rules. Yes ma’am, no sir . . . don’t call that boy, he should call you. Don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t wear white after fuckin’ Labor Day. I will have two rules. Love each other and tell the truth.”
Can we hear what E needs in 1977 Bronx in Kara Lee Corthron’s play, Welcome to Fear City?
“I ‘on’t need to rich an famous, [I] need to be listened to. Thass all. Be seen. Cuz some days? I feel like I will for certainly disappear.”
Would all the world’s problems be solved if we attempted to scale the empathy wall by forgiving each other the way Amish parents attempt to forgive the man who killed their two sons, in Chelsea Marcantel’s play, Everything is Wonderful?
Is saving anything a stupid idea? wonders The Woman in Wild Horses, Allison Gregory’s coming-of-age story about an adolescent struggling to overcome deep internal walls to save who she is and will become decades later?
A message from CATF Trustee Sharon J. Anderson