My conservative friends, I really wish I could understand you.

I wish I could step into your shoes, climb inside your head, peek into your heart and see what it is that motivates you when you place your feet on the ground and step out into a day you’ll never experience again.

When you realize you’ve been blessed with another precious, fleeting bit of daylight here, why does it seem like your default response to it all is malevolence — no, maybe not to you or your family, or to those you see as your own—but to the vast multitudes who never seem to make that list. Outside of a very selective window, most people only seem to receive your contempt and judgment.

I really don’t get it. Maybe we’re wired differently.

You see, I just don’t wake up in the morning and feel burdened to be cruel to people; to actively push them to the periphery or place obstacles in their paths or deny them the things I have been fortunate enough to have received. I just assume they’re trying as hard as I am and that their lives are difficult enough—and I don’t want to amplify that. It feels like you don’t feel that way. It seems like you’re really just angry and you want lots of people to pay for whatever it is that you feel has been done to you.

There are some simple questions that rise up into the foreground of my mind as I watch you:

I simply don’t feel compelled to take healthcare away from those who are sick, or to make it more costly for families battling terrifying, insidious illness. What makes someone do that? What are you thinking as you lobby for people to lose health insurance, or when you amen those working to take it away? Where is there compassion in you as you do?

I don’t want feel the need to prevent two people who love each other from marrying one another or adopting children or making medical decisions if each other’s lives hang in the balance. Why do you believe you’re qualified to do this to a stranger; to impose your beliefs on them, to insert yourself into their most intimate relationships, to have a say in their bodies or bedrooms? What in you drives you to fixate on someone else’s expression of love?

I don’t feel threatened enough by another person’s religion or lack of religion to exclude them for either reason. I don’t see an entire religion as a haven for terrorists, or something that needs to be squashed. What is it about your faith that instills such fear in you? How small is your God, that you’d despise someone else for a different understanding of that God; that you are able to villainize them all from distance.

I don’t feel burdened to memorialize slavery, to celebrate the subjugation of a people, to create a narrative for men and women because of the color or their skin. Why are you so emotionally allergic to the phrase Black Lives Matter? Given the racial injustice sewn into the history of this country, why do you feel the need to argue it or rewrite it?

I don’t want to send away children who came here in desperation and now call this place home. If you love your sons and daughters enough to want them cared for and protected and fully freed to dream—why don’t you desire that for every child? If you really understand how fortunate your children are to be here, what makes you want to horde such blessing?

I don’t feel compelled to claim ownership of America. Why do you believe you’re qualified to be a gatekeeper for a place your forbears came here to as visitors? Why do you believe you’ve earned this place, that you’ve worked harder than anyone else? What makes you feel you get to say who gets in, and whether or not they’re welcome?

I know you’ll be tempted to dismiss this as a simple hit piece; a caricature of you that ascribes motives to you from a distance, but I promise you it’s not that.These aren’t talking points and they aren’t veiled insults. I just don’t get any of this on the most elemental human level.

These aren’t matters of speculation and they’re not value judgments assigning motive—they’re just me looking at you and what is measurable; the candidate you voted for, the party you’re endorsing, the legislation you’re supporting, the platform you’re co-signing, the things you’re posting online.

Closing borders, building walls, banning Muslims, harassing Transgender teenagers, exploiting the ill and the elderly: Just why are you okay with these things—and if you’re not okay with then, then why in the hell are you so silent in the face of it all? Why aren’t you standing alongside people like me and saying so? Why does it feel like I have to do all the heavy lifting without you?

I hear anger in your words, I see terror in how tightly you hold things, and I wonder where that comes from. I imagine you might somehow feel yourself marginalized, but I can promise you that isn’t reality.

No one is telling you that you can’t marry the person you love, that you shouldn’t be able to care for those dear to you who are sick, that you don’t belong here, that the color of your skin or your faith tradition or your nation birth disqualify you from inclusion here.

No one is trying to exclude you. You’re fully included. We’re just wondering why you seem so burdened to exclude everyone else.

Your candidate won and your party has legislative control, and I guess I’m trying to figure out why you still seem so miserable, why your anger seems more fevered than ever.

There’s a cruelty I think I see in you that is foreign to me. Maybe I’m missing something. Tell me how I am. I’ll listen.

John Pavlovitz

Originally published on as Republican, I Don’t Understand Your Cruelty

John Pavlovitz launched an online ministry to help connect people who want community, encouragement, and to grow spiritually. Individuals who want to support his work can sponsor his mission on Patreon, and help the very real pastoral missionary expand its impact in the world.