As we defend what we care for, we can also find compassion toward that which we’re against.




A few days ago, I watched the Olympics as the U.S. played Sweden in women’s soccer. Sweden’s strategy looked like pure defense, and some called them cowards for idling. But in my experience, defense takes patience, mindfulness and close attention. In this case, it allowed Sweden to study the offense and understand how they work. In the end, they won.

Off the field, life’s not so clean as to pick winners and losers. Despite this, we live in an age and political climate where so many people feel under attack. Sometimes a person or group armors themselves against a majority. Sometimes a changing world threatens a sense of security once taken for granted. Whatever the motive, people tend to hold tightly to defending themselves. It’s a normal, animal reaction to fear. Too often, though, it manifests in hateful speech or worse, lethal violence.

But are these fears true? What if, while defending our side, we simply observed the opposition instead of attacked? What if we see our needs are in fact met, and we start helping others in need support? What might happen if we relax and reach out?

In this issue, you will meet courageous, compassionate leaders, from the legendary Apache woman Lozen to cities and citizens working to gracefully address gentrification to a mouse that no one has bothered saving now taking defense through its genetics. You will be reminded that sometimes it takes tragedy to remember our humanity, like when strangers come to town in real-life Oklahoma City or Michael Noll’s fictional Kansas suburbs. And in her personal and deeply reported lyrical essay, Michaella Thornton untangles threads of politeness, rage and honor to find that our own good nature is the thing worth defending.

As we defend what we care for, we can also find compassion toward that which we’re against. Even things some see as a waste, like drainage ditches and hate groups, can at least serve as foils for land and life better lived.

I’m in defense of an honorably played defense. I wanted the U.S. to win, sure, but I’ll defend Sweden’s right to have the same. Storytelling is a move in this direction, and I hope readers find this issue’s subjects worth defending, find more space in their hearts for love. That’s its own kind of winning.


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