On the wall of the Visitor Center at Fort Frederica National Park hangs a replica map of the southeast coastline of the US circa 18c. To the north are the Carolinas, which are controlled by the English. To the south is Florida, under Spanish control. In the middle of the map is a tiny sliver of coastline, the sliver we now know as the Georgia coastline. It is called: The Debatables.
From the 16c, Spanish missions lined the east coast from Saint Augustine almost to Savannah. Fort Frederica was built to protect Savannah from any attacks coming from the south. The Debatable land was a buffer between two competing cultures. Either the Spanish would ultimately occupy the Debatable land, or the English would. Three centuries later, I think we know who won and who lost the Debate.
Winning the Debatable Land for the English was the goal. Blood was shed. Lives were lost. Losers were routed out. All’s fair, they say. Who has the biggest guns? The largest bats? The most arrows in the quiver? The debate ends when one side has enough power to take it all.
Human notions of power always come down the basic ego trap – I win; you lose. The rise and fall of nations reveals this binary existence. The truth is, don’t we all live in Debatable Land? Ownership, wealth, success are false notions and folly as the water rises and the winds roar. We negotiate and fight and rattle sabers and beat chests for that which in the end is not really ours to own.
Rachel Held Evans in her last book, Inspired, talking about the value of understanding Scripture as story, speaks to the issue of debate as that which enlivens conversation in its give and take. People bring different points of view, honing really good questions, agreeing to disagree, eating and drinking, debating and discussing till the wee hours when the debate stands by itself and the debaters carry on their life together.
In a Debatable Land, all voices count. All sides are heard. Every person is a player. All children are fed. All win. Why are we afraid if somebody else wins? Times are changing in this Debatable Land. The path of debate is there for us to walk. It’s time to drop the win/lose game. It’s time to fuel love, not hate. It’s time to seek gentleness and live generosity. It’s time for plowshares and peace among us. It’s time.