Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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De-Polarization- Thoughts on the Florida Tragedy

I was asked by a couple of different sources to write about the latest shooting in Florida. I dreaded the thought. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first, or second, or third time this has happened. What is there to say other than it is horrific? And most conversations end up in one of two places- guns and/or mental illness. I have little desire to discuss either issue, so it caused me to ask myself why.

After a few conversations with people, I realized I could come at this topic in a dozen different ways. Maybe it wouldn’t be so difficult to write about after all, but which one to focus on?  Then I had a talk with my friend Darren and I came up with an overarching theme. He gave me permission to steal his verbiage.

Probably the simplest explanation as to why I find it so difficult to talk about these kinds of incidents, is what seems to be like a resurgence of polarization in our country. Perhaps it has always been like this and I just wasn’t aware. From my limited perspective, it feels like the latest election has caused the problem to skyrocket. Now it has become Trump lovers or Trump haters. Guns or no guns, etc..

I find it almost impossible to talk with people at either extreme. How can anyone be so incredibly positive they are “right” when the issues are so profoundly complex? The language people use to describe their positions makes me cringe. It’s so obvious to each side that their view is without question the most sensible answer. Anyone who disagrees must have a seriously maladjusted brain. Yuck.

It also feels to me like the goal is to find blame. I understand that it is human nature to want to be angry at someone. That is probably why so many people end up angry with God. God is always a good scapegoat if you can’t explain the situation away with something else. Let’s blame the president this time, even though these shootings have been happening for quite a while now under the leadership of Democrats and Republicans. Let’s blame the FBI for making an unforgiveable mistake. Granted, some mistakes are catastrophic, but I wonder just how many “warning signs” get turned into the FBI every day. Is it even possible to sift through them all?

I remember something disturbing from my very first sociology class. Humans tend to pat themselves on their back when something good happens. Those same humans tend to blame others when something bad happens. Most of the “solutions” to shootings that are out there are externalizing the problem. Someone, some entity, some policy, some agency is supposed to fix this.

The truth of the matter is, I think we would make a much bigger impact on the world if we thought of ways to internalize the problem. What can I do? Me! After all, I am the only one I truly have power over anyway.

One of the best suggestions I’ve read out there is to try to befriend the lonely people we encounter. If we all stopped taking the easier path of ignoring people who are easy to ignore and instead reach out, that could be a profound example to our children.

My son is 15 now and in my recent parent-teacher conference, I came away a very proud mama. I heard at least twice that he is able to work with anyone he is put in contact with, even those kids that are on the fringe. While I do try to live my life in a way that reaches out to everyone, I don’t think I can take the lion’s share of the credit on this one. From birth to age 13, one of his best friends was the neighbor down the street who was on the autism spectrum. Unfortunately, he had to move away a couple of years ago and I know he misses him. From early on, he was aware that people could be “different” but he overlooked that in a way that kids can be so good at.

I plead with all of us, let’s try really hard to stop polarizing. Stay open to information. Have your views, but speak to others with respect. Actually listen to people who think differently than you do. It is amazing that just a small change in wording can make a gigantic difference in creating a more peaceful conversation. Take personal responsibility. Live your life every day the best way you can in whatever space of the world you are in.

Seem pie in the sky to you? Maybe. But I think it is truly much more effective than any of the other endless arguing that goes on politically.

Humans hate. Humans kill. Humans die.

Humans grieve. Humans hurt.

Humans love. Humans sacrifice. Humans stand in front of their students and take a fatal bullet for them.

Wake up every day and ask yourself what kind of human you want to be. You probably will never have to find out if you would take a bullet for someone. But I bet you might have the chance often to reach out to someone who is less than lovely in your eyes. Do it, and help change the world.


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Madame Secretary

I only watch two TV shows- The Big Bang Theory and Madame Secretary. Pretty opposite ends of the spectrum. I don’t usually get to watch either one of them when they air, but “on demand” works fine other than having to sit through the commercials. (Yes, I am the only woman in America that does not have a DVR.)

This morning while Frankie was getting ready for school, I was finishing watching this week’s episode of Madame Secretary. They are all usually pretty riveting, but this one was an especially dangerous story line. There was an explosion I wasn’t expecting so I jumped and let out a small scream. Then I was teary-eyed. Frankie thought it was hilarious. He’s such a guy. “Mom, it’s just a TV character. It’s not real you know.” Simple for him.

He got on the bus and the next ten minutes I full-out cried for the rest of the episode. Didn’t even bother trying not to, I was just so moved by the story and the characters.

I love that show. Mostly, it’s because I love Elizabeth. She is the Secretary of the State. Now I know less than nothing about politics, but I find it fascinating anyhow. The politics are interesting, but the real snag for me is her persona. She is a brilliant- I mean brilliant- kick ass woman. She takes no shit, thinks outside the box, and comes up with solutions that are no less than genious. Yet, she is still somehow completely feminine and warm.

I love her marriage. Her husband is total eye candy. (That never hurts.) But they have the coolest marriage. They are total partners. They can completely disagree sometimes, but most of the time they are on the same page and they back each other.

I love their kids. They have three and one of them is usually in some sort of crisis. But I love watching the five of them mill around the kitchen. In this episode, she was saying goodbye to them. No one but the husband knew that she was going on a dangerous, life-threatening mission. He stood in the corner, watching his wife kiss her kids goodbye, knowing full well that she knew full well that it might be her last interaction with them. It was ridiculously intense.

It was nothing crazy. But the way they walk by their kids and just touch them, the way they can give them a hug… I’m so incredibly jealous. I wonder if Frankie even has a thought in his mind when he watches a scene like that. I wonder if Colin ever thinks twice about it. Because I do. Our home is NOTHING like that. There is hardly any interaction, no family time, and most certainly no touching or affection. If I even brush up against Frankie, you would honestly think I burned his skin.

Now in a way, this show is so totally unrealistic to 99% of the population. We don’t work in the White House. We don’t work in the CIA. And yet, I feel like I’m totally at home watching them. They all seem so completely normal. Not perfect, because that would just make me mad that another media message is going out to sell the impossible dream. They all fight, have conflict, etc.. But at the end of the day, you totally respect the adults, and their kids respect them too.

This particular episode, our heroine survives (of course!) but what was moving was watching all of the different characters see her come safely home. There were no words, just music. But words weren’t needed. Her beloved staff sank into relief. Her husband gets the phone call that she is safe and he breaks down sobbing with his kids. Shit. I’m crying again, writing about it.

There are lots of good people in the show. She isn’t the only one. But seeing the impact she has on everyone around her, knowing how highly respected she is, knowing how deeply loved she is- she is a worthy heroine to me.

I think that is why I love it. In one way, it touches a deep sadness inside of me. But in another, it makes me want to keep fighting. Damn it, that is possible. And I want it. A truly loving partner, kids that love me, the respect of my co-workers and peers. Knowing I make an impact on the world. I may not ever get it, or maybe just not all of it, but I’m going to go down trying! That’s the kind of woman I aspire to be, the kind of life I seek to have.

Great show… you should watch it.