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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Disappointment

I am a slow learner sometimes. In fact, sometimes I don’t learn, period. Today’s blog is evidence of that. I have found myself embroiled in conversations about politics this week and have ended up crying every time. So what am I doing? Blogging about it. Talk about opening yourself up for more criticism and never learning your lesson. But I write about what effects me deeply and today’s blow got me riled up again.

I am not saying anything new when I say that never before in my lifetime have I ever observed an election causing so much passionate ugliness and divisiveness. Here is my vulnerable confession that I shouldn’t be making “in public” but here goes: I don’t vote.

I am not proud of it, so I don’t advertise it. I am also not ashamed of it either. And I have come to the conclusion after this week that I absolutely deserve to be respected for my decision. I did not come to it lightly or without agonizing. (Those of you that know me, when I have ever done anything in my life without over thinking it and feeling painfully responsible to the point of lunacy?)

When I was in my 20’s and a new voter, I voted by topics I was passionate about. Specifically, the issue of pro-choice and pro-life. And no, I won’t say what side I fall on. That’s not what this blog is about. But eventually, voting that way did not sit well with me. The election that year was between Dukakis and Bush. I determined to make an intelligent vote so I did what I usually did- I poured myself into it with all of my heart and passion.

Every single day I watched the McNeil/Lehrer news hour because they were so educational in their approach of news reporting. They also would have debates regularly of any topic they were covering to provide all sides of an idea. I read the “US News and World Report” from cover to cover. Every single week. It was incredibly time-consuming. The more information I got, the more confused I got. Not only was there abortion to consider, there was education. And warfare. And health. And economics. And environment. And. And. And. And.

And that was just the presidential election. There are numerous names and positions on a voting ballot. I was overwhelmed. I was beyond overwhelmed. In fact, I felt sick. I could not vote with any type of personal integrity whatsoever. I felt like if I couldn’t figure it out, I couldn’t vote. I didn’t like it. I know intelligent people vote. But I couldn’t grasp it.

I made two vows to myself. One, was that I would try to be the best human being I could being every day of my life. That includes being the best American citizen that I was capable of being. The second vow, was that I would not complain about my government or country. If I wasn’t going to vote, I wasn’t going to be a hypocrite.

The truth is, how do I say this ever so nicely? I think there are countless Americans who vote that are not educated or intelligent regarding the issues. They don’t give much thought to politics or go beyond the surface of the issues. Frankly, they have no idea who or what they are actually voting for. Are they a better American than me? I think not. I think absolutely not.

What I found incredulous, is that being a person without almost no political opinions, I found myself beaten up this week. My friends don’t yell or belittle me with angry tones. But two of my dearest friends made it crystal clear to me that they were disappointed in me as a person. Interestingly, one voted for Trump, the other voted for Clinton. There is almost nothing more devastating to me than disappointing people I care about. While I cried my eyes out, I also find myself extremely angry.

IT IS MY RIGHT AS AN AMERICAN TO DECIDE NOT TO VOTE.

And I believe I should be respected for that decision. I have not spent the last 20 years of my life going around telling people who vote that I think they are stupid. Or disappointing. It is a personal choice. The things that were implied about me- that I am lazy, thoughtless, not as intelligent as I was thought to be? How dare anyone say those things about me. Nothing could be further from the truth. I CAN BE EVERY BIT AS INTELLIGENT AS YOU, PERHAPS EVEN MORE SO, BUT ARRIVE AT A DIFFERENT CONCLUSION THAN YOU DO.

I went to a meeting today with some highly educated folks today. Of course the conversation turned to the inauguration. Again, I didn’t learn my lesson. I told them about the upsetting day I had yesterday and how astounded I was that I was defending myself to people who have known and loved me for years. I joked with them that if they were disappointed in me, they needed to be smart enough not to say so. Then I realized that one of two didn’t need to say a word. She made her disgust and her newfound lowering of respect for me quite obvious. I drove home crying again. Angry as hell again.

I have a responsibility to be a lot of things. And I fail at many of them every single day. I am human and make no apologies for that. I try more than the average bear to be the best I can. I can’t possibly be good at every single thing in life, but I dare say I am pretty proud of how I conduct myself in general with regard to the world of humans around me. And may I be bold enough to say that I even do a better job than a lot of people who vote.

This may be my hurt talking, but I also say to all of those that have felt the need to judge me this week, that I am equally or even more disappointed in you. I expect more respect from those who I have “proven” myself to. Those who know me and the evidence with which I live my life might be surprised about my stance on voting, but I see no reason to be disgusted or disappointed with me. I would rather have them say, “Wow, that’s so interesting. I didn’t know that about her, but if she has made a decision, I know her character and she has made it for good reason, regardless of whether I made the same decision for myself or not.”

I’m not perfect. And I’m sure many more of you will be disappointed in me now too. But I hope to God that more of you can respect me and the choices I have made that work best for my life. I’m pretty sure that is how I treat you. Hell, I’m going to contradict myself. I AM proud of my choice. I take pride in making a decision not to do something if I don’t feel like I can do it well enough. My life speaks for itself.