Neither here nor there.

 

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This is the time of winter doldrums, when I would settle for any kind of warm. Unless you are a fan of winter sports, two feet of snow with more arriving daily is the time of “I have had it, get me out of here.”  As a woman of a certain age, shoveling is risky (heart), ice is trecherous (bad back and knee) and anything more than a gentle breeze is likely to knock me over.  The only kind of “activity” that seems safe is going into mental hibernation.

I am going into my cave to ponder what the word lukewarm has conjured up. It pretty much describes my approach to life, passive about what I don’t like, never angry, just not enthused.  It’s easy to stake out the middle ground all the time because nobody will get upset.  My mother’s voice: “It doesn’t do any good to get angry. Make peace.  Let him be the boss.”  I know this was the message she was given about a woman’s place, and she dutifully passed it on, not just in words, but in example. Eventually she began to see the futility of this position and once wrote me a letter apologizing.  She did not say so, because she was kind to a fault, but it was obvious that it had not served her well either.

There have been many times when frustration took over and my mouth has replaced my brain as the driver of the bus.  Those were not my proudest moments by a long shot and my family would assure me that as wife and mother I am the center that holds everyone else together. Okay, I know that I am the one who [is supposed to] knows where everything is kept, filed, scheduled and what the heck is in the back of the refrigerator.  I also know where you left your glasses/hat/I-phone and the remote control, but sorry, not your mind.

Living in the middle seems easy, but is ironically also difficult.  Because it is really nowhere.  It is not the same as being moderate or attempting to negotiate middle ground so that opposing positions can find a suitable compromise.  In the end, it never provides contentment or satisfaction at a job well done, because absolutely nothing has been done.

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I’m tired of being lukewarm.  I’m not sure where the hot water faucet is now if I ever knew, but am determined to find it.  It’s likely to be rusty, but so am I.  We’ll make a good team.

 

A New Perception of Reality

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Last March I wrote a piece questioning whether perception is reality, as some have stated quite persuasively.   I argued that it is not, and presented my rationale for being courageous enough to face our own (mis-)perceptions and the way we tend to cling furiously to them even if there is a mountain of evidence to the contrary.

Over the past year I tried valiantly to convince myself that once the election was over, despite who ultimately won the increasingly disgusting battle, somehow our country could refocus and come together to face the future with some sense that we are all in this fragile boat together and if it goes down, most all of us will drown.  I watched the inauguration, fervently hoping that Mr. Trump would rise to the occasion, realize that he bears a sacred responsibility, and not act as if the presidency is a CEO position at one of his corporations and he can make unilateral decisions because he doesn’t have to answer to anyone.

Several weeks later, I am forced to admit that this hasn’t happened and, if anything, has only gotten worse.  I apologize.  I was wrong.  Perception clearly is reality in this new political world. Or perhaps, more accurately, it is that reality doesn’t matter any more. Perception is everything and the only perception that counts is Mr. Trump’s.

I do not support most of the actions of the Republican administration so far and am disheartened and worried about the consequences for many Americans (including most of those who voted for them).  But I am also disheartened by much of the criticism that has flooded social media.  Not the opinions expressed in the endless flow of comments.  Not the satire on SNL or The Daily Show or the creative t-shirts and signs, even when they strike me as vulgar or inappropriate.  Free speech is a sacred right of all Americans, even those with whom I disagree.

But I am saddened by the vicious name calling and personal attacks that often serve as “dialogue” or “conversation” on social media.  And surprisingly I find myself most disheartened and saddened when it is done by those who disagree with the current administration.  Not that I give a pass to Trump supporters.  (I don’t like to use labels, but cannot figure out how to say the following without using them.  So please give me a pass on the next few sentences.)  While I know that many on the “Right” are racist or sexist, I also believe that many more are scared and frustrated, unsure of how to navigate this increasingly complex world, and feeling  they have been left out of the national conversation, especially by  the “Left.”  Unfortunately, I have often been guilty of thinking of “Conservatives” as ignorant, arrogant, anti-everything good and right and sacred. Probably many of them are. But many “Liberals” are also; it’s just that the people we consider ignorant, arrogant and anti-everything are different.

Many years ago, I worked for a non-profit organization.  For a period of time low-risk prisoners came once a week to work as part of their court-ordered community service. This involved a large bus (with clear markings on the side that identified where these men were coming from) that passed by neighboring homes.  One of these neighbors called to ask what was going on and why a prison bus was passing his house once a week.  After one of the staff spoke with him, she was muttering about him in an unflattering way, and indicating there was something amiss about his concern.  When I asked her why she couldn’t understand his position, she replied “Because HE doesn’t have any problems.” This is a blindness that is unacceptable, particularly from those who consider themselves more enlightened and progressive.  If someone fears for his safety or the safety and well-being of his family and home he does have a problem (even if that fear is unfounded).

When “We the People” engage in harmful dialogue with each other, resort to calling each other names, and act in the same way as those we criticize, we have already lost the battle. We need to speak truth to power and to each other.  We must stand against injustice, whoever is the target, but do it in a way that strengthens our national fabric. One of the reasons, I think, that non-violent movements and their leaders (Dr. Martin Luther King, Ghandi, and, yes, Jesus) are so compelling is that they refuse to engage in the same vicious behavior (which includes speech) that characterizes those they oppose. Instead, they live their values, even at the cost of their lives.

By spending our energy demonizing and fighting each other, we are unable to recognize any common ground and work toward solutions that benefit all of us.  That allows our leaders to use their positions for personal gain and glorification and ultimately destroy what actually makes this country great.