Excuses & Rationalizations

 

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Today’s writing started out lighthearted, continuing in the line of my recent post on things my loved ones do that drive me a little crazy.  I’ll finish that post, maybe tomorrow or the next day.  I heard the decision of the Administration to end the DACA program and this prompted a need in me to write something much more serious.

I am willing to accept that there are almost always two sides to every coin, that most everyone can make at least a valid point or two in every disagreement. But the way that human societies grow and thrive is to recognize this and engage in respectful dialogue and decision making. Sadly, this does not seem at all possible in the current political climate that is running rampant and bulldozing the American Dream into rubble.

There are many more educated, experienced and eloquent people analyzing and commenting on the current state of our society. And thank goodness there are. I do not consider myself a savvy journalist, or any kind of intellectual wizard able to debate and educate or have any persuasive effect on anyone who doesn’t already agree with me.

This post will probably just serve as a venting process for me, and a confirmation for like-minded friends and readers. Perhaps this is also important. We all know the various ways we can try to improve our public life, and it is not my intent to say what is the best way for each of us. But I hope that somehow what I write serves as a bit of encouragement and support.

Recently I commented to someone near and dear to me that one of the problems I have with our current President is that he lies constantly, or misrepresents, or doesn’t know or understand critical issues, all of which are highly concerning. I am willing to engage in respectful discussion of politics, religion, educational philosophies, or any other area in which there are valid disagreements. But the response was this:  “Well, what do you think SHE would have been doing?” (I assume everyone knows who SHE refers to.)

Has this become the standard by which we judge the character and effectiveness of our leaders? It’s okay to lie, because somebody else would have done it too? It’s okay to be hateful, divisive, speak in a way that incites others to engage in violence, because, hey, other people do it? Are we going to come to a place in our communal lives when we just don’t expect our elected leaders to stand up, be counted and do what’s right? When we settle for mediocrity, ineffectiveness, blathering and nonsense?

A people can thrive through honest and thoughtful disagreement about policies and procedures, can endure many hardships, and make the necessary sacrifices that a democratic, national life demands. But when the person entrusted to be our common voice, the personal manifestation of our national hopes and dreams, speaks only to the worst of human nature, we may still survive, but we most certainly do not flourish.

 

©Martha Hurwitz, 9/5/17

Inspired by Daily Word Prompt:  elevate

Amber Waves

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I so much want that image of America to be true:  spacious skies, majestic mountains, fruitful plains.  I so very much want sister/brotherhood to be crowned by grace and goodness.  I do not want this as a cover-up for the wrongs that have been or are still being done to native peoples, to slaves, the poor, the desperate refugee and to the land itself. I want it because I cannot give up on the dream of liberty and justice for all, of a country in which differences can be celebrated and where everyone’s potential can be realized.

This American Dream.  Those of us who have been fortunate enough to benefit from it, whether by chance of birth, gender, financial status, majority race or religion, need to acknowledge that for many others it has been a nightmare.  We need to understand that our privilege has ridden on the backs of others.  But this acknowledgement cannot be an excuse to wallow in guilt or throw up our hands in defeat.  Rather, it should guide the way to reconciliation, and to a renewed commitment to the ideals that, if made into a reality for all, really do make this country great.

We are struggling so much during this time of division and hostility in our national life to hang on to this dream trying to figure out how to balance and acknowledge so many critical needs.  It is very hard not to become so distraught at the daily antics of inept leaders who do not have the courage to stand up for the good of the country that we forget that it is us, we the people, for whom this nation exists.

We can all do something, and even if it seems too little, or too insignificant, do it anyway. We can make phone calls or send e-mails on a regular basis to our elected officials so they don’t forget they are accountable to us.  We can gather the courage to speak to friends, relatives or co-workers if they express opinions that are prejudiced or make hurtful and damaging comments to others.  We can tell the Pakistani clerk at our local convenience store that she is welcome in the community.  We can listen with an open mind to African-Americans, immigrants, Appalachian coal miners, and struggling single parents when they tell their stories.

Even though it may seem so, we are not on the Titanic after striking the iceberg.  But still we have to choose the role we will play. Will we be the privileged ones pushing others out of the way to jump into the lifeboats? Or the musicians trying to provide comfort even in the face of certain death? In an attempt to save ourselves, will we run past the gate holding back those labeled less important and undeserving, or will we stop and work together to break it down?

 

 

 

©Martha Hurwitz, 8/16/17
Inspired by Daily Word Prompt:  grainy

What’s in a Name?

strawberries-1350482_640Many years back, when both my husband and I could still bend over without crackling sounds and shooting pains coming from the general area of our spines, we owned and operated a pick-your-own strawberry farm.  This was an endeavor that he had started several years before I came on the scene.  In the rose-colored, early days of falling in love, I was eager to prove my worth as a field hand.  This freed him up to drive around in the air-conditioned tractor, while I made friends with the ticks and black flies and grew blisters on my hands from wielding a hoe.  Love is not only blind, but apparently also immune to pain, heatstroke, and mosquito bites on the behind.  (Obviously a farmer wife has a very different experience peeing in the woods than a farmer husband!)

I got to supervise a pack of teenagers desperate enough to agree to do manual labor in the hot summer sun, probably figuring it was a good way to impress the opposite sex by wearing Stanley Kowalski t-shirts or short shorts and tank tops.  Not that I cared so much what they were wearing, but I soon learned the truth of the old saying: “One boy’s a boy, two boys is half a boy, and three boys ain’t no boy at all.”  A more modern version might go:  “One teenager can weed a row in 30 minutes, two teenagers can weed a row in 50 minutes and three teenagers just got in an old jalopy and headed off to Dairy Queen.”

gardening-2448134_640Not that I blamed them much. Anyone who works the soil knows that it is hard labor, requiring not only physical stamina and perseverance, but also a healthy dose of optimism, faith and acceptance.  As hard as a farmer may work, she is never ultimately in charge of what may come of her endeavors.  Healthy plant growth requires a particular balance of good soil, sun, rain, light and dark, temperature, and freedom from pests or disease.  A lot of this may be under our control, but there is a great deal that is not.

Sounds a lot like human life, doesn’t it?  Which segues into my original memory that surfaced from “soil.”  After a long, hard day in the fields, I was desperate for a cool shower, not because of any fetish about being dirty or emanating an un-feminine body odor, but to ward off the on-coming heat stroke headache.  Shedding soil-covered clothes and shoes in the bathroom, I would often complain:  “Look at all this dirt.” To which husband would reply:  “It’s not dirt, it’s soil!”

I have to admit that for a long time I thought he was just being a snarky know-it-all, because really aren’t dirt and soil the same thing?  When soil is on the floor of the house where it doesn’t belong, isn’t it dirt?  No, not really. It may be out of place, or not particularly useful on the bathroom floor, but it is still soil–fertile, full of living organisms and capable of sustaining and nourishing growth.

There are many in our public arena these days who are trying to convince us that they are providing soil, when they are really only shoveling dirt.  We need to understand the difference and plant our common hopes and dreams in the rich soil of diversity, tolerance and acknowledgement of our common humanity. To live up to our great potential as individuals and as a nation, we need to realize that hatred, prejudice, deceit, and dishonesty are not the soil in which our best selves can flourish, but are the dirt that will ultimately bury us.

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My Rant Has Detonated!

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For many of us, the past six months have been agonizing.  On a daily basis it is necessary to re-group, re-think, and defend (whether in public or internally) our political and religious beliefs.  It’s tiring and demoralizing, and such a waste of human talent.   We sense that we should plan for disaster.  But which disaster will strike first, and what will that disaster look like? Planning seems impossible, or useless, or basically, “I’m just too exhausted to figure it out.”

That’s my negative side, which usually takes a back seat. But my positive outlook, compassion for others, belief that we can do better, treat others (even those we don’t agree with) with humanity and humility, is sorely tested and weakened these days.   I cling to it stubbornly, but wonder whether the fabric will hold when almost daily it needs to be mended and patched and reinforced.

A few days ago, Irene wrote in her blog about A Perfect World, and asked: Why are my children having to worry about which cabinet to hide in at school? When back in my day, our biggest fear at school was not having anyone to play with at recess! 

atomic-bomb-398277_640When I was in high school we had “Air Raid Drills.”  We learned to proceed in an orderly fashion down the hallways of the school and into the cold, windowless basement where we stood silently against the cinder block walls.  This was to prepare for a nuclear attack.

REALLY????  We were going to survive a bomb that had reduced two Japanese cities to rubble, had burned the skin off people from miles away, and had poisoned the “lucky” survivors with deadly radiation?

One time, I just went up to the principal, who was directing traffic at the top of the stairs, and told him it was against my religion to participate in the drill.  In a way this was the truth, but I’m pretty sure my motivation was more that if I was going to die, I’d just as soon die in a room with windows than in a cement coffin with hundreds of other terrified kids. He told me to go into his office and wait there.  I think it was about this time in my life that I finally accepted that grownups don’t have a clue either.

One of the good results of getting older should be a sense of perspective and some satisfaction that things are getting better.   So I could say to Irene that lying awake worrying about when the Russians were going to drop a bomb on my school, and marching into the basement in a futile attempt to be convinced that I would survive the attack didn’t ultimately scar me too much.  That would pretty much be true.

Yet, I would also have to acknowledge that the world is far more complicated today, that while the internet and social media have enabled us to be more connected and more informed about other cultures, it has also helped make us more divided, angry and antagonistic.  Somehow, we have settled at the lowest common denominator, rather than risen to greater heights. Our public discourse has become crude, vicious, and hateful and our national image has become a laughingstock around the world.

My children are adults now, and I know they do not blame me for this. I also know that there are still many good and committed people working in their neighborhoods and on the national and international stage to create better lives for themselves, their neighbors and the world. There are rational and measured voices speaking truth to power.  But I am very afraid that power no longer recognizes or even cares about truth.

I feel a deep sense of shame and sorrow. This isn’t the world I wanted to leave as a legacy for future generations.elegant-1769669_640It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.

Anne Frank wrote this in her diary on July 15, 1944, while she and her family were hiding from the Nazis in a small attic in Amsterdam.  If she could believe this under those circumstances, then who am I to doubt that it’s true?

My rant is over!

 

Daily Prompt: detonate