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

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

 

Extra Ordinary?

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Nine months ago, the Daily Word Prompt was “perfection.”  I posted a response that formulated my experience with that concept and an important way that my religious tradition helps me be compassionate with human nature, as we continuously fall short of our God-given potential.  There really is nothing wrong with having a vision of perfection, if (and it’s a very big IF) it is a motivator, providing ideas and concepts that are guideposts on a realistic life journey.

But as children we are confronted with so many of these images of perfection, real or imaginary, and so often given the message that our only hope is to mold ourselves into those images. Those of us who do not find it easy or even possible, no matter how hard we try, to match the cultural images of perfection and success become engaged in an exhausting spiritual, physical and emotional struggle trying to do so.  The idea of perfection can be intimidating and daunting, even as it is held forth as a worthy state to pursue.  A careful balance of expectations and abilities is critical and the adults who are role models need to demonstrate respect for the concept, showing with their behavior that they are working toward perfection.

The world has changed a great deal since I was a child, hopefully at least in some ways for the better, but I wonder if it is even harder now for young people to figure out what to strive for.  There is such an overwhelming tsunami of ideas and images that seem real, sound true, and look good, but might just as well be virtual reality.  So many of the most influential people in our public life, who should be examples of appropriate and compassionate behavior, instead cook up a daily diet of alternative facts and perceptions, spin, obfuscation, hateful and divisive messages, and outright deception.

Ordinary.  It so often seems to be perceived as an insult, an indication of a less desirable state.  Not perfect, not even really good; just ordinary, common, plain. Nothing special. But ordinary is also what is expected, usual, a daily occurrence, not special because it is common.  Decency, politeness, concern for others, speaking the truth and using our potential to help create a better world should be common, expected, normal behavior, in other words, ORDINARY.

 

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