Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The People I Know: 2016 Edition


Anyone else out there struggling with the human condition these days?  Oh, hell, that was rhetorical.  I've been on Facebook, I've seen the posts, the despair, and the infighting.  I've watched enough of the RNC & DNC.  I read the news today, oh boy.   I know I'm not alone in this malady...or maybe it's a downright epidemic.

I've felt this way before.  In 2008, I wrote a short essay called "The People I Know".   It seemed America was more divided than ever (little did I know...) and I felt compelled to remind myself, and anyone who would listen, that we were not as splintered as we seemed.  I did my best to reach across ideological aisles to embrace everyone I could get my cyber-arms around because it felt like our collective tank was pretty low where hope and compassion were concerned, and I was not ready to go quietly into that not-so-good night. 

Here's a portion of that writing: 

The Conservatives I know love America, want the government to help where they must, and stay out of the way otherwise. They believe more firmly in the common man than the politician. They want their kids to have the best education possible. They are generous with their hard-earned money, and more apt to give a check to the MDA than the NRA. They work hard, and want to provide for their loved ones. They expect the best of others. They pray for peace, and hate the notion of war. They believe in love, not fear; unity, not division.

The Liberals I know love America, want the government to improve our communities, and stay out of the way as much as possible. They believe more in the common man than the politician. They want their kids to have the best education possible. They are more apt to spend their Saturdays helping a neighbor than picketing a power plant. They work hard, and want to provide for their loved ones. They expect the best of others. They pray for peace, and hate the notion of war. They believe in love, not fear; unity, not division.

The People of Faith I know are humble and kind. They don't believe they have all the answers, but trust their Creator, respect those of other faiths, or of no faith at all, and pray that they may be better people, not that others may be better people. They don't want to convert you, but seek to live the kind of life that makes others want to know more about what they believe. They find truth in everything from the Gospels to Garrison Keillor, from Jesus to Jazz. They believe in love, not fear: unity, not division.

The People Who Search that I know are humble and kind. They aren't sure who, if anyone, is driving this little blue marble, but they trust themselves, their loved ones, and the wisdom handed down before us to help navigate them through rough terrain. They respect people who spend their Sunday mornings at the altar as much as they respect those who spend their Sunday mornings at Starbucks, and believe that we all choose a path best suited for our journey. They find truth in everything from the pen of Vonnegut to the assurance of science. They believe in love, not fear; unity, not division.

When I read the news about people calling for the death of one of our presidential candidates, or see the venom spewed between persons of different faiths, in the name of what they believe, I consider myself more than a little blessed. I don't know those people. The People I Know remind me what is best about our nation and our world. We have our moments of anger and confusion, but we see ourselves as on an arms-locked journey together, not in a combative race. We wrestle thoughtfully with our choices and our decisions, and we wish each other the best. We often walk out of step with one another, but we're all trying to get to the same place.

Fast forward to 2016.  The current social and political climate makes 2008 look as blissed out as lawn seats at a Phish concert.   The sentiments expressed above in italics are ones I have thought about often.  I still try to anchor my hopes in The People I Know, rather than who and what is thrust before us in daily headlines. 

But, confession time here:  Most days, when I scroll the more politically tinged posts on my Facebook feed, it's honestly easier to believe Rick Astley should be in the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame than it is to believe in Basic Human Goodness.  People say some pretty horrible stuff, on both sides of the proverbial aisle.  Trolls and bullies are cruel realities that sometimes cannot be laughed off or shaken easily.  And hitting the "hide" button on people I love is a sad reminder that I have a lot of work to do when it comes to tolerating the opinions of others, no matter how bluntly or rudely they may state them. 

One remedy is to stay off of social media, and I consider taking that spike out of my veins almost daily.  Another is to draw battle lines, putting politics ahead of relationships and letting my true feelings rip.  I'm sure I'm not alone here.  Raise your "send" hand if you've typed out an epic response to someone who you truly hope knows better than what they just posted, only to delete your reply before sending, lest you start a cyber-riot.   

A third option is to look for those People You Know who still fit the description above from 2008 and be grateful for them, connect with them, and remind yourself that "People are still good, mostly."   Some days that's really freakin' hard.  The lines of division are becoming more indelible, and I don't think anyone - regardless of their political beliefs - feels that either of the two people most likely to become our next President will be anything resembling a true unifier.  

I've always prided myself on being a half-glass full kinda guy.  But I'm also a pragmatist.  Most days, I'm aware that the glass has a few leaks in it.  On some overcast days, I'm pretty sure the glass has been smashed into jagged shards and scattered all around my room...and I'm barefoot.  And the house is on fire.  And Nickelback is playing loudly on the stereo.  I mean, we all have those days, right?

I'm still trying to figure this Dark Season of the Soul out.  I know I could log off of social media and the news outlets today, tune back in in 10 or 12 weeks and it'll still be the same chaos cocktail, with candidates doing the Teflon Tango around accusations and issues.  I know I could spend those hours meditating, reading a few books, having coffee with friends, engaging our kids, taking walks with my beautiful wife, starting up a running regiment again, doing some yoga, volunteering my time - there are a LOT of ways I could send my energies and blood pressure in the opposite direction.

In case you haven't figured it out by now, this is not a blog post with any thoughtful answers. It's merely a meandering waltz through the minefield of questions that I believe a lot of us are asking ourselves.  I still personally believe in compassion, in interdependence and empathy, and in a culture that values such things more than they feel compelled to cling to fear and anger.  I just may have to tune out a lot of the voices that are determined to tell me otherwise for awhile.  Because they are loud.  They are persistent.  And they really seem to have a will to win.

The People I Know still believe those voices can be silenced.

The People I Know still believe in a lot of authentically radiant possibilities.

And I still do believe in The People I Know.











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1 comment:

Beginning Again said...

The people ARE still good, mostly. And you're a voice for the people I know. Thank you.