A House Divided

I never would have broached a subject as divisive as politics when I started blogging in my early 20s. I was afraid to publish much of an opinion about anything for fear of offending someone. I’ve lived most of my life that way, to be honest…and I don’t want to short myself too much on that, because I believe my intentions have been noble. I’ve long-held that the worst feeling is to know that you have hurt someone, intentionally or unintentionally, by word or deed…there’s enough pain in the world without anyone adding to it.

It has taken the intervening years to accept that I can respectfully disagree with someone without hurting their feelings.

My heart hurts for my country. My political evolution has followed my maturity and personal understanding of the world. (Yes, probably much to my parents’ chagrin, I had political opinions from an early age.) I leaned right when I was young, when everything was still black and white in my very small world. I have been lucky in a good many things over the years, but none luckier than the excellent start I had in life. I had a parent who crammed gratitude down my throat from my earliest memories. Yes, crammed. It’s lodged down there so deep now that I wouldn’t be able to loosen it if I tried.

Expect nothing. Be thankful for everything.

As I began to understand this simple tenet, as my world grew, my views changed. Somewhere along the way, I learned empathy…not only learned it, but it is woven into the foundation of who I am as a person. Nothing is as simple as it appears. Everyone has a story. Nothing is black, nothing is white…everything is gray.

There was a candidate whose stance on the issues aligned with many of my own, and I saw a piece of myself in HRC. I understood her. I understand what it’s like to feel misunderstood because you’re trying to make it in a world that wasn’t built for you. It forces you to maintain two identities: one for the public, where you’ve wiped away anything that makes you stand out…and one you share only with your loved ones, guarding it closely so you never lose yourself in the struggle to succeed. I know the landmines of working in a heavily regulated field. I’m also a thorough researcher with a marketing degree, so I’m not vulnerable to fake news or spin. Unfortunately, many are.

So with full disclosure of my far-left affiliation, I never saw this past election as Republican vs. Democrat. I would like to believe I would still feel that way if the candidate of my party had questionable intellect, morals, or qualifications. Regardless, I want to be able to respect and trust the leader we elect, whether our policy views align or not. I may not have voted for GWB in either election, but I admired his quiet strength and patriotism in the face of unbelievable tragedy. He was judged too harshly for his handling of events that had no precedent—from 9/11 to Katrina. I disagreed with nearly every decision he made politically, and I hated the downward spiral he greased for our economy, but he thought he was making the right decisions for our melting pot of a country. I can’t fault him for that, even though we disagree.

I don’t feel that our current leader is focused on what’s best for the country. Even if he were, I don’t think he or his advisors understand law or history well enough to know how to pursue positive change. His conflicts of interest concern me, as does his rudimentary understanding of our government and the scope of his power. I’m sure our founding fathers would be shaking their heads at some the issues we’re facing today, pointing forcefully at the documents they penned. We don’t have kings here, and we don’t “force-place” religion. Nearly all of us have immigrant ancestry, yet not nearly enough of us are upset with the rhetoric.

I’m tired of the uncharitable, self-focus painting our world ugly. “It doesn’t affect me…so why do I care?” Ever heard of someone named Martin Niemöller? He was a pastor who lived during WWII. He had some sharp criticism for those without a target on their back who did nothing to stymie the evil in those days. I will add his words then below, but it turns my stomach that they should be relevant today.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

I have led a privileged life—and don’t confuse privilege with money (‘cause we didn’t exactly have a lot of that just laying around). No, my life was privileged because I grew up in a safe place with family who were present, kind, and loving. I was never discouraged from any dream I dreamed, and my achievements in school and life meant something to someone other than myself. On the face of it, my privilege seems ordinary. That’s the gift: that I think it’s common for children to have stable, supportive beginnings. It’s not common though, not at all. I’m—yes, Mom—GRATEFUL for the very belief that I could do anything if I put in the time and hard work. That early support has been enough to help me through the condescension that a five-foot-nuthin’ woman with a soft voice faces in convincing someone that she’s just as capable as the tall, muscular, deep-voiced competition. How would anyone find the strength to champion themselves if no one ever has?

Sometimes it takes a village. To be frank, our village sucks right now. We don’t care enough about helping each other succeed. Success begets success. Failure begets failure. So if we continue with this “what’s in it for me?” mentality, it still doesn’t make sense that we don’t help each other, regardless of our ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, country of origin, or religion. The campaign of fear that laid the path for the man in the Oval Office is as sad as it it inflaming.

The disenfranchised inspiring so much fear may include the doctor who discovers the cure to cancer, the parents of the kid who comes up with some technology as life altering as the iPhone, or a poet who speaks to our souls. They’re human beings with needs, hopes, desires…and gifts, just like the rest of us. If we block them from the tools they need to develop those gifts, we all lose…every time.

During one of our trips to Chicago several years ago, Nick and I were walking along Michigan Avenue when we passed a poorly dressed man who was calling out for any generosity the passersby could afford. I never carry cash on me, but I smiled gently, apologetically, as I passed. He called after us, “A smile to a stranger is generous act. Thank you, and bless you for seeing me.” That man taught me something that day…that no effort is too small…that the generosity is in the effort, not the gift. Everybody can afford to share a smile.

Please…just be kind. Follow the Golden Rule. Be a good person. To quote the venerable Jiminy Cricket, “Let your conscience be your guide.” Ignore the propaganda. Do your own research. Come to your own conclusions. I fear that in this age where everything is just too easy, someone else’s words too available, we’ve lost the voice inside ourselves that kept us more in touch with each other than divided.

I want to repair our village. We all need to roll up our sleeves and get to work.