Says Who??

Verstehen, through shared perspectives


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I ALMOST WISHED I HAD DIED

lighthouse in storm

One of the major adjustments I have had to make as a retired Sociology professor is no longer having a captive audience for my carefully considered observations of American society: The problems and the joys. I do love writing this blog, which does not require the same degree of objectivity, but let’s face it. I am no Dan Rather (whose daily contributions to Facebook I look forward to reading). Thanks to social media, I am but one tiny voice buried in the cloud of articles hourly produced by everyone with a computer, cell phone or camcorder and an opinion to share. So, to be perfectly clear, I am writing today not to be read, or “heard,” or even to keep in touch with the world. I write today because I must. For me.

I do my best thinking when I write. This blog is for me, but if you want to read it, challenge it, agree with it, or ignore it…just feel free. But do not think that I am trying to take on the world. I no longer have that kind of energy. I just want to try to get all that I have internalized about our social environment outside of my head and heart. I am in sensory overload from being bombarded with angry, hurting, hating, yelling, profane, lying, manipulative messages from the world outside my apartment.

As I write this, I have received 13 emails already that are unsolicited ads for things I don’t want, don’t need, or don’t agree with. I am a registered Independent, so both Republicans and Democrats feel free to email and/or call me with requests for financial and electoral support. I am so very grateful for those quiet, caring people who are all around me when I turn off the tv, the computer and the radio and get out and share time with them. I don’t answer the phone if I don’t recognize who is calling, and I don’t open any mail not from family or friends (or bills I know I owe). When it all gets to be too much, I listen to my classical piano CDs, or drive down to the river and just sit in the quiet, now cool afternoon and breathe fresh air.

Many of my friends no longer really want to talk about politics. Life is so full and rich, relationships thrive and laughter once again seems normal, when I am with my neighbors and friends. So long as we don’t talk about politics.

Yes, there are pressing issues that must be addressed, must be advocated for. Babies in cages. Chronic pain patients losing their pain medications, physicians and pharmacists being threatened. Members of all three groups committing suicide at ever higher rates. Private prisons being filled with drug users who could become productive citizens again with the right treatment, but whose prison terms will leave them right back where they began and worse. Families, communities and organizations being divided by political differences. More problems than any one person or organization can possibly resolve. More finances needed to be directed toward rebuilding communities devastated by nature. It seems overwhelming. I can’t address all the things I am deeply concerned about, and I feel frustrated and guilty for neglecting the ones I can’t get to.

Yet deep in my soul there is a calm, quiet place in the midst of this storm. A place where I know that all is not lost. That there are wonderful people in my world, and in the greater world in general. People who value honesty, integrity, caring, and excellence, the beauty of the gift of our natural world, and the shared intimacy with a loved one in a monogamous relationship. People who know that we cannot be truly human without being part of a community that works, plays, and worships together. People who accept me as I am, and who are in turn accepted by me as they are.

That is the beauty I see in my world, and it is more important to me and to my well-being than money or status. Because I live in a community where this beauty shines brighter than all the noise of the media and the political world, I regain my will to live on a daily basis. Once again, I can accept that I can only fight these battles on one front at a time, and trust that others will work where they are best suited to deal with other battles.

God did not bring us this far to abandon us. Today, I was tempted to say that I wished I had died five years ago, when undertreated chronic pain had brought me so near to that end. Then, I would not have had to see the devastation being brought about in my country. But I cannot wish that. These five years have been a great gift, and I have gotten to meet and work with people whose willingness to make a difference…no, not just willingness. Determination. Whose determination to make a difference to those who are being marginalized, stigmatized, pushed aside and left to die is greater than any I have seen in this country in my nearly 78 years. Policies we have lost by reversal in the last two years cannot compare to what we are gaining in finding the deepest good within ourselves and our families, friends and neighbors. In our communities and states. Soon, hopefully, in our nation once again.

Yes, it is hard and frustrating. But we come from good stock from all over the world. Our ancestors knew worse times and better times than these, but they persevered. We know that, because we are here. The way ahead is in our DNA: not in specifics, but in inner strength and outer relationships.

I am so glad I lived to see it begin.


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I VOTED ALREADY

I live in a state where early voting is allowed, and easily accessible. People at the Polling station were friendly and relatively relaxed. No one was listening to, or reporting, early return results. There were no long lines, no waiting period at all. I was in and out in less than ten minutes, despite taking my time and mentally reviewing everything I could remember about the candidates. There were some names I did not recognize; fortunately they were either unopposed, or were running against people I did know about and intended to vote for.

Being an independent, I did not vote along party lines. I voted for the candidate that I truly believed would do the best job and in at least two cases, despite being very disappointed in them for letting me down by not doing what they had said they would do. Fortunately, it is not necessary for me to like a candidate in order to believe that they are at least a better choice, if not ideally suited in terms of my preferences.

When possible, I voted for candidates who did not indulge in mudslinging and blatant lies. I voted for candidates whose concerns have at least seemed to put the needs of their constituents and those of the country ahead of personal gain; at least, I did so when I could see some evidence that this might be true.

But we are a democracy, and we are also a polarized country. No matter who wins, almost half of the voters will feel defeated. If the past twenty or so years are any predictor for the future, this will result in more bitterness, more lies, and more attempts to discredit the winning candidate and his or her party regardless of what (or who) is destroyed in the process.

Two years down the road, when we have our next big election, will we have overcome this tendency? Or will self-service and greed have resulted in two more years of stalemate and wasted taxpayer funds on yet another do-nothing Congress?

Election day was once a day of renewed hope—a day when we could anticipate new ideas, new commitment to the nation, and the retirement of ideas that no longer work, along with their supporters.

Maybe I have just grown old and disillusioned. This time, I left the polling place being glad on the one hand that there was only one week to have to listen to the incessant whine of political ads telling me why I shouldn’t vote for an opponent, instead of why I should vote for the speaker. My phone calls may once again be from real people instead of computerized voices telling me who I should vote for.  On the other hand, I am not hoping for much from the new configuration of elected officials, so there was no reason to anticipate any long-term climate change in politics after the election.  Talk about mixed feelings!

But I voted. I voted responsibly and fairly. At least I can still do that.

As to the future, for once in my life I would be absolutely ecstatic to be proven wrong. Because if I am wrong, then there are good days ahead for the USA. I want so very much to be wrong.