A ripple in the water

One of the most amazing thing about the internet is the connections that we make. I have made actual friendships, with the exception of the blessed few that I have met in person, that are real and meaningful. I am occasionally surprised and honored when a virtual friend or blogger notices my absence, which of late has been the rule, not the exception.
It is an honor none the less when someone notices when you are not around. I have to come clean as to why my posting on social media and the blogosphere has been so infrequent.

As Bruce Banner, AKA the Incredible Hulk, famously said…”You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”

I’ve been in a bad place.

I have friends that share very different politics. One in particular is a polar opposite of me politically but I read him just the same.(You know who you are). He is a beacon of reason and open-mindedness despite his world view being maddening to me. He doesn’t judge me for mine, he allows me to be me.

The problem is, being me has been difficult lately. The social and political climate is infuriating to me and I hate how people are turning on one another. The anger and resentment at watching my friends, family and country embroiled in partisan and identity politics has been consuming me. I, like my beloved community, was drifting in the wrong direction. It made me angry and hostile and I found myself caught up in it.
I didn’t like the way I felt. I was tired.

Tired of politics.
Tired of the arguing.
Tired of people digging in.
Tired of open mouths and closed minds
Tired of blind hatred and senseless bigotry.
Tired of senseless destruction.
Tired of disinformation and agendas.
Tired of all of it.
Tired of being angry.

Then one day I caught myself.

I knelt down at the water’s edge and I prayed for tolerance and an abundance of reason to guide me. I further asked for the strength to be a beacon of light that others may follow before it all, everything that I love vanished before my eyes. Please God, take this anger from me. The weight is more than I can handle. Let me be the small stone that makes a ripple that slowly but persistently spreads over the turbulent waters.

I am but one person. But sometimes that is all that is required to start a revolution. Please people, let’s start a movement of restoring the basic values of dialogue, courtesy, tolerance and respect.

Believe what you believe but don’t cram it down another’s throat.
When someone is speaking, listen to learn not wait your turn to speak.
Converse with facts and educated opinion, not sound bites and increased volume.
React with a deep breath and carefully considered words.
Apply Respect as a value and a virtue, not as an option.
Talk over the backyard fence instead of making the fence taller.
Love each other.

If we don’t, everything we love is going to vanish before our eyes.

the middle of the road

It’s hard at my age to make change. But I’m working on it. I’ve reluctantly acquired the ability to look at myself with a critical, honest eye and I’ve had some success. My biggest challenge of late has been open-mindedness and I’m happy to say that I am really breaking down barriers.

A big one for me is my, for lack of a better word, politics. “Politics” is a funny word. Many shy away from it as if it was a civics course with a required grueling exam.
“I don’t talk politics.”
“Ugh, I don’t get it.”
“I don’t care about politics, it doesn’t affect me.” That one is my favorite.
To me, politics is current events. Knowing what is going on in the world. Being present as if my lone, infinitesimal opinion matters. Understanding the human element as it pertains to world events. It’s a game, really. But I believe that it affects all of us and knowledge of it is critical to our existence. Politics matter.

While nothing is cut and dry in the world I believe most people, at some point pick a side. Our personalities often play a large role in which direction we lean. The problem as I see it is that people feel that they must pick a side. In today’s charged political environment many have become entrenched.

There was a day, not that long ago that it was ok to think what you want and support who you choose and discourse was possible. We could agree to disagree. At some point we have lost that. The climate has gotten angry, intolerant even violent. Couples have broken up over who won an election, people have been attacked in public places for wearing a hat. Elected officials have publicly called for violence against those who disagree with them. Hate is in the air.

I got caught up in it. The attacks on social media, the anger, the intolerance and the name calling caused me to feel as if it was personal. I picked a side and I dug in. Forgetting that it’s ok to walk the middle of the road.

It’s a good place to walk, just don’t allow yourself to get hit. Of course, I’m speaking metaphorically.

Somewhere along the line I forgot that it was ok to not react. To think before I spouted an opinion. To not take a side. I forced myself to read blogs by people who are polar opposites of me politically. I tuned in to networks that lean differently than I do. I made an effort to challenge myself and encouraged others to challenge me. I found myself gritting my teeth at times but I’m a nicer person for it, and that was my goal. None of the anger made my life any better.

My father always said that nothing is ever simple, that everything has a story. In this day and age of soundbites and misinformation it is easy to forget that. Books have been placed by YouTube videos and everyone has a digital pulpit to speak. The question I have to ask is “is it true?” Then and only then should I react. React to what is right, not what aligns with whatever side I have chosen. Critical thinking is a God-given gift that I for one failed to open.

I don’t know. Let me look into it and get back to you. I’ll think about it as I walk down the middle of the road. That’s where the truth lies…somewhere in the middle.

Let’s talk about Ellen

Let’s talk about Ellen. Let’s talk about respect.

Ellen DeGeneres, a self-described homebody, ventured out to the Cowboys/Packers game in Dallas on Sunday. She and her wife Portia Del Rossi sat next to George and Laura Bush. She is now embroiled in turmoil. Not because she cheered for Green Bay while sitting in Jerry Jones’ luxury box, but because she has the nerve to sit with and admit she is friends with George and Laura Bush.

One angry tweeter stated, “Sitting with George and Laura Bush. What a great way to get cancelled.” Ignoring this remarkably tolerant tweet and others like it, Ellen dug in. She is not to be intimidated or told who she should or shouldn’t be friends with.

Monday night she addressed the faux controversy with her fans. To be clear, she did not defend it but instead took an opportunity to provide the intolerant left a teachable moment with a long overdue message; “I can be friends with people who I don’t necessarily share beliefs with.”

“People were upset,” she said. “Why is a gay Hollywood liberal sitting next to a conservative Republican President?” With the opportunity to share some of the nasty, negative tweets about the event, she chose instead to share one that went the other way. The one fan that tweeted “Seeing Ellen and George Bush together makes me have faith in humanity again.”

Boom! There it is! Humanity is about love, acceptance, tolerance and forgiveness but we’ve forgotten that and instead we are swimming in a filthy pool of hate, division, judgment and vitriol. It needs to stop. Now.

I know so many people that regurgitate the tired, and incorrect, mantra “Never discuss politics and religion.” I reject that wholeheartedly. We need to do it more. With open mind and open ears, not the other way around. We were once taught to disagree based on facts and to always tolerate opposing viewpoints. Somehow we have evolved to think with our emotions and listen only while waiting to respond. Then, if faced with a opinion that threatens our paradigm we try to win by volume. We need to learn, or relearn that if we don’t listen, we may never learn anything. Do you want to live in a world in which we only listen to our own voices and refuse to learn anything!

We need to accept each other, embracing the good and the bad alike. We need to learn from each other and appreciate what makes us different while recognizing and celebrating what makes us the same. We are not supposed to be the same, isn’t that an obvious point to make?

Life, unlike the football game Ellen went to, is not all about winning and overpowering your opponent. Life is about the individual functioning and achieving within the parameters of society. In order to do so we need to lift each other up, support each other all the while recognizing that our differences are not meant to be a threat to each other. Life is not a competition and blowing out another’s candle does not make yours shine brighter.

“Be kind to everyone…” was her response. Exactly.

Good for Ellen. Shame on those who chose to attack one of the few celebrities that has a “you be you and I’ll be me” mentality. She never asked for your acceptance and she doesn’t need it. I respect her and anyone with the ability to rise above the toxic identity politics that plague our nation. That’s what it’s about after all…respect.

She provided the teachable moment, let’s see who actually learns something from it…It’s really not that hard to do if you try.