Enough

I can’t believe that I am actually reading tweets and FB posts from people hoping that our President and First Lady die of the Coronavirus. What is honestly wrong with people? Such unadulterated hatred is unfathomable to me and it marks a new low in our civilization…and I am speaking loosely here.

This is not a political post. I rarely post anything political on here, for the same reasons that I don’t post my politics on FB. My politics are my own and I don’t try nor do I expect anyone to follow suit or come over to “my side”. There are no sides, only our God-given and Constitutionally guaranteed rights to a individual and protected voice. You can feel however you want but I draw the line at forcing your beliefs on me. That includes hateful speech.

I was the least biggest fan Barack Obama ever had. It had nothing to do with the color of his skin, I strongly questioned his character and his politics. I never once wished harm upon him, I just patiently waited for his term to be over. I respected the office. What happened to that?

The word humanity cannot exist without the word “human”. The word humanity implies distinct qualities only attributed to mankind. The ability to reason, to empathize, to love, to show kindness; most but not all of these things qualities that the lower species are supposedly incapable of. I have begun to question our propensity for Humanity when I see people blindly attacking each other and wishing death upon them.

We’re better than this, people.

Or are we?

Put the “Human” in Humanity

Humanity is a word. As with any other word, it lumps everything into one category. But our society is anything but one anything. We are wildly different in a myriad of ways. In this country in particular we are hopelessly divided. Politics and self-interest are everywhere. In many cases people are angry and hostile. I posted a meme about people hoarding supplies and one of my friends commented “Fucking Democrats” as a response. I told him that there is no room for that on my page, he’s a Freemason like myself. Inappropriate, unacceptable and unnecessary. But very common these days.

I was mortified…then inspired.

I re-watched Schindler’s List today.You may think it is an odd choice given its horrific content but it was exactly what I needed on a day otherwise filled with doom and gloom, stories of people behaving badly and charts showing rapidly spreading red spots on the maps of our country and the world. I needed a dose of Humanity. Is there a better movie or topic to remind us of what we are and what we can be if left to our own devices?

There a lot of people doing a lot of good things. People helping their neighbors, donating vital supplies to medical professionals, donating their time. But there are a lot of people behaving badly and they put me in the mood for a refresher.

Right now there are people with a 6 month to a year’s supply of toilet paper and disinfecting supplies. More milk and bread than they can ever consume. Vital supplies have been hoarded to “stock up” or sell at tremendous markups for personal gain. All while others, especially the elderly who aren’t fast enough to race in the store and strong enough to fight the mobs, go without. Many now have too much while others have none at all.

Enter Schindler’s List. A critical scene (one of many) is of a boy selling caramels in a crowd of people who are fairly aware that they are going to either die or suffer tremendously. The boy sells the tiny candies at a tremendous profit and one of the people remarks “What is he going to do with the money?”

Is it worth it to take a “Fuck everyone” mentality? Was it really the first instinct of a LOT of people to hoard and deny? Are we ok with the most vulnerable among us going without?

Bad situations bring out the best and the worst of us. Schindler’s List is a sobering and wonderful reminder of what we are capable of doing and also what we are capable of not doing. The German people were capable of being spectators as murder on a inconceivable scale occurred. The Jews were capable of banding together under horrific circumstances to save each other. If you have seen the movie there is a scene in which some women, pre-physical by the Nazi’s, cut their fingers and shared their blood to wipe on each others face to look healthy. To avoid execution. Some shared tiny hiding spaces in walls and floors.

And some didn’t

Some had room and turned people away. Many Jews sold their souls to save themselves. They took jobs to help the Nazi’s in the form of liaisons. Under the guise of “helping” with lists and other horrific housekeeping they were complicit in sending their own people to their deaths as they stood and watched. I always wondered how they lived with themselves. Even though I know the answer. When faced with terrible times, sometimes people make the wrong decision.

Oskar Schindler made the right one. He tried to help. He is an extreme example because he gave his actual everything to save as many people as he could but the fact is that he thought of others when he could have easily only thought of and protected himself.

I am as high risk as humanly possible in the face of this virus. I’m immunosuppressed and on dialysis. I shouldn’t even leave the house but I will if I find that there is someone who needs assistance in shopping, getting medications or other needs. My first instinct is of course to protect myself, but not so powerful as to forget other people. We’re not Democrats or Republicans. We’re not gay or straight. We’re not Millenials, Gen X or Z’ers. We’re not those who believe Pineapple belongs on pizza vs. those who don’t. We are all people and we have to come to one critical realization.

We’re all in this together.

Humanity. It’s not just a word. Let’s be human.

political toxicity and the great epiphany

About a week ago I read a FB post of a dear friend. This particular guy is a fellow blogger whom I have a lot of respect for. As I prepared to read his post I braced myself for about 800 words that I would only agree with about 100. And that’s OK, I believe it’s good to expose yourself to material you don’t agree with. It’s called being open-minded and I really, truly strive to be just that

Or so I thought.

As it turns out…my self-proclaimed open-mindedness needs some work.

He brilliantly wrote about the Democratic field, his take on who he thinks is his favorite (s) and why. I bristled and bit my tongue as I read it but I kept reading. I disagreed so vehemently, with him and with the candidates and policies in general, that I reacted. I acted hatefully, intolerant and totally out of character. I surprised and embarrassed myself.

In fairness, my response was along the lines of being surprised at his left-leaning tendencies because I have always, mistakenly, thought that he was a moderate. But in the process of composing my response I attacked the candidates he supports. I even made a very unfair gay comment about Mayor Pete. Well, he called me on it. Not just the gay comment but my attacks on the candidates. I was surprised at the fury of his response because, as I said, my overall intent was to question how far left his beliefs were. Having said that, I got what I deserved and more.

I was told that my gay comment was out of line. He was right.

I was told that I was wrong in my assessment of the candidates he endorsed. We’re both right because this is still America.

He told me that I didn’t understand Democratic Socialism, Socialism or Communism. I didn’t agree at all, if nothing else I never speak of something that I don’t know of. I called him on that.

Then came the one thing that I strongly disagreed with, a topic that I didn’t challenge him on, a topic that is instead the topic of this post…he said that I didn’t understand people.

He couldn’t be more wrong.

Here’s the deal. We live in a toxic political environment, one that has permeated almost every crack and crevice in society and we have devolved from disagreement with civil discourse to digging trenches and taking sides. These sides have divided friends, couples and society in general. Now, if you hold a viewpoint that someone disagrees with it is personal and in some cases you are attacked.

As a conservative I have formulated a defensive attitude about my politics because I and people who share my beliefs are being attacked. Daily. It is an absolute true statement that if you support our president than you are believed to be one step away from shaving your head and donning a white hood. When your beliefs are constantly attacked, it is almost impossible not to be defensive. It feels personal and when we are personally attacked we lash out.

Unless we have the ability to control our initial, knee jerk reaction and take a deep breath. I needed to do that and I didn’t. I regret it.

I can’t change today’s political environment but I can change how I react to it.

My friend, if you’re reading this please accept my apology for my unwanted sentiments and I hope you read and appreciate my rebuttal.

I disagree with but respect your opinions. Above all else I respect any informed opinion and deeply believe that our political process requires, dare I say demands differences and a consequent civil exchange of ideas with tolerance of different viewpoints. I truly and profoundly dislike the entire pool of Democratic candidates because they don’t share my vision for my country. For you, they do and I need to respect that. But is it wrong to ask the same of you?

If I may circle back to the comment you made about my not understanding people…I want to thank you for that because it gave me something to think about. My question, after days of pondering it is as follows; is it possible, despite being on exact opposites of the spectrum politically, that in the end we want the same things?

Democrats and Liberals, there was once a distinction but not anymore (change my mind), have always held a grip on being the champions of the poor, the marginalized and downtrodden. I have always disagreed with that, I believe many people of my ilk, the dreaded “conservative” also care deeply about the same demographic.

I know I do.
I want an end to poverty, hunger, and homelessness.
I wish for a stop to endless wars.
I wish everyone had health care
I want a balanced budget and to eliminate the burgeoning deficit.
I wish for an end to institutional racism.

I understand and care about people more than you will ever know.

There are so many issues that our current administration is not addressing but overall, I supported the candidate that most shares my beliefs. This doesn’t, and shouldn’t, disqualify me as a compassionate person. I volunteer at food banks, I help old ladies with their shopping carts, I donate money I don’t have and I am always on the lookout for an opportunity to commit a Random Act of Kindness. So I am curious why my behavior didn’t reflect that. Fortunately, I had an epiphany and I learned once and for all that I need to do and be better.

My friend, I do care about people and I hope that my future behavior supports that. Thank you for putting me in my place. With the exception of the lectures questioning my education level, I got a lot out of it.

At the end of the day, everything is about people. And my, let’s face it, everyone’s politics should be ultimately about people. Regardless of who you support, no one, including myself has the right to tell you that you are wrong. We’re both right, we’re both wrong but we’re all brothers and sisters.

That is one thing that will always be a wonderful thing about this country that we both call home.

Perception vs. Reality — MSich Chronicles

Have you met Steve? If not, you should. I challenge you to read this post and not “follow” him. This is the attitude that we all need to have, one that those with chronic illness can teach all of us if we open ourselves to it. It will definitely influence the way you look at others when you pass them on the street.

 

“I wonder what people think when they see me.” That was a common refrain of mine once the symptoms became entrenched and my mobility became compromised. I was never one who liked to stand out in a crowd, preferring instead to blend into the background. MS made that impossible. My inability to walk in a straight […]

via Perception vs. Reality — MSich Chronicles

Where you are is where you are meant to be

Today was a good day.

One year ago today I showed up at the town Food Pantry to hand out Turkeys and meal baskets to the less fortunate in our community. I was already a steady volunteer each Saturday but the Thanksgiving event was a separate, annual occasion. Our Pantry really steps it up, I think it’s the most generous around, we give absolutely everything one could ever need for a Thanksgiving feast including multiple Turkeys. We offer frozen and fresh, and I was charged with helping hand them out. As the youngest person there, charging me with manual labor made sense. I took my station on the Tailgate of Pete’s F250. Pete was a nice older guy, and as the day progressed I would learn that he had stage 4 Lung Cancer. Yet there he was, in the cold, handing out Turkeys in the cold. That day I went home feeling as if I was destined to have met him. I even wrote a post about it that nobody read. You can read it here if you would like.

Today, a year later, I worked with Pete again. I made a point of telling him how happy I was to see him. He was happy to be seen. He was one year older, much weaker and thinner. But he was there. He needed more help than last year and I was feeling good so I took the load off of him. I was proud to share a soul-warming endeavor with him. Little did I know that  today my heart would be challenged again.

I had gone to pick up a Christmas tree with another guy and when I pulled in to the pantry I parked behind a very decrepit Ford sedan. When I got out of my truck I noticed that the door was half open and the driver seemed to be struggling with it. I approached the driver and asked if she needed help. The gaunt, wrinkled face, adorned with an oxygen tube that greeted me was heartbreaking.
“Is this where the Turkeys are being given?” she asked me. She had labored to get the sentence out. The oxygen didn’t seem to help her, she was almost gasping for breath.
“Yes, in addition to a whole bunch of other goodies.” I replied. “Are you coming in?”
“I am, I’m just having a hard time getting out of my car.” Her labored breathing tugged at my heart.
I opened her door and helped her out. It was snowing and she was parked on an angle and really struggled. When she finally made it to her feet, I sized her up. 80 pounds at the very most, soaking wet. I assisted her up the driveway.

When we got inside, she claimed her allotted food. We offered her 2 turkeys, she insisted on one but we talked her into another. As I picked up her box of food I realized it weighed at least 50 pounds. There was no way that, even if I put it in the car for her (which I did for everyone) she could ever get it out. I portioned the box out into bags. When done, I concluded that she still would not be able to carry them. I knew what I had to do.

I walked with her to her car, 5 bags in one hand and 2 turkeys in the other, and loaded it into the trunk. I opened her door for her and helped her in. She thanked me for my help and said
“I’m June. I hope you have a nice Thanksgiving. You’re very kind.”
“I think I can do more” I replied. “Can I follow you home please, I would like to help you bring all of this heavy stuff in.”
“Oh, I could never. I have a friend that I can call. And my place is very messy.”
“June, may I insist? You also have a low tire. It’s snowing. I’d like to make sure you get home safe.”
She reluctantly agreed.

It was a slow ten miles. She drove very slow because of the weather and her tire. When we arrived at her apartment I knew from the humble exterior that the interior would be worse. I got out of my truck and met her at the trunk of her car. I knew she would try to grab some bags, she was very proud, so I grabbed them before she could. She laughed a little and led the way up her unshoveled walkway.

Entering her apartment I confirmed that it was indeed humble but it had a certain charm. She had plants and grow lights, some interesting décor and decent furniture. The only real clutter was about 75 feet of plastic oxygen tubing all over the floor. It was her lifeline of sorts.

After a slew of “Thank you’s”, we talked for a bit. As sad as her physical appearance was, her story was worse. June lived alone. Her youngest son is serving his 7th (yes you read that right 7th) tour in Afghanistan. Her other two sons are divorced and they moved to Kentucky. One ex-daughter in-law is still in the area with one grandson who is disabled. She has Emphysema from Asbestos exposure. When I asked her about Thanksgiving and who would be joining her she thinks that her ex-daughter in law is coming over. After hearing all of this I asked June if she had a pen.
“Why do you ask?” she replied.
“Because you are going to write down my name and my number and you are going to call me if there is ever anything I can do for you. You call and I will be here. Promise?”

She teared up a bit and she did. She said she will. I went outside and found my portable air pump and extension cord in my tool box. I found an outlet on the outside of her building and pumped her tire. Then I left.

When I got back to the Food Pantry a couple of people praised me for helping her. I personally couldn’t imagine not helping her. One lady, a regular volunteer, cautioned me about how some of our “clients” are “Sponges” and that I should be careful with my efforts. I couldn’t disagree more.

Basic kindness is the definition of a oft-misused expression…”it’s the least I can do.” Helping others, even in a small way really is the least that you can do. And you can do more.

I’m glad I met June today. In fact, just like last year, I think I was supposed to meet her. It all started by putting myself in the right place at the right time, and where I needed to be.