As much as I dislike discussing politics, I dislike what is happening in our country even more. My journey is unique but many share in wondering how everything went haywire with regard to how we relate and interact with each other in daily life. What I see happening in my little part of the world is only one perspective but one worth sharing for the sake of preserving peace.
On numerous occasions in the past few weeks, I have been noticeably shaken by encounters with total strangers. Notice. Plural. The incidents happened in the company of my wife while we were out in nearby communities. The first two times, my reaction was incredulous, but I moved about my day without a second thought. However, the frequency and shared commonalities began to unsettle me.
Recounting the specifics requires delicate wording and sensitivity to facts. We entered a restaurant in a local downtown area and I was met with a hateful glare. I was looked up and down with disgust. I am used to this, but what stuck out to me was how this particular older white gentleman was dressed. Make America Great Again shirt and matching hat. No words were spoken, but, I sensed the anger and hate. To be fair, maybe they were all just admiring my fresh cut or really sweet cargo shorts.
I am no stranger to facing looks from those who openly convey a certain disgust when they gather from my appearance that I am a lesbian. It comes with the territory. I am accustomed to nasty posts about my memoir Switching Teams. However, I am not used to the locked glare and resulting discomfort that arises when I begin to wonder if my safety is assured when I get to my car.
Yes. I am out. Yes. I understand my lifestyle is problematic to many. No. I do not like feeling afraid when I leave the house. Does anyone enjoy this feeling? The LGBTQ community is not the only group who is feeling this way as of late. In fact, I suspect a poll would confirm this suspicion regardless of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religious affiliation, or political party.
The lines between victim and victimizer are being blurred fantastically. There is a noticeable shift in the current tenor and tone of everyday life which has taken a turn for the worse. The building tension is palpable. It is a far shorter list to name issues not causing tension than to name all that are. Puppies and ice cream appear on that short list.
We are all functioning in a state of heightened alert and are ready for a fight. It has become acceptable to speak our minds without taking in to account the consequences of such behavior and it is being done all in the name of patriotism. Hatriotism is more like it. Again, this is coming from all sides. Peruse Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram if you need a reminder.
Underlying anger is spilling over and having an impact on our health, relationships, and quality of life. It is easy to get caught up in the name calling, bullying, and general shit storm sweeping across our great nation. The Hatfield’s and McCoy’s have been reincarnated and are being egged on at every turn. Blame is the new black. Lines are being drawn with ugly words, intentions, and deeds. There is no limit or referee to intervene.
It is like we are all locked in an ultimate fighting match taking place in a steel cage the size of the entire United States. At the end of the match, the only prize will be given to any who had the strength to withstand the hurt, heartbreak, and hate. The remnants of humanity that manage to survive will be hard pressed to rise from the mat.
Regardless of who you may support, this shift affects you. It affects how we speak to one another, our ability to live in peace, and most importantly our ability to practice kindness towards others. The voice of reason is weak and unwelcome in such a hostile and divisive environment.
One of my favorite sayings is “If you can’t be kind, be quiet.” If only. This may not always do the trick. My recent experiences are a reminder that plenty of hate can be expressed without saying a word.
The real problem is not who is going to win the election, but rather answering the question of how are we going to get past the fear fueled hate that is seeping from every crack and crevice of life today. Yes. This is all a fear issue, which just happens to be right in my wheelhouse and one of my favorite topics. The loud and unproductive exchanges of opinion are how fear markets to the fearful. We are buying in to it like swampland in Florida at the turn of the century.
Until our individual and collective fear is addressed, sadly, nothing will change. All of the noise is a mere distraction from the real problem of fear. The fear of the unknown, for personal safety, or loss are the top three. Being fearless is not easy and requires determination and a healthy relationship with ourselves.
It requires self-control and a measure of tolerance for those who do not agree with us. Not easy. I know. It means agreeing to disagree without the need to draw blood. It means being real, honest, and deciding to love people for who they are despite who they may support.
It means smiling instead of shooting death glares at those who look a certain way. It means gathering facts and making personal decisions without the need to criticize others in the process. Passion for a cause or belief can be accomplished without hate, harming others, or taking away basic human and constitutional rights. It means stopping the wheels from continuing to fall off the carts of millions and roll down our streets and neighborhoods taking out everything in their path.
Pulling off to the side of the road is a decision which requires kindness, calmness, and is a consciousness about our part in the frenzy. Although we may not be able to control what is happening around us, we can control what we throw in to the ring.
Wisdom means judging for ourselves what is right and wrong and then personally acting according to our beliefs, standards, or principles. Caveat, be open but not foolish. Sometimes wolves are dressed in sheep’s clothing and other times they are dressed to the hilt. In the coming weeks and months, be kind and resist the pull of fear. As simplistic as this sounds, it will make all the difference.