A Fruitful Visit to the County Courthouse and Horse Lesson

Hello, and happy Tuesday, I think. It’s been a full day for me already and it’s not even 4 pm. I’m losing track of days and times right now, but that’s okay, I’m going with the flow.

The day started off right, when six members of the local Master Naturalist chapter and Master Gardener chapter came together at the Milam County Courthouse to meet with the County Judge. We wanted to talk to Judge Young about whether there could be any meeting space for us in the new county office building complex that’s being created out of our old hospital.

Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists preparing for the meeting.

Judge Young showed us a map of how the buildings will be organized, and it was obvious the planners had put a lot of thought into it, like how to keep the people doing parole meetings separate from citizens coming to pay their taxes or seniors getting their meals. There was also a good security plan and a good parking plan.

Wish you could see his cool boots.

Then he showed us where there will be meeting rooms we could use. There are a couple of large ones around Bea’s Kitchen that will be free after 3 pm on weekdays, plus another couple of shared ones with other agencies. When someone asked if we could use any of them, Judge Young said:

“Not only can you use it; I want you to use it.”

We talked about helping out with landscaping the inner courtyards as a way to pay back, and that went over well. He even offered us storage space in the old nuns’ quarters they are renovating for a storage building.

No one could read the map, but we got the general idea.

This will all be available sometime after March 1. It’s so great that the county got a large grant to fix the buildings up nicely for all the citizens of the county. I couldn’t stay to go on a tour of the progress on the buildings (I’d been in them before, when the space was for sale), but I hope everyone else had fun. It’s good to see positive things happening in the community.

Next Activity

I had to run home and get ready to go to my second horse and rider training with Apache. I got my timing off and ended up slamming him in the trailer with no warning, but he eventually got settled down when we got there and we started working on things. I’m learning leadership skills up the wazoo and Apache is figuring things out really well. I even got great advice for walking appropriately and that turned into how I can control his urges to wander off and trot.

He enjoyed getting braided, but they didn’t hold up well. I’ll try something else next time.

I even managed to trot him in circles while remaining centered and in charge. A first for me! We also started figure 8 circles. All of it was very educational in subtle ways, though it looked like I was just going around and around to anyone watching me. This trainer is a very, very good teacher. But whoa, is noon a hot time to try to learn anything outdoors in August.

And Then…

I was taking today off, because I had these obviously non-work things to do, but I ended up working anyway, and was very good at projecting a positive attitude in one of those meetings where that kind of thing matters. I just pretended everyone was my friend and tried to be helpful. I even passed on the Mary Poppins tactic, if you can believe that.

Now that I’m feeling all empowered for the moment, I can go call my insurance company and ask them why the same medication I’ve been on for years that usually costs around $5 was over $90 today. Don’t get me started on health care in the US!

Curbing Your Anti-racist Enthusiasm

Wait, wait, I’m not going to tell anyone not to continue in their work to fight racism, point it out when they see it, or work on their own behavior and bias with regard to race. Nope, nope, that’s not where I’m going. But, I do want to share some insights I’ve been having as I watch discussions about race happening, and how the books I’ve recently been reading cause me to see them differently.

Here’s a very passionate young person I do my best to learn from.

The material I’ve been reading on unconscious bias has made it clear that, thanks to growing up in a particular society at a particular time, each of us presents ourselves to the world through the lens of our own biases, some of which are helpful and some of which may be less so. A good thing I’ve read is that the people born more recently may well be less prone to some of the racial biases that older people may have grown up with. A large percentage of younger adults in the US grew up in diverse neighborhoods, attended diverse schools, and are familiar with a wider range of US cultures (most young people I know are fans of music from urban, African, Caribbean, Latino, Korean, Indian and other artists), and have friends and colleagues from highly diverse backgrounds. So, they have a different set of biases from older Americans.

People my kids’ age tend to make friends based on common interests and experiences. This often leads to racially diverse friends with strong bonds in other areas. (Some don’t; I over-generalize.) Photo by @SBphoto via Twenty20.

I am very happy about this, and very interested in learning from people of my children’s generation. Sometimes it’s hard, though, because in their anti-racist enthusiasm they push their audience away.

Another fact about a large subset of younger adults is that their preferred methods of interacting with others tend to be more confrontational, less “polite,” and less patient when sharing their views with others (not implying only young people act this way, it’s more appropriate in some cultures, too). This is the part that causes communication problems with people who grew up avoiding confrontation, focusing on polite behavior, and a conversation style that includes acknowledging the potential validity of the other person’s point of view. Neither of these ways of interacting is all right or all wrong; there are issues with each one, which I’m going to let you think of for yourselves.

Admirably, many people in the 18-30-ish age group want to create a better society and are working hard toward those goals. They feel passionate about the rights of people of color, LGBTQ+, poor people, and the oppressed around the world. Yay for them! Those are goals shared by many older people, too, though their methods of working toward it are different, and often unpopular with younger folks (which is fine and normal; I’m not complaining, just noticing).

The thing is, I’m wondering what the goals the young and fervent activists are working toward might be.

  • Are they trying to change people’s minds? I wonder if calling people you don’t know racist for actions you don’t even know that they’ve done is terribly helpful (for example, I have been sitting back and watching a woman lecturing an obviously white woman about how race and racism work, blissfully unaware (or not listening hard enough to realize) that the second woman has a black husband and family members). It’s racist to assume someone has beliefs because of their looks, period. And yes, being in an interracial relationship doesn’t mean you have no bias and can shut down conversation (sorry if I’m not clear about this; I’m still learning).
  • Are they trying to prove how ethically advanced and modern they are? In this case, demonstrating that you’re a passionate anti-racist while bullying and insulting others shows ALL your ethics, quite clearly.
  • Are they trying to sow unity? Are they trying to add to divisiveness? These are my big questions. I’ve been observing people pick at others for not being non-racist in the “right” way (say, for adopting a child of another race, without knowing whether a white adoptive parent may have a black or Asian partner or other black or Asian children). It reminds me of one branch of a religion not saying another branch is Christian enough, or Muslim enough, or the right kind of Buddhist, without remembering they all are focused on the same overall goal, which is love.

This is why I wish more of us knew HOW our unconscious biases work, and that none of us is above them or immune to them. I see a lot of bias against older people in the passionate younger folks. That’s too bad, since when I was a young, passionate feminist, I learned a LOT from the women who’d gone before me, which helped me not repeat some mistakes and not burn some bridges. Perhaps some of us older folks might have useful insights, if we could share our perspectives without being silenced or labeled.

I know I harp on this message. It’s because I think the ONLY way we can make a better world is to listen to each other, maybe even respectfully.

And some of us elders want to silence and label younger folks. None of that is helpful, because the one thing I’ve learned is that the best way to limit the effects of unconscious bias is to get to know members of the groups you may have trouble with. Spending quality time in conversation and interaction with the “other” is guaranteed to help all of us realize that “they” are not a monolithic group, but diverse, varied, and interesting. Not all elderly people are the stereotypical MAGA-hat wearing, flag waving, insular white folks. They are not all inflexible members of the liberal elite. Not all young people hate everything that isn’t socialist or everyone who doesn’t fall into their definition of “woke” (insert current term for woke there). But, if we just talk AT each other rather than WITH each other, we’ll never figure that out.

We all have our blind spots, our prejudices, our biases, and our areas of passion. Not everyone will share them, and not everyone will even express the same biases and passions in the same way we do. We will never grow as human beings nor as a society if we don’t listen to other points of view. Even people we think are dead wrong in one area may have something “right” to share with us in another area, which we’d never find out if we just dismiss them out of hand.

I interrupt this diatribe with a photo of a dishcloth (with an error; I’m keeping this one). YOU can have one if you sponsor this blog and its companion podcast!

I know my audience skews toward people of my age, but still, I want to reach out to those younger than me to listen to us, and give us a chance to share what we’ve been through and how we got there. And then share with people my age what YOU are going through and how you got there, rather than pointing fingers at us, labeling us, and dismissing us. Being young doesn’t invalidate anyone’s experiences and insights, but neither does being old. We can all learn from each other, but we might have to stop talking sometimes and listen.

Rather than trying to drag others kicking and screaming into the new and more advanced world, I’d love to see enthusiastic and passionate people reaching out a hand and gently lifting up others, knowing that they used the experiences of those who came before as stepping stones to get where they are today.

To Troll or Not to Troll?

That’s my question for this first morning of spring, should I keep up with what appears to be a new undertaking for me, trolling with kindness? What the heck do I mean by that, anyway?

And by the way, Ostara (Vernal equinox) greetings to all of you!

Well, the book I just finished, Blind Spot, made it quite clear that humans are hard-wired to participate in us versus them thinking, and that there are actually good things about feeling a part of a group. Group membership conveys a sense of safety and belonging, and encourages us to take care of other members of our group.

You can’t really avoid creating “others” who are not in your group, and it is natural to focus on your differences to clarify who’s in what group. The authors of Blind Spot pointed to the Dr. Seuss book, The Sneetches, which arbitrarily had a star on their chest or not, leading to great division. And I think of that Star Trek episode, Let That Be Your Last Battlefield, where the people who are black on the right and white on the left are mortal enemies of people who are white on the right and black on the left. Both of these are heavy-handed examples, but they are right: we will work very hard to find ways to divide ourselves.

Yes, our outfits are embarrassing, and we do agree on that.

So, I am totally and completely aware that anything I do is not going to change people’s adamant insistence that “the other side” consists of horrible, no-good, bad, creepy people. Still, I know that even people who are biased to one belief system can start to question things, and that one way to initiate questioning is to repeatedly be exposed to other perspectives. THIS is why I feel compelled to “troll with kindness.”

Bubbling up inside me is a mission to not just keep scrolling when I see people making assertions that further our divided society. Rather, I am compelled to say something in a kind and/or neutral way that provides another way of looking at things.

Today’s example came when someone I used to know, sort of, posted something about President Biden tripping on the stairs of Air Force One. Commenters commenced to making all sorts of assertions about Biden’s age, competency, and such. I responded by asking if none of them had ever tripped on stairs before, that it seems common and not worthy of partisan commentary. Someone replied that they are doing it because once the previous president slipped and the media picked at him. So, I pointed out, nicely, that the tit for tat stuff isn’t very helpful, but I understand that it’s not going to stop.

And after that, I’m out of the conversation. I hope that just by planting the seed that being mean to someone because someone was mean to a member of your group in the past really doesn’t help anything at all. I don’t plan to prod and respond, just to provide another viewpoint.

No doubt I could have done a better job on today’s attempt, but it was only my second try. Maybe I’ll get better or get some suggestions. I know I won’t change anyone’s mind, but it makes ME feel better to gently point out that there are other ways of looking at things.

The chickens heard the Ostara Bunny was coming for their eggs.

Diversion About Today’s News

I know I’ve been pretty naïve most of my life about the hatred deep inside people. My conscious mind has worked so hard to overcome prejudices and stereotypes that I’m often genuinely surprised to find out how others feel about their fellow humans. It’s never occurred to me to think badly about people of Asian descent (consciously; I now know I’ve no clue what’s lurking in my brain).

I’ve always found Asian cultures interesting (since I was a tiny girl in love with kimono) and I’ve had many close friends who are Asian, even dated more than one. Once again, thanks to that linguistics education and that Japanese minor! For some reason, my bias toward Asians is more like they tend to be fun people and potential friends. My upbringing didn’t overtly cause this, though; it was something inside. (I always said it was because there were so few people I had things in common with that I didn’t want to rule out potential friends because of race, gender, religion, or sexuality.)

(here I give you a little piece of my history, again.)

It occurs to me that while my mom was not shy about her traditional Southern US white people view of Black folks, she was equally unhappy with Japanese (who killed her fiancé in WWII) and loved to sing some truly horrid song about “Chink-chink Chinaman named Chow Chow,” that I never understood, but is still in my brain, right along with the sound of her endlessly reading Little Black Sambo to me.

Still, just like she actually loved Black people she knew personally, she was really fond of her Chinese-American friend, Fay Eng.* Fay owned the only Chinese restaurant in the town I grew up in, and she and Mom became friends when my sister and her child were young. It was a long-time friendship, because I knew her all my childhood, and took all my friends to meet her and eat at the restaurant in college. Ha, I remember thinking Chop Suey was an exotic Asian dish. I did quickly learn better in college.

Sorry, I keep coming back to my mom, because I am pretty sure her attitudes about people got imprinted deep within me. I guess I rebelled in a constructive way by getting to know people of so many races and ethnicities and dragging them home to confront her stereotypes. And I’m sure my own children, who had a more diverse set of friends than I did (and do) are at least helping carry on the lessening of racial biases the Blind Spot book mentioned.

(back to the topic)

Where I was originally going with this was how blown away I was to learn about the murders of mostly Asian people in Atlanta this week. I don’t get it, at all. Hurting people just because of the way they look seems like the deepest depths of horrible human behavior. I’m now crying for my Asian-American friends just like I’ve been for African-American friends for so long.

Yes, it’s convenient to divide up according to superficial things like skin color, but it’s just not right, and I WILL speak up about this, and it may not be trolling with kindness.


*Oh my gosh, I looked Fay up to be sure I spelled her name right, and as of last year, she was still alive, at age 95 and a Democratic voter, not only that, she was a poll worker, and used to serve cookies from her father’s recipe, which used to be served at the restaurant I ate in my entire young life! She still lives with her daughter, in a beautiful home. Good for you, Fay. Mom picked a great friend.

Helplessly Hoping

Oh, my friends, this anniversary of the pandemic lockdowns has not led to a bunch of happy, hopeful humans in my little world. The people who are struggling to maintain their equilibrium are just not doing it. And even those of us who’ve been keeping our heads above water feel like we are sinking. The hope that truly IS out there is just hard to see!

The little pink flowers of hope are hiding among the prickly cactus that is life with COVID-19.

Heck, I’ve been doing sort of okay most of the past year, but for the past few days, it’s been quite difficult to get through a day. It doesn’t help that my meetings seem to have meetings in them and I get really tired of Zooming. I put the image below on Facebook, and got a lot of support from friends who said this has been an extra-hard few days for them.

*then get back up and do the needful.

It’s weird. I’m NOT all afraid like my friends in the Other World (that’s what I’ve decided to call the Fox News watching crowd) keep telling me. I’m living my life. I’m getting my second vaccine today, actually, and I look forward to some travel in a couple of months. I do have hope, but it feels like helpless hope. I honestly think I just can’t believe positive news.

For example, President Biden gave a talk last night, and it was full of hope and positive energy. People in the US might actually get vaccinated. People who are not me are getting money from the government, too. He spoke kindly, stayed on script, and didn’t call anyone names. This normally would have made me feel better.

But no, the cycle I’ve gone through in the last few decades (Bush, Obama, the previous guy, Biden) has led me to not put any credence into good news. There’s always something awful just down the road. Don’t get me wrong, I am fully aware that life is suffering (I read Lion’s Roar, after all) and that there will always be positive and negative aspects to life, the dark and light sides of the Force, and all that. But the un-ending, pounding, grinding succession of challenges, struggles, meanness, and and obstacles the past year has brought with it have taken a lot out of me. It helps to know I’m not alone.

Don’t force yourself to choose unless you want to, says Suna the Grey.

I admire the folks who are hanging in there and posting the positive memes every day (like my dear niece who could find the good in our sun going supernova, I think). Hope is needed. But right now, I’m in a place that I don’t believe it, no matter how nice it is to see it in others.

All I have for y’all is some virtual hugs. I think I mentioned needing hugs just a couple of days ago! And I appreciate the return hugs and good energy. I’m absolutely confident that I’m just dealing with a passing depression episode that’s completely understandable. Just know that I’m still helplessly hoping, and some day I may even believe my hope and get back to all that cautious fun I was managing to have earlier in the pandemic period.


Oh yes, it’s my job to mention that I do have podcasts now of all my most recent posts. I usually record each blog post within 24 hours of posting it here. You can go to Apple podcasts, Spotify, and many other places, search for the Hermits’ Rest, and follow our spoken journey. I also promise to mention anyone kind enough to sponsor my podcast, which will help repay all the money I spend to bring you this blog!


Griping about the US Mail

I’m hearing a lot of complaints about the service people have been receiving from the US Postal Service. Now, of course, some of it is related to the weather issues of last week, when people where I live didn’t get any mail at all for a week or so. The weather is a good excuse, but doesn’t cover issues people are having elsewhere.

Carlton thins this new yarn smells amazing, since it went all over the country before it got here.

My example isn’t of anything critical, except to me. I ordered the yarn to finish out the table runner I’m making for Lee on February 3. I got the notice it had shipped on February 7. When did it arrive, you ask? February 25! That’s almost three weeks. Usually things take 3-5 days…well, up until recently anyway. Since the end of last year, when the election thing happened and the higher-ups at the USPS started cutting services, it’s been hard to get mail.

Look up at the top, February 7. It really takes that long to get from Massachusetts to Texas? Did they use a mule train? If so, I’d like to go see the mules.

I’ve had more than one thing simply not show up at all. An order of Christmas stuff from Doterra came mid January, which did not help with gift giving. But that’s nothing. One of my friends has had very expensive medicine delayed. She was okay, but there are others, like diabetics, who’ve had crises due to medicine being delayed.

Our horse supplements were also delayed, which wasn’t funny, even though they aren’t technically “medicine.” I’m still waiting for my turmeric tablets to show up.

Lee reports some of our clients haven’t received their bills in a timely fashion, too. That means money is not coming in. How many other small businesses that rely on the mail for billing have been adversely affected by the mail slowdown? This article shares some other consequences.

We need to be able to rely on postal mail, even if many of us pay our bills and do other transactions online. You need to be able to order something and have a vague idea of when it will show up.

I just want to share how pretty my horse is…again. He looks extra Arabian in this photo.

It’s been pointed out to me that, back in the not-so-distant past we were used to waiting 3-5 weeks for packages, and that’s true. But, back them most people paid their bills by mail, and if you gave it a week or so, you’d be sure your payment arrived on time. And if you bill for services, you’d know that if you mailed the bill at a certain time of the month, recipients would have plenty of time to get the payment back to you on time.

That’s no longer true, and it concerns me greatly. I’m not alone, as the delays are annoying lawmakers as well.

Anyone have any insight or stories to share?

It Would Be Funny, but

It’s true. I can’t believe this happened, but in my Facebook feed today were two posts in a row, one by an ultra-conservative friend and one by an ultra-liberal friend. Both of the posts were about the really awful power outages that people who live here in Texas endured last week, some of whom are still dealing with it. Here’s the first one:

Oh no! How terrible!

And here is the second one:

Wait, what? (Abbott is the governor of Texas, and a totally right-wing right winger)

This is exactly what’s driving me crazy these days. Each side has found a way to blame the other for the issue. Neither article talks about anything anyone is doing to remedy the infrastructure issues or get help to people here. They just want to increase polarization.

It’s no wonder why I’m so uncomfortable with how people isolate themselves in their own echo chambers of slanted information. I think I know stuff, then I go over to some Facebook group and discover there’s a whole world of other news and a whole lot of people who say they hate me (I actually said something in the group once, just to see what would happen, and the piranhas pounced).

I remember getting a chuckle out of the endless parade of “Thanks, Obama” posts that came up whenever anything went wrong when he was President. The stuff some of these people blame on Biden has me scratching my head, though. And I truly enjoyed them going on and on about how Ted Cruz going to Mexico was JUST FINE, heck, they’d have gone too, if they had money.

I happen to know there are Facebook pages with some pretty biased links aimed more toward people like myself, but I know enough to see when things are getting way over-partisan, mean-spirited, and unhelpful.

We all need to make sure we keep our eyes and ears open, so we at least have a clue as to where our neighbors, friends, and family members are coming from. And yes, I know I repeat this a lot.

Reacting to Natural Disasters

Witnessing people’s reactions to the natural disaster event we’re going through here in central Texas has been most educational. People seem to fall into different groups, and I’ve been fascinated as I note their actions. I’ll share a few observations. Which of these are you?

Lee took this last night as the motion-sensor lights shone through icicles. Don’t stand under them.

The Helpers

I want to start out with these folks, because they impress me and keep my sliver of faith in humanity alive. All the sharing, caring and helping makes me so proud. Here are some examples I know of.

  • My coworker, Jason, lives out in the country near a road that has a banked curve. It froze over, of course, and people took it way too fast for the conditions (mostly because they were unaware). He and his son drove on a level back road until they were close to the road and proceeded to help people get unstuck, flagged cars down to slow them, and made sure everyone was safe. Most people had just abandoned their vehicles. He’s also monitoring the local NextDoor posts, and taking water and food to elderly neighbors. He sadly reported that some people just lectured others for not being prepared. I’m glad there are more people like him and his family out there being good neighbors.
  • My other coworkers are all sharing information, checking in, and offering to help. A woman in my department volunteered to boil water for people who have no electricity and can’t boil it for themselves (lots of people have neither water nor electricity right now).
  • Our business has a client who needs services, even in this weather. A Deputy from the Sheriff’s Department kindly drove our amazing Meghan to a neighboring smaller town than Cameron, because the roads were so bad. I can’t mention the kindnesses Meghan has performed this week, but some go way above and beyond her job duties.
Road conditions yesterday.

The Blamers

A lot of people with time and bandwidth seem to be using it to point fingers at various industries, businesses, and people for not doing a good enough job. I admit to being unhappy that nothing has been done about our road, with the icy bridge and the treacherous hill, but I know there are reasons for it (the district personnel had been under a COVID quarantine, AND Monday was a Federal holiday). I am trying to remember that no one set out to cause this mess on purpose. Still, I read a lot of this kind of stuff.

  • Texas is to blame for their own problems, because they are not on any US power grid. Well, none of US made that decision. Let’s deal with our weird system of buying power on an open marketplace and such later, and concentrate on making sure our linemen and other power service staff stay safe and get help.
  • The water companies are to blame for not maintaining pipes. Um. They need money to do that (and Cameron IS in the process of upgrading infrastructure). Also, when pipes burst, it ruins water pressure. Even homeowners who are doing their best to care for their pipes are having issues, so it’s no one’s fault.
  • People who dislike fracking and pipelines should just go build their own windmills for power. Okay, that is just dumb. The windmills didn’t freeze, anyway. Texas has a mix of power sources, which actually isn’t a bad idea…just no one could prepare for this stuff.
  • The President hasn’t come to save us. He’s a piece of sh**. Um, he cleared disaster funds days ago, when requested by the governor who’s the one who keeps bragging he don’t need no Federal dollars to help sick people. Meanwhile, Senator Cruz got on a plane and headed to a resort in Mexico. He can’t exactly fix things, but that still doesn’t make a great impression. I always enjoy it when the people who insult me for saying poor and/or homeless people can use some help and insist they pull themselves up by the bootstraps start blaming the government for not helping THEM whey THEY need it.
  • I’ll stop here. I do think blamers could better spend their time doing useful things.

The Bright-Siders

This is what I TRY to be, when I can. Like, right now puffed-up meadowlarks are flying around drinking water out of places where there is melting. And I have a lot of time to read and knit. Kathleen is the champion of not complaining ever, about anything. The power outage lets her use more candles, the ice formations in the field are pretty, etc. This is commendable, knowing what she’s actually dealing with and NOT sharing!

Who needs an icemaker, when you have this?

I see lots and lots of posts from people who are enjoying the birds and helping keep them alive with food and water. More than one has said watching birds has helped them get through the week in relatively good spirits. Thank you, Nature.

The Stoics

A lot of people are just muddling through. I guess that’s what you do when you truly don’t have any control over a situation and realize that complaining, blaming, or panicking isn’t going to change anything. They are conserving water and electricity (oops I am using it now), not endangering themselves on the road, and figuring out ways to eat and entertain themselves for another few days. They ask for help if needed, but try to be as self reliant as possible.

This seems like a good plan, to me.

And like Harvey, they find the warm spots and stay there (he found my heating pad and now loves me a lot more).

I’m gonna take care of animals, stay warm, and hope the satellite doesn’t go out again, so I can at least watch television. I have plenty of books and knitting, and the knitting keeps me warm. It’s my very first horrible natural disaster, so I’m learning things!

Stay safe, if your in the middle of this icepocalypse, and the rest of you be patient with people in this state. They just don’t have the infrastructure, and they have to live with the consequences of some interesting planning decisions.

There Isn’t Always Common Ground – I Know That

Gotta say I’m enjoying the dialog sparked by my writing about how we can somehow build up community between the divided country we live in (and that UK citizens and Germans do, too). I’ve enjoyed the input from a variety of people, and especially encourage those of you who think the left versus right problem is confined only to the US to read the comments on my last two posts:

Controversial Unity Crap Again

Fascinating Feedback (and Lack Thereof)

I appreciate that many readers in my extended community think I’m on the right track about being willing to listen to others, look at the big picture, and see how we got where we are. But, I also appreciate those of you who say you just can’t try for a middle ground with people who believe x, y, and z. I probably touched on that issue a little bit, but not enough, so let me clarify a bit.

Diversity! Unity! Idealism! Image by @yummypixels via Twenty20

There’s no denying that there are radical fringe group members who are neither interested in compromising nor holding onto beliefs most people would want to compromise about. People in the middle might find the extremists on one side of the other more palatable, but there are some philosophies where the majority of people feel like we have to draw the line, as Aurora (not her real name) said on Facebook.

Nope, I’m not going to waste my time working for common ground with actual neo-Nazis, nor with radicalized Communists who want to completely dismantle our society. I may hold slightly more sympathy to the left-leaning extremists, but I know better than to argue with one (having given birth to one). I’m going to let them go do their things and concentrate on things I CAN do something about. There always have been and always will be extremes. You can’t have a continuum without ends, though sometimes it seems like the very opposite ends are sort of close to each other!

When I talk about finding common ground and working toward common goals from different perspectives, I’m talking about the vast majority of people, even those very firm in their beliefs about political and sociological issues, but who recognize the common humanity with their fellow citizens.

I hope that clears things up a bit. Sorry I don’t have as much time as usual to make my points!

Fascinating Feedback (and Lack Thereof)

Yesterday, I dared to propose that it is a good idea to work on not demonizing “the other side” so much. I keep proposing that, and it’s never very popular, but I’ll keep doing it, because from what I’ve read and experienced, everyone thinks their side makes sense. That, coupled with the fact that most actual people are in the middle, not on the radical ends of the spectrum, makes me think we could find common ground AND still keep our personal beliefs.

Sometimes seeing things from a higher perspective is uncomfortable and not fun.

I wondered what kind of response I’d get (if any), and who I’d hear from. To my surprise, the first people who responded on my Facebook post were two of my conservative friends. Now, as Lee pointed out, conservative friends I still have on Facebook are either relatives or people I enjoy having rational discussions with. And sure enough, they posted rational thoughts that I enjoyed and learned from.

My second surprise was, given that I have a poop-load of liberal friends, some of whom are extra-extra liberal, I initially didn’t hear a peep out of them on Facebook, either in agreement or disagreement. But, whew, I did eventually get the kind of feedback I’d hoped for, from all sides, in private messages, email, and other media. I’d like to share a few wise words, which I’ll keep anonymous but colorful.

Both my husband and this friend agreed that polarization is profitable:

“There’s a lot of money being spent from both extremes to convince the people in the middle who are getting along and helping one another — making things work, that there are more people working against them than working for them.”

A couple of people privately said to me that they hesitate to consider moderating their approach, because it might mean saying you agree with them or giving up your beliefs. This friend was sharing a link to some additional useful content that helped them (sorry it’s behind a paywall), and then shared a perspective that sounded all too familiar to me.

 “I think for myself, what scares me, is that if I move to the middle, if I try to find common ground, that I endorse all the things that have been so shocking and repugnant. I don’t have to list them here, after the last four years we know them well. But this program [link above], filled with wise, revolutionary activists, helped me to understand that there is a BIG difference between looking for common ground and listening and accepting what is unacceptable. I’m going to buy it, so i can go over it again, in my own time. Not only are the ideas helpful, it amplifies voices that I don’t hear often enough and that I don’t know well, but want to learn more about. I’m embarrassed to say that only Van Jones was really known to me. Anyway, I recommend this. I’ve always fought against the Hillbilly Elegy mindset and I’m not advocating a glorification of the rural racism, ignorance and misogyny I grew up with in the Adirondacks. I stand very firmly against those things. But when I dehumanize people without understanding their complexity and see them as trash, then to paraphrase Van Jones, my trash becomes Nazi or QAnon treasure. We will never get anywhere with hate and divisiveness. Brene Brown says much the same. We want to shame and hate-because we are very angry about what we see and for VERY good reason. We should be angry. As Brene says, it would be great if shame did work, because we could then shame the ever loving shit out of some folks. But it never, ever works to change behavior, more’s the pity. Folks have to change on their own and feel their own shame. It’s such a challenge to hold people accountable, without dehumanizing and shaming. But, it can be done, I hope.”

Yes, oh yes. This is why I want to keep caring about everyone! Things are complex, and turning them into black and white doesn’t solve complex problems.

Another friend admitted that the other side’s claims scare them, enough so that my blog post also scared them. I totally get that. I have a feeling a LOT of the people who didn’t say anything were in this camp. Most of my friends probably are. I can’t deny that some of the things I learn are scary to me. I just have to note that some of the things I believe scare others. Sad.

I wonder if my all-American liver and onions dinner would scare many of my friends?

One of the wisest people I know concurred with me, which helped me feel like I’m not some kind of fool:

“…unless we respect the right of others to hold a conflicting opinion and can be comfortable discussing them with each other we will never achieve the peace we say we want to have.”

And thoughtful local friend echoed the above:

“…my standard is that if you can’t argue your opponent’s side then you don’t know what you really believe. Not enough people seek the ‘true’ or facts but just believe so much fake, half truth junk. And sad is the fact that too many have lost sight that we can all love each other and be friends, yet still live on different political spectrums. But alas, we have to try to squash and kill anyone and everyone that is not of the same like mind as ‘we’ are.”

 Here’s one more, from a blog reader commenting on my desire to be on the team with people willing to look at the big picture (check out his entire comment on my post from yesterday for a helpful, if sorta sad, UK perspective):

“I think the team in question is Centrism, rational, liberal but also skeptical and factual. It’s a devastating gap in politics on both sides of the Atlantic right now.”

Yes. When you are advocating for being in the center, it does NOT mean believing in nothing and it does not mean accepting everything each side maintains as true. Let’s work toward keeping rationality, skepticism, and factuality in mind, even if we come from a conservative viewpoint, and maybe we’ll find goals we can agree on.

How the last few months have left me. How about you?

Thanks

I really appreciate everyone who was brave enough to share their thoughts on a controversial issue. I’d love to learn more from you all. If you take the time to read this, I respect your opinion! This is how we build community.

Controversial Unity Crap Again

While I’ve been taking a little break from panicking about the state of our divided country here in the USA, people have not stopped fomenting divisiveness at every opportunity. It’s starting to bug me more and more. I have a radical suggestion.

If we just focused our energy and money on improving the lives of our citizens instead of punishing people we disagree with, we might just make things actually BETTER.

Crazy, right? I got to thinking about it, because a Patriot friend of mine (yes, I have Patriot friends) posted a long article by Dennis Prager saying how scary things are because the Left is taking away all the freedoms of people on the Right. I’m not going to quote him, but it’s worth reading before you read more of my thoughts.

I’ll look at these Valentine-shaped bindweed leaves while you read.

I read the whole thing, because I think it’s important to make an effort to understand where folks are coming from. What struck me most was this:

If I substituted left-leaning examples and fears for the right-leaning examples and fears, I could have written this.

Our divided society is divided, for the most part, because whoever’s content we read is designed to make us fear our neighbors, believe they are untrustworthy an out to get us, and constantly lie to us. Two examples:

  • The article by Prager says how afraid Patriots are to admit they planned to vote for their candidate, and whispered about it at work. Oddly, here in Milam County, a huge percentage of homes and ranches had (and still have) flags, signs, and hand-made items proclaiming their allegiance to that candidate, while I can remember ONE sign for the other candidate. Hmmm. Seems we both had reason to not mention our leanings (other than the fact that the workplace is one of those places where it’s not great to talk politics). That fear had to come from somewhere.
  • I watch, read, and listen to news from left-leaning sources, like NPR and the BBC. But, during the elections and inauguration period, I watched a lot of CNN coverage, because it was the one that disgusted my household the least. By just stepping outside my personal prejudices a little bit, I could easily see how the reporting was designed to get us upset. You couldn’t miss the soundbites about how one candidate spread “lies” and “untrue” information and downplayed anything more reasonable he might have said. I can tell when I’m being manipulated.

Who’s Benefiting?

The question that has been running through my head, in I guess my own personal conspiracy theory, is who’s benefiting from all this sowing of discord and promotion of us versus them thinking? Who wins by taking advantage of the undeniable human impulse to come up with reasons to make the out-group appear terrible (which, apparently, a long time ago, kept people from spreading diseases (from Sway, the book I’m reading and from Behave, which told me how this stuff works in our brains)).

  • Somebody made a shit-ton of money selling those omnipresent T**** signs.
  • Somebody’s making a lot of money off guns and ammo sales.
  • Somebody’s profiting from all those masks us pro-vaccinators are buying.
  • Whoever owns these highly factional news outlets must be raking it in.
  • I could go on, but I think you get my drift.

People are spending so much of their valuable money, time, and energy on hating each other these days! The rich one one side are spending $4,000 a plate for fundraisers for politicians outside their state. The rich on the other side are doing exactly the same thing. That amount of money, given locally, could help people struggling from the consequences of the pandemic, help working parents find child care so they can work from home and not go crazy, or house the homeless. I hear the message that my conservative friends don’t want there to be government handouts. Government handouts would not be necessary if people helped each other, like Jesus tells them to.

I’ve heard it said many times that there’s a grain of truth in every rumor or speculation. What if we stepped back and set aside the hyperbole to find the truth in the fears and concerns of all the people in the US? What if we looked from another perspective? What would happen?

When I try to do this, it’s hard. We have been ingrained with our partisan beliefs our whole lives, and they are what bind us to our “team” and make us feel special and a part of the family of believers. I’m no different. But I am willing to give it a try. I know we have much in common, like loving our families, wanting meaningful work, and not wanting to go hungry. We’re all committed to our faith journeys, however different they are (that includes you, atheists).

What would happen if we told those people, corporations, or other faceless entities who are profiting from keeping us at each other’s throats to go shove it? Would we be able to finally figure out what the motives of the profit-makers really are? Would it entail ALL of us struggling and failing? It might.

I hesitate to write this kind of kumbaya content, because I know I’ll hear back, “But those other guys did THIS!” and “Those awful people are doing THAT to me!” and “They’re just EVIL, I tell you!”

Image result for surprised goat
Surprise!

Newsflash: there are misguided and dangerous people in every single group you could name. There are also people who are just trying to live their lives and have been influenced by different sources of information. What we NEED are more people on all sides who are willing to step aside and look at the big picture.

That’s the team I want to join.