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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
And here is the second one:
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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!”
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.
As a fitting start to Black History Month, I’ve been thinking about all the learning I’ve been doing during the COVID year. Much of it has been about racism, the history of race, and unconscious bias. It’s really opened my eyes about a lot of areas for growth in my attitudes and actions, as well as confirming things that have made me uncomfortable my whole life. I’m glad I’m going through all this, and feel more grounded in reality every day.
Now, I’m open to learning about this stuff, even knowing perfectly well that as a human, I’m programmed to detect “others” and be on guard for them. The book I’m currently reading (Sway) makes the point that just because there are things hard-wired into us doesn’t mean we can’t change. It also helps that I hang around with people who are also open to learning about this stuff, want equality for everyone, and are willing to work on it.
But, after hearing my sister tell a story about how surprised she was to find out that someone she liked lived in the alternate reality where many in the US hang out, I got to thinking about how many people are fine and dandy just the way they are, and are not open to changing how they think about others. Complacency seems to be pretty darned common.
I’m understanding more and more WHY the big divide in the US exists, from a big picture perspective. When you feel a real attachment to your “tribe,” where all your friends, family, and admired celebrities are, the last thing you want to do is not fit in. It’s a lot easier to tell yourself that these people’s beliefs are correct, good, and appropriate from you than to stick out like a sore thumb, get picked on, or even get ostracized from the group (which has happened to a lot of people I know!). Divisiveness pays!
There’s really nothing enticing about being open to changing your views, if all the rewards come from sticking right where you are. My current idea is that, if we want people to change, even a teeny bit, asking them to compromise probably isn’t the right tactic. There needs to be something in it for those folks. It seems to me that if there were some reward for being willing to learn about other points of view and maybe even changing your mind, people might be more willing to put in the effort and sacrifice some comfort for it.
I’m testing my hypothesis by trying to figure out what kind of reward it would take for ME to be more open to listening to the other side. One if family unity. I do listen to certain family members, because I want to keep them in my family more than I want to feel better than them because I’m on the “right” side. Another is satisfying my curiosity. I have always found it useful to figure out what some group is actually about when I have a strong gut reaction. That has helped me learn a lot about Islam, its various types, and the variety of ways it’s expressed. Now, rather than disliking a whole group of people, I only have an issue with a small portion, just the same as I do with Christians, Jews, and others.
But, those seem like rather internally oriented rewards. I wonder if something more physical or tangible would help? What, like getting paid to learn all about Qanon (or whatever that is). That doesn’t work for me. I just want to know where all these ideas about people eating babies come from. I guess I don’t know elite-enough people.
So, I end up at a loss. I can’t think of any reward that would entice someone who’s perfectly happy as a racist, a sexist, a radical religious extremist, or a fascist to want to learn about what people over on my side refer to as “facts.”
Any ideas? Am I entirely off base? What could make people more open to learning about “the other” in their lives? Has anyone read a book that might guide me? (Like I need another book to read…not.)
I have been doing a fairly good job of keeping good spirits until last week, when I saw how many people whom I’ve been extending the benefit of the doubt, supporting their right to their beliefs, etc., are willing to try to bring down the government and the precious Constitution they kept braying about for so many years. Beating police officers, whose lives I thought mattered to them, with American flags, which I thought they held sacred, etc., all brought out my worst fears.
Knowing me, and I sorta do, it’s clear that I can handle one or two crises at a time pretty well. By the time yesterday came along, the crisis count went over my limit. There are a couple of things that I can’t talk about but weigh heavy on my mind. Plus way too many horrible illnesses in my extended circle. Then stuff happened at my job over the past week or so went over my limit for calmly dealing with the barrage of change that comes with an Agile organization owned by a new set of venture capitalists.
By the time my final meeting ended last night, at 7 pm, I’d had it. The darkness enveloped me, literally and figuratively, as I made my way back to the ranch, and I just couldn’t take another thing. I want to help people, I want to talk to folks who need to talk to me, and I want to get things done that I’ve committed to do. But wow, I’m only human.
You know what, all of you are only human, too. It is important to know when you’ve hit a limit and do something about it.
I am not someone who feels better by just ignoring current events, but I CAN find good things to balance them. That’s my hope for all of you, too, that you keep listening to the advice I repeatedly give to turn to nature and find its timeless beauty. Breathe. Take a walk. Surround yourself with what makes you happy (like all my silly Valentine’s Day decorations in the office). Talk to a friend. Maybe talk to a friend who is NOT overwhelmed like me!
I will now sign off and follow my own advice. Love to all, and I mean ALL.
Last night, while I could not get to sleep. I was watching lawmakers on television suddenly deciding to say things that made sense, that would calm people down, and that might lead to a better society. I cynically thought to myself that they didn’t do this as long as pretending to be loyal to an incompetent leader was to their advantage. How did they know when it was time to do the right thing rather than the thing that they knew was wrong, but would keep them in power?
I don’t know. It could be fearing for their lives as their buddies tried to break into the building where all the non-President leadership of the US was hanging out. Perhaps the incompetent leader finally became so incompetent that there was no more pretending “He was just kidding, ya know, that’s how he is. What a card!”
The lawmakers’ actions aren’t unfamiliar to many of us, I’m sure. Sometimes it’s so much easier to just ignore something that’s wrong, but more trouble to correct than to live with. To be honest, I’m doing that, myself, with a situation I know needs to be remedied, but I can’t figure out a way to do it without making a bunch of people angry, hurt, or put out. That can have dire consequences. Hmm. Yes, that’s just like the lawmakers’ dilemma.
I can tell those government representatives to just suck it up and not hand over the power to affect their courage to stand up for reason to the personality-cult members who voted for them. But then I’d need to tell myself to suck it up, too. I’m no better than they are. Probably a LOT of us give people who make a lot of noise and make life difficult the power to affect what we do.
But, we know what’s right. Perhaps the lawmakers are beginning to see that by treating a minority of loud and upset people with kid gloves, they are putting everyone else in danger, including themselves.
I just want to see some logical consequences start to occur. Jerks to jail, lawmakers remember why they were elected…reason. Civility. Back to dreaming.
Maybe. I don’t know. It’s a really confusing time.
Well, kids, I had a panic attack and came home from work this afternoon. On my way, I said to myself, “Oh, in case there’s chaos on the streets, I better fill the car with gas.” I also washed it (Lee’s car was filthy). Just because your society is collapsing doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep a clean vehicle.
Wait, here’s the humorous thing that came up this afternoon. My coworker and I were Zooming, attempting to do a work meeting. We stopped to watch Joe Biden give a good talk about how our country is about decency and the common good. I moved my laptop to where she could watch and listen to it with me. It felt good to not be alone.
In a split screen, the people occupying and vandalizing the US Capitol building were wandering around. A bunch of them had these yellow flags:
This is a thing I don’t think about often. But, that phrase rang a bell. Oh yes, my friend Donna in Master Naturalists wrote a little blog post about an encounter she had with a non-venomous water snake recently. It was, as always, sweet, because she is so kind to all natural life.
She did, though, title it Don’t Tread on Me. You know, a wry commentary on those historical flags and slogans, but applied to an actual snake.
Well, let me tell you that posts on that blog usually get between 10-20 hits. Imagine my surprise when I saw 189 hits to that post the day it was published and 42 the next day. I hadn’t figured out what caused that, though I had some idea that someone shared it for some obscure reason.
But, when I saw those flags, I realized that there were people out there searching for that phrase. I have a feeling they were disappointed.
I’m disappointed in a lot of people today. What a world, what a world.