For the first time in as long as I can remember, I woke up this morning to happy news about the United States and its government (from my perspective). I am relieved to see that the way our system has been set up is holding up, at least so far. I fervently hope we can avoid violence and move toward a society I can be proud to live in.
WELL I’M NAIVE AND FOOLISH! I’M ASHAMED OF FELLOW US CITIZENS.
Readers of my blog have probably figured out that I fall on the liberal side of the political scale. While it’s true that I’m a pacifist, non-evangelical, pro-choice, democratic socialist, I’m not scary, out to eat you, or hell-bent on destroying anyone’s way of life. And I don’t want to live in a place that forces its citizens to toe some political line or suffer for their beliefs. I’m a big fan of diversity, and that’s why I’ve been having a hard time living in the US since our political parties have turned so violently against each other. How the heck are we supposed to accomplish anything at all if our only goal is to make the other team lose?
I hope that today’s events in the US, with actual elections, voted on by actual people, and certified by neutral parties can lead this supposed democratic republic back to sanity. I can dream, can’t I?
What I Want to See
I too, have a dream, like Dr. King did. In my dream people can:
Work together to make the lives of all citizens healthy and safe
If we participate in the political system as elected officials, do so to make the lives of the citizenry better, not to benefit a few people in power
Help the mentally challenged lead productive lives and contribute to society
Use our different viewpoints and perspectives to come to workable compromises for laws, regulations, and programs at the local, state, and national levels
Take care of the health of all citizens without causing undue financial burdens
Educate our children and adults to create a workforce of laborers, technicians, artists, scientists, and others to create a thriving society
Take care of the planet we live on and its non-human citizens as well as we take care of the humans
Celebrate our differences and learn from each other
Banish hate. Period. Friendly competition is great; hatred of the other is not.
Prioritize peace over war. Imagine what the world’s warriors could do if they didn’t have to spend so much time and energy on weapons and fighting.
Enjoy our religious traditions and cultural heritage without negating other people’s
Stay out of people’s private lives if they aren’t hurting anyone
Talk to each other. AND listen to each other
Celebrate beauty, hope, love, family, and all the good parts of life
If you finish a 700-page book and are still happy with it, you know it was a darned good book. And yes, A Promised Land, by Pres. Barack Obama, was a really fascinating book. That’s saying a lot, because I have mostly been bored to tears by books about presidential politics, international relations, and recent history.
Somehow, Obama manages to talk about his life in such a way that it’s easy to keep up with who’s who, and you feel like you get to know the many, many people he comes across. Whoever helped him organize the book and recommended putting in the short-but-helpful descriptions of his friends, colleagues, opponents, and staff members wins my earnest thanks. I didn’t lose track of people in this story, at all. And they all seemed so real, not like names to memorize in a history book.
As you may know, Obama is a pretty smart guy (even if you don’t like him, that’s a fact). He loves explaining things, and this book gives him the opportunity to do so at length, rather than in sound bites. By taking his time and explaining why he did things, why compromises had to be made, and how he could see what other people wanted and needed from their perspectives, I was actually able to understand the complexities of elections, dealing with dignitaries, working with Congress, etc.
I think I’d have been drawn into this book even if I wasn’t already a fan, because he does a great job of pointing out where he screwed up, when other people were right, when hard decisions had to be made, etc. It helps to have the context and to realize how much those of us consuming the news don’t get to know (I’m not talking about Fox News, I’m talking about more moderate outlets).
You may have read my post earlier in the week, about what to do as we move forward. In it, I talked about an article I’d read about some of the less credible conspiracy theories that are going on around the world right now. In response, my friend Marian asked me: “Your blog brings up this question for me. How were you able to determine that the conspiracies were false?”
Well, isn’t THAT a good question? Maybe something’s only a conspiracy theory to those who think there’s no way it could be true (based on no firm evidence), and that same thing could be just a theory to people who think it’s plausible (with the same amount of firm evidence). Take, for example, the theory that Vladimir Putin has a series of body doubles who pretend to be him on some occasions. The evidence for it is that he keeps looking younger and younger in photos. The people who discount it point out that one of his nicknames is Man of Botox (or something like that). So, either he’s conspiring to trick people, or he’s just a fan of cosmetic surgery. Who knows?
Of course, there are much darker, scarier and less provable conspiracies, like QAnon (not linking to that!), who killed JFK, whether there are dead aliens in Area 51, if the moon landing was a hoax, etc. Here’s a handy list of some popular ones. Some seem silly, some seem plausible, and some may forever be theories. It’s the “conspiracy” part that concerns me. I’m fine not knowing stuff. I don’t know a lot of stuff, and one of my firmest beliefs is that there are many things we humans haven’t figured out yet that might make confusing things more comprehensible.
A conspiracy implies that there are forces out there hiding things from others, or even that certain in-groups are privy to information that is hidden on purpose from everyone else. At least QAnon is nice enough to leave breadcrumbs for their minions, right? Neither the Illuminati nor the Liberal Media Conspiracy have sent me their clues, though, and I am bummed.
Turning back to Marian’s question, I think it’s easier to prove something is a conspiracy than it is to prove the theory’s veracity. I think we’re just not going to know until they trot out that alien, or whatever. That’s fine. People can choose not to believe things they don’t have good evidence for, or they can choose to do so, if it makes them happy.
The important thing is that we differentiate false claims with evidence to prove their falsehood from unproven theories. That seems to be a real issue in the US right now, where you say something enough times that it’s declared true, or lies don’t matter if you say them with enough conviction.
What I’m trying to get at here, as I type as I think, is that conspiracy theories that aren’t harming anyone really aren’t a problem. When enough people believe there are conspiracies going on, even with no evidence, and they take action that harms others…that’s why I’m worried. I’m afraid I see that as a possibility in the near future. Just because you can’t prove a conspiracy theory is right or wrong doesn’t mean it can’t be very dangerous.
We’ll see. Did this make any sense at all? Do you have any comments to steer me toward making more sense? I’m open!
First, thanks for your interest in my stories about my past adventures. I expected to get about twelve people to read yesterday’s post, not the actual number! It’s a Blogmas miracle! This makes me think that I may want to write up some memories every week or so. First I have to go plow through some photo albums, half of which appear to be in Austin and half in Cameron (oh the problems of having two houses, lol).
While I do have more memories to share, my thoughts this morning got all derailed by reading a couple of posts on conspiracy theories and code words. First I read a cautionary piece on Facebook by Jim Rigby, my favorite Christian minister. He talked about the importance of not thinking that the issues the US is dealing with will just go away with a change in the presidency.
He also provided a handy kind of “dictionary” that helps in understanding what you’ll hear certain groups (conservative subgroups) of people saying they believe in, versus what the underlying implications are. Here are a few juicy ones:
“Elites” is a term of derision. It is not generally applied to the plutocrats who pillage our nation, but is reserved for stigmatizing and marginalizing anyone with expertise.
“Family values” is a term of reverence for the patriarchal hierarchy.
“Religious liberty” is a term referring to the “right” of Christians to impose their religion on non-Christians. If Muslims try to have influence in the public sphere they are accused of trying to bring about shariah law, and Jewish activists are smeared with tropes going back to the Spanish Inquisition
“Christian persecution” is a term often using actual persecution against Christians in other countries to pretend that Christians are being persecuted when not allowed to rule THIS land.
Jim Rigby, link below
You can read the whole thing below.
I’ve gone on and on about how vital it is to take into account the facts (yes, that means things that have really happened) about race relations here, like Jim Crow laws, lynchings, jerrymandered voting districts, educational inequities, housing inequities, yadda yadda. There’s a boatload of it. What I liked about Rigby’s piece is that he spelled it all out so succinctly (considering it’s a boatload).
Then, I happened upon a great article from The Economist that you can’t read unless you sign up (grr). It talked about conspiracy theories around the world. Whoa, I had no idea how widespread and crazy some are. Did you know Putin has numerous body doubles, so he can live forever? On the other hand, apparently gays are trying to take over his government, even though they have no power. And there were weird ideas from Japan and other places, too.
Conspiracy theories are just fine, until enough people are convinced they are true and start harming others. I’m keeping an eye on them!
Sorry to be such a downer today. I just want to say that it behooves all of us, no matter what “team” we are on, to make sure we are basing our opinions on what it actually happening, and to not hide in our safe little circles. Everyone needs checks and balances, so let’s be responsible.
Back to cute stories later. At least I shared some fun photos.
I’m talking about mentally lighter, here. True fact is that I have been feeling much lighter while I’m on my sojourn in the mountains. I have finally given myself space to breathe and permission to do nothing I “should” be doing for a few weeks. I’ve been able to read, knit, watch silly television movies with the family, and eat whatever I want to, whenever I want to. Nice.
It turns out, though, that I’m not the only one. In my casual reading of email, Facebook, and news sites this morning, I have run across a surprisingly (to me) large number of folks expressing that they feel lighter, better, more free, or less stressed. It’s not everyone. But it’s a lot of people.
I’ll address the elephant in the room.*
Lots of people are feeling more free and less vigilant because of the US election results. Some of us are relieved at the Presidential election stuff; others are happy that their party did much better than expected in state and local elections. Still others are just glad for a break from all those ads and such. But, I don’t think it’s all about that.
There are still lots of things in 2020 that can keep us blanketed with concerns. The COVID stuff weighs on everyone’s minds, for sure. There have been exposures in my family, and that worries me, of course. And I keep trying to think of ways to have fun in Utah and avoid crowds of strangers (so far, I’ve done pretty well, though one store I went in last week made me uncomfortable, so I left). Being able to figure out ways to enjoy life, even with restrictions, though, has helped me a lot, and I am thinking others are figuring out ways to be comfortable with their “new normal” (a phrase I’m growing to dislike).
Maybe, just maybe, the way we’ve all been forced to do a lot of introspection and many of us have been spending more time in nature and noticing how we’re all interconnected, maybe that’s helped. I want that to be true. And it has really helped a lot of us focus on the here and now, not what just happened or what might happen. When we realize we are a part of everything, even pandemics fall into place. We just deal with what comes up, every day.
I keep mentioning that finding the good in whatever you’re doing seems to work. Attitude seems matter, lots. I think more and more of us are finding this focus, whether intentionally or not. I know it’s how I’ve gotten through previous politically tough times and times when people I love are ill. I think back to when my mom was sick, when my dad was in his horrible accident and the aftermath of that, the loss of my son’s love, and all the hard times I’ve faced, and I realize that all these times I’ve focused on the current moment, realizing there’s nothing that worrying or brooding can do. We all have these kinds of times, and 2020 seems to have brought more than its share to so many people.
Let’s enjoy feeling a little lighter, even for a short while. Hold these times in our hearts as we figure out what to do with all the upcoming holidays and other challenges. Keep those negative thoughts in their proper place (there is still plenty to challenge us, and there’s no denying it). With the support of our inner circles and a focus on the good around us, I think we can make it.
*Another elephant (symbolically) is that maybe a lot of the people who are angsty and upset are hanging out in their Parler now, so I’m left interacting with people who are coping with life right now.
I realize I keep coming back to this topic, but I’m really concerned. While there have always been different points of view, different “teams” that we’re on, and strong feelings about them (this morning I was thinking about Tudor England and the religious issue), I never have seen that these divisions have helped societies move forward and improve people’s lives. The deepest times of division have led to death, poverty, and great sadness.
I’ve felt a lack of kinship with people in the US much of my life. Most Presidential and other more local elections tend to be close, meaning there are lots of us on each side. I admit that I was not fond of perhaps most Presidents of the USA. But, I didn’t run away and hide from people who liked those leaders. I still worked with them, went to school with them, socialized with them, etc. I was never so afraid of them that I felt I needed to hide.
Even in the last four years, when people were arming themselves, calling people like me horrible names, and threatening violence against us, I didn’t feel like I had to hide. I did contain my strongest thoughts to smaller circles of friends, but I didn’t want to abandon my other friends and acquaintances. They mattered to me, and still do.
So, I am really disappointed and sad that many people, including people I have enjoyed being around, are running away from the rest of us to go off to their own special social media platform. It’s fine to go be around people like yourself. I think it’s a really human impulse to want to want to be able to relax and not self-censor quite so much, at least some of the time. But, I really hope most of these folks don’t completely abandon places like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., where you can be with people like yourself AND get exposed to other ideas and perspectives.
Please, friends, don’t take your toys and go hide just because you’re in the minority. Most of us have been in the minority our whole lives and it’s been okay. Sharing power and influence might even make life easier, who knows if we don’t give it a chance?
Even we hermits of the Hermits’ Rest really don’t want to hide from everyone who isn’t “one of us.” There is so much we have in common. I know I harp on this, but it’s true! We need to work together to deal with the pandemic, to create good jobs in our communities (like our company, which has people of ALL perspectives in it), and to keep each other safe. I just wish our common humanity and citizenship of the same planet mattered to more of us.
Anyway, thank you to everyone who is willing to continue talking to each other, caring for each other, and considering each other’s perspectives. We don’t need a civil war, violence, or separate societies. We can disagree, protest, and work toward our goals without hurting or deserting each other. I sure hope.
I’m going to be sure to let people I know hear that I care about them. What about you?
This morning, they announced the winner if the US Presidential election. You probably heard that. It was a close call, for sure.
Anita and I had already planned to go shopping before it snowed. We made a pact to keep our mouths shut and not act all jovial. Half the people are sad and half are happy, after all.
But the second we got into our Uber car the guy started talking about feeling hopeful, so we had to tell him. Then his friends called him. Everyone was so happy. I honestly haven’t seen groups of happy people in so long…
So, we went to have lunch at a nice brew pub. I went to scan the online menu, and uh oh. My phone was not there. Shoot. It’s my lifeline.
The server came up to take our order, and we asked for some time so I could look for my phone. It wasn’t in the store we went to before. The only other possibility was the Uber car. I got all worried, as one would.
Rather than go fetch water, Nuria stayed and helped me try to find my phone using my watch and Anita’s phone. It was so frustrating to try to log onto Uber using another phone. I kept getting things sent to my phone, which didn’t help.
I’m sure Nuria spent 20 minutes to a half hour helping me. And she was so patient, kind, and funny. Eventually we called my phone from Anita’s and the Uber driver picked it up. Hooray for Adam the Uber guy! He quickly brought my phone back and we all elbow bumped. That was another close call, for sure! Whew.
The rest of the day was so much fun. We visited fun stores, got a couple of Christmas gifts, and interacted with some wonderful store clerks. In one place, we had a great discussion, followed by some subdued jumping up and down. The women were so happy to share their relief.
The same happened at a couple other places. And we found a new hemp store full of such cute women it almost seemed impossible. More crying and laughing happened there, and we had a good talk about hemp. We all shared how much less pain and anxiety we have (it’s true). I ended up with sore cheeks from smiling.
That’s rare. Smiling and less stress. Now, we all know the same problems we had before are still here. But maybe people will be kind, civil, and caring with each other. I hope all of our interests will be heard and count. Everyone.
Starting to wonder here, have we all turned into assholes? It used to be that humor was the tool used in times of stress to break the tension. Nowadays, any time I, or any of my other friends who hasn’t deleted every person who votes for the “other” US party, simply can’t make jokes. There’s no such thing as laughing at ourselves, gently ribbing another group, or having a chuckle over our cognitive dissonance. Nothing’s allowed to be funny now, according to the humor police.
Nope, if I dare post something on Facebook that I find funny, but happens to be vaguely political, a predictable group of people will take me to task. I find that sort of funny in itself, because my strategy has been to let stuff like that slide, or even see the humor in some of the things people post. In many cases, I’ve simply scrolled on by things they say, because I think they have every right to say them, whether I agree or not.
One person, we will call them “M,” always chides me for my rare political posts, and virtuously points out that they NEVER say anything political on their own page. That’s absolutely true. Instead they insult and put others down in comments on their statuses. I take a little consolation in the fact that I’m not the only target. I have always apologized for any perceived insult, but M always needs to have the last word, or more accurately, jab. I always let them get that satisfaction, since it doesn’t matter to me and I’m not keeping score.
I share that example, not to get back at people outside of Facebook, but to genuinely wonder why we have to be this way? What does trolling do for the troll? What accolades do online bullies get? Does their fearless leader send them a gold star?
When folks I disagree with post rational responses, I always learn something and go look up more on the information behind their comments. That’s how I’ve gotten to get a better perspective on both sides, and why I have NOT removed friends and family with whom I disagree. But, dang, how much passive aggressive jabbing is too much?
I hate to lose touch with people I care about or need to work with. No one’s all bad (even me, M). I feel really badly for my friends who can no longer interact with family and lifelong friends because they’re wired differently (like I was saying yesterday). Please, folks, let up on others.
Sure, some humor is really mean, cruel, or ugly. But a lot of humor isn’t. If we can’t laugh at ourselves, we’re going to be stuck in an even longer, more humorless period than we’re already in. It really does feel like a new Dark Ages, doesn’t it? Plagues, civil wars, being attacked for saying or believing the wrong thing.
Like the rest of the world, I have been watching events unfold after the US election. One thing I have seen over and over is people lamenting, “How could so many people have voted for the other side?” And ooh, are they serious, as I found out when I tried to post something funny that I didn’t realize was such a hot potato for the side I’m not a member of. Oops. No opinionating on Facebook, even just to be funny, it appears. On the other hand, I guess I actually agree with the humor, and it has to do with why I’m not so surprised so many people voted on each side.
A Digression on Divisiveness
There are two different world views, and each one is “right” from their point of view.
Depending on how you were raised, your life experiences, and yes, even some genetic influence, you are just going to have different priorities. Actual scientific research concluded “the development of political attitudes depends, on average, about 60 percent on the environment in which we grow up and live and 40 percent on our genes.” Scientific American
I know there’s stuff written on this, but I’m just going to say it as my opinion: I believe that about half of us primarily act out of self preservation and keeping their group on top (safe, in power, well fed). The other half of us have a larger view of preservation and focus on preserving all of humanity and the rest of the earth, too. That’s an over-generalization, of course.
Having read the Caste book recently (sorry if I keep referring to it, but it’s just chock full of helpful information), I am very aware that the country where I live was designed to preserve the wealth and power of one group (that would be the white dudes). And yes, the Electoral College was set up to preserve the power of the right white dudes. The idea of one person’s vote counting the same as another’s really scares some of us, because it might disrupt the balance of power. A person I know said that if we didn’t use the Electoral College, people in New York and Las Angeles would count the SAME as him! Oh no! Their vote would be equal to his! All that work keeping progressives, blacks, and others from influencing things would be down the drain. I guess? I honestly don’t get it.
What Was I Writing About?
What I wanted to actually talk about today is why I care about people who are not a part of my “group.” I am lucky enough to be descended from the English and Scots people who fled the UK because the were religious outsiders, criminals, or sons who couldn’t inherit land. A fine bunch. But because of that, I am the recipient of a lot of advantages. This has never set well with me.
Part of it comes from being raised in the Deep South and experiencing a lot of discomfort about how Black people were treated. I have s strong memory of being yelled at for peeing in Versie’s toilet in the garage at my grandmother’s house. This woman could cook our food, but her toilet was forbidden? And why did she have her own toilet?
And as things went on, I ended up having more Black friends than a lot of people like me did. When my parents moved to (ugh) Plantation, Florida, I was in eighth grade. For some reason, my classmates took an initial dislike to me. I went straight from being a popular kid in a gifted class to the person no one talked to, who had to sit with the black kids. Well, it turned out the black kids felt like me. They’d been bussed into this extra white neighborhood and did not feel welcome. So, what the heck, I talked to them (as much as I could; back then there actually was quite a difference in how the two groups talked).
I ended up spending most of the year with a Black girl, Earnestine, who was smart, like me, but who also didn’t understand Algebra 1 (we were in a horrible experimental school that was one giant room and where you were supposed to teach yourself from textbooks and just ask teachers if you needed help). Earnie ended up being the first person I ever taught to crochet, and we made money from it! The moral to that whole experience was that I got to actually know a lot of these kids, learned all about their families and lives, and found we had a lot in common. (Earnie was top in her class when she graduated from the historically black high school in Ft. Lauderdale, though I didn’t see her again until senior year of high school; things might have been different if we’d had email and social media!).
I was glad to have my eyes opened to see that the people my peers said bad things about were actually just fine. Thank goodness I also made really good Jewish friends and Cuban-American friends (we didn’t have Mexicans) in high school, plus being really close to one of my Black friends. Poor Mom, dealing with me bringing ALL these kids home. But wow, I’m glad I made all these good friends while I was young. I simply can’t view people who aren’t like me in looks, religious tradition, or ethnicity as non-people.
In college, I just happened to fall into a group of young gay men, which was really important. This was pre-AIDS. It was also long before people were coming out in high school or earlier. Many of these guys were trying to figure out who they were, and feeling very vulnerable. Most important, though, was that they were kind to me and my straight friends, and taught us so much about what it’s like to be afraid to be yourself, but go out in the world as you really are. My deep care for these people is probably why I care SO MUCH for young people today who are exploring their gender and sexuality. I remember how hard it was for my friends.
So, no, I wasn’t born such a tree-hugging, peace-mongering, equality-promoting human. Both my genetics (from my dad) AND my experiences led me to be how I am. I totally get how someone with different genes and different experiences might feel threatened by people like me, my friends who are people of color, and all those LGBTQ folks. They are different.
I know so many people I care about feel very threatened by the idea of people who aren’t white dudes being in charge. I’ve heard people say they voted against Biden because if he died in office, TWO WOMEN would be in charge! Yeah, that’s way too many vaginas in power. The thing is, those of us who care about everyone also care about people who feel threatened by change in the status quo. So, don’t worry folks. Those of us who love everybody will keep on loving them, regardless of power struggles. And we don’t expect people who are wired differently to change.
Who knows, maybe the fact that we are about 50/50 is a good thing for humanity and contributes to our continued ability to thrive in the world. Maybe it’s okay that some of us are for unity and some for division. I just want the best and the brightest to get a chance to lead, regardless of superficial differences. That makes me radical, but it’s just how I am.
I woke up this morning and the world was still here. I still had work to do. The sun was shining, and the moon was still up.
As I read my daily email updates, checked out social media, and finally decided to listen to some news, I began to read and hear lots and lots of advice from people for how to deal with feelings today. A lot of it was very good, and once again, I appreciated words from Maria Shriver.
And there were lots of other people sharing advice to breathe and acknowledge your feelings. I think we all need that, regardless of your feelings about the US election. We are still a country that is very divided, so I intend to continue to send thoughts for peace and calm, remember that I’m resilient, and keep living in the moment.
I’m not going to tell YOU how to act, what to think, or what to feel. I feel overwhelmed by all the advice, myself. Please do what works for you. That’s all my advice.
Know that lots of bad, awful, and disheartening events have occurred throughout the history of this country, but regular people still just want to live their lives in peace and safety. I’m remembering that.