I’m nearing the beginning of my seventh decade of life. For nearly seventy years now I have led a rather quiet existence, which is actually the way that I prefer it to be. I love people, but need my space now and again. I am more of an observer of human nature than someone who eagerly joins particular groups. A quiet walk with a dear friend brings me far more happiness than attending a raucous party. I accept change as inevitable and enjoy innovations, but worry about ideas that throw the baby out with the bath water. I am fiercely loyal, and will go to battle for those that I love, but mostly I am a peaceful sort. I tend toward diplomacy and flexibility rather than being an ideologue. I know that I had the talents to attain fame or fortune, but I have always been more inclined to focus my efforts on the pursuit of the smaller causes in my little corner of the world. I can honestly say that I am exactly the person that I seem to be with only a few exceptions and they are minor. I sometimes lose my cool and curse in a manner that would have made my dear mother blush, but I also know how to control such impulses in public out of respect. I attempt to be fair and rational even though my nature is to let my heart rule. I am happy and content with my life.
I once dreamed of living in an upscale neighborhood in Houston like West University Place. I imagined myself driving around town in a Mercedes Benz. I actually thought that the true sign of success came with wealth. I’ve outgrown such silliness. I like my tract home in Pearland. I’ve created my own little island of comfort inside its walls. I no longer desire to spend my money on a big fancy car that will eventually wear out anyway. In fact, there is very little that I want or need beyond the hope that life will be as good for my friends and family as it has been for me.
At this point I realize that our lives are filled with ups and downs. One day we may be on the top of the world, and the next we feel shattered. When my father died I thought that my mother and brothers and I were surely doomed. I learned that it is possible to overcome even the emotional trauma of death. When I finally realized that my mother’s mental illness was chronic I had already gathered the strength, tools and allies to fight her disease. I’ve seen times when there was little or no food in my pantry, but I used my ingenuity to design a meal out of whatever I had. There came a moment when I found the confidence within my heart that I never realized had been waiting there all along. Life has been a fight at times, but I know how to gird myself and enter the fray. I’ve got some battle scars, but then so does everyone who makes it to my stage in life.
Still, I worry, not so much for myself but for those who will follow me. I see so many demanding that we choose sides in fights that really don’t even need to happen. I am more and more often identified not as the unique individual that I am, but rather as a member of one subgroup or another. I much prefer simply viewing myself as a human being with all of the glory and imperfections that the name implies. I am a member of a long history of people who have had the privilege of spending time on this earth, those who for centuries have tried to be their best and to leave a legacy of peace and progress for the young. Like them I have both succeeded and failed. I learned to hang tough and just keep moving forward with each new day. When I arise in the morning it feels almost like a kind of spiritual resurrection in which I have yet another opportunity to set things right. There is something gloriously hopeful about knowing that this is true.
Of late I see things that are contrary to my nature. People are being tried in the court of public opinion without regard to evidence or fairness. There is an anger in the air that is difficult to ignore, and the most vocal often insist that we each choose a side or be found guilty of thoughts and beliefs that we actually do not hold. Rules and mores are crumbling beneath a wave of ideas that suggest that discussions, critical thinking and compromises are not only outmoded, but actually harmful. Friend turns on friend over issues promulgated by people who seek power, and we too often fall for their methods of dividing us. I truly wonder if these trends will only end after we have been scarred and injured by the chaos. Do we have to hit rock bottom before we are willing to change?
I might easily just close my door, pull down my blinds and ignore the furor. It would perhaps be the easiest thing to do. I might just leave all of the trouble to the young folk, and just enjoy the contentment that has found me at last. Still, I feel a sense of duty to do my small part to quell the rage that only seems to grow in our nation. I search for the source but only find frustration, because it seems to me that it emanates from far too many groups to name. There is a kind of hypocrisy that has overtaken our leaders that makes me continually feel as though I am the little boy in the fairytale that my father once read to me about an emperor who had no clothes. I wonder why I can see that it is so, and so many are blind to the very idea.
I suppose that I will keep trying to bring people together, even as I see how often my intentions are misunderstood. It is worth the effort to work to end the bloodless civil war in which our country is now engaged. I may not lead a movement but I have the right and the power to voice my concerns, and hopefully we will begin to get grip on ourselves before the arguments lead to the kind of violence that once ripped our ancestors apart.
I sense that I am not alone in wanting the fighting to cease. I believe that there are enough of us to begin a quiet movement before it is too late. At least I am willing to try.