I suspect that many of the world’s people feel adrift in uncertain waters since the pandemic overtook the globe. We humans tend to like our own personal routines, and things like mysterious viruses don’t jibe with the normal flow of life. Our recent brush with a deadly infectious disease revealed our differences in very dramatic ways. Some people needed to look away from the dying, the cries for justice from minority citizens in different countries, the problems that arose in virtually every sector of our society. Others saw an opportunity to shine a light on issues that have always been present, but were less noticeable when we were all bustling about as usual. A kind of worldwide unrest has punctuated the painfulness of the last few years.
We tend to crave instant solutions for our problems and answers for who is to blame, when in reality nothing is ever as simple as it seems to be. It will take years of hindsight and research to fully understand what we humans did right and what we did wrong. To blame one particular person or group for our recent trials would be foolish and unfair. Sadly our misery is being used as a political cudgel by people who are less interested in coming to common agreements than gaining the power to push their own agendas. In the end our current angry climate will do little to calm the march of challenges that the entire world faces.
I love people. I think it’s fine for each of us to have different ideas about how we wish to live but I also believe in learning from past mistakes and listening to experts. I also believe that in general we have become more accustomed to having what we want, when we want it for the price we want to pay, especially here is the United States. To believe that things will remain that way after the cataclysm created by the pandemic is not just naive, but dangerous. It creates anger rather than sacrifice for the short term and ignores the steps we should take for the long term. It really is not idealistic or whatever someone wants to call it to be willing to step back for a time from the ways things were three years ago. It’s instead time to examine how we can adjust our behavior as needed to get through the effects of a worldwide pandemic coupled with wars.
Are there fascists on the far right? Of course there are. I knew one of them back when I was in college. He was a friend of my mother’s and belonged to the John Birch society. His political ideas were disgusting and frightening and I was relieved when my mother pushed him out of her life. Sadly many such people are coming out of the woodwork these days and attempting to peddle their racist and authoritarian tropes to a public that is looking for comfort. On the other hand there are most assuredly Communists on the far left. They too have been around for decades. Both groups are too radical to run a democracy, but they have the right to their opinions in a democracy. We just have to be able to identify them properly when they seek power. We would do well to spurn them and look to moderates from both parties to guide us through our current problems. We too often fall victim to the rants of people who do not have the interests of everyone in their hearts. They prey on our fears rather than our better spirits.
I think that much of the problem lies in judging people and their motives for believing the way that they do. Often if we walked in their shoes we might understand why they think the way they. I’ve said before that we all need to stop, take a breath and allow people to have a voice without rebuttal. Sometimes just listening helps to explain behaviors that we do not understand.
I recently listened to a lovely broadcast on NPR that featured two women who were seemingly from opposite ends of a spectrum. One of the ladies was from a family that had once owned slaves. The other was a descendant from one the slaves that the family had owned. Both had heard stories from about that unfortunate time that made them cringe. At some point one of the women contacted the other and asked if they might get together to talk and hopefully heal wounds.
In fact they began a years long conversation that ended with the white woman apologizing for the hurt that her ancestors had inflicted on the black women’s family. Both women learned about each other in the most intimate of ways and ultimately became close friends. They decided to write a book about their experience in the hopes that others might be willing to find some level of understanding with those whose histories and views seem to be at opposite extremes.
I found myself sobbing as I heard the stories of these two women and heard the emotional journey that they were willing to take with each other. Somehow such honest conversations have seemingly gone out of style. We don’t allow people to speak openly about who they are and how they became that way. We seem to default to anger and insults when someone differs from ourselves.
I still dream of making peace with one another, but evidence is making me weary of waiting for that time to come. We can’t look away from our problems nor can we rant so loudly that nobody gets a word in edgewise. What the world needs now is a mega therapy session and a whole lot of love.