Election Day

And the bars are open in New Orleans.

On this Election Day, I am afraid that I will once again learn that a little less than half my friends and neighbors, Americans all, do not share my basic values. I am hoping some of the stress and conflict dissipates.

Fear rules the day, and it is not a good thing. I am afraid that we are slipping into an authoritarian state with the dominant party controlling the media messaging, an increasing acceptance of violence as a means of resolving conflict, people self-segregating into groups that are filled with self-reinforcing messaging, and a rejection of the methods-science, history, economics, philosophy- once used to determine truth and the common good, and that as educated people we once shared. I am afraid that the environmental battle over climate change, conservation and development is lost, and the minimal goal of preserving the status quo is an illusion. I am afraid that my friends and neighbors, in their pursuit of the “other” to blame, will listen to the voices that cut closer and closer to home and, encouraged by irresponsible leaders, begin to direct their fear and anger in physical ways to match their hateful rhetoric. 

I see people walking in fear. I see women afraid of men. I see queer people afraid of straight people. I see straight people afraid of queer people. I see blacks afraid of whites and the power that they have to wield authority against them. I see Jews afraid of Christians, and other religious minorities afraid they are next. I see Christians afraid of loss of status and power. I see whites afraid of just about everything, arming and isolating themselves. I see a militarized police, afraid of the people they serve. I see people afraid of authority, never sure if the system will be used for or against them. 

I see young people afraid that the education they got and the work they have done has not prepared them to live as their parents did. I see people aging and afraid that the skills and abilities they have are irrelevant, that there will not be enough money to maintain their place in society, and the promises they based life decisions on will be broken. 

I see all this fear driving our politics, and am afraid. As an individual, I can try to recognize the fear I feel and refuse to act on it. I’m not sure we have it in us as a society to reject the fear and anger. 

In any case pecans are still falling from the trees, and people are playing good music in cool venues all over town. It is a warm and muggy day, and it is time to walk around to enjoy the sweat.  

One thought on “Election Day

  1. Hi Rob, I’ve been thinking about your eloquent, and depressing post since yesterday. It’s depressing because there is so much truth in it. Fear rules the day, and the plans for the future, as in arming oneself to protect oneself, and to destroy those who are different in any way. The mob thinking, gang rule is something I see that I find very disturbing. People, who are friends, and family, don’t think for themselves. Don’t look beyond the immediate violence based response to problems, to the short-sighted, quick answers rather than to the consequences of such action. I’m thinking of the response to immigrants, to abortion rights, among other issues. Economically, right now, many are benefiting, But for the long term? What about the environment? What about our very survival on the planet? All the discussion about “them” and “us”. Oy! We are all US, all humans. The blindness of the righteous right, the Christian right, who twist their faith into gang rule and violence. History records the religious wars. They were horrid, by all records. Man’s inhumanity to man is nothing new. It makes me wonder about our education system. I’ve always questioned the authorities rules, even my parents since I was pre-K. I guess it’s a trust issue, or that I could see what they were telling me wasn’t true here, or there, or there. In college and grad school, we learned to analyze problems, to look for consequences, alternatives and long range results that might improve the situation. When I started on my first social work job, for Family Services, the IL.Gov. was closing all the mental institutions, and main-streaming the former patients. I thought it was a good idea. My supervisor, who had much more experience than I, and also was one who questioned the blanket statements of policy and action, said, “Don’t believe the party line. Dig deeper, question, look at the individual.” She was singing my song, and it was good to find another person who would think through the publicly accepted policy to the consequences and nuances. That policy left us with no place for the mentally ill, the incompetent, or the dangerous people. We as a nation, have been damaged by such a poorly thought through response to misuse and abuse in state mental hospitals. Ah, people are so short-sighted. Pulling together for the greater good, with everyone contributing, is rejected with suspicion and contempt, and threats of violence. So short sighted. While in California, with my great trip, I was with my brother, Paul and his wife, Betty. They are socially and politically correct in many ways, but not deep thinkers. They are followers, blind followers, and avoid analytical thought as though it will contaminate their brains. Both are “nice” people, “good Christians”, but live in a gated community to keep “those people” out, except to do the yard work or clean houses. They don’t like to discuss anything out of the mainstream, or to look critically or at consequences of actions. They don’t recognize conflicts between their thoughts, beliefs and their actions. They fully supported sending the bus load of immigrant children back to where they came from a few years ago; without food, water, medical care or comfort of any kind, or any attempts to find their families. Just, get them out of my county, my country. Good Christians, my ass!! Betty is always, always ingratiatingly interested in the meaningless. It was really difficult for me to continually respond to “how did you sleep. Was the mattress ok. Was I warm enough”, and on and on. Then “What did I have for breakfast, while at a shitty, limited buffet at a motel. She wouldn’t stop asking and staring, waiting for an answer until I said something. Really pushing the nonsense on me, even before coffee. I did finally give short answers, with an attitude. She told her husband, Paul, on me. “Your sister has been rude.” Well, we had a little brouhaha. Yes, I was rude. I did not want small talk. I wanted meaningful discussions, like how their kids are doing, the grandkids, her thoughts about possibly leaving the desert community where they live, things she’s interested in, etc.” Paul recognized that I wanted to get to the good stuff, forgave me, and I apologized to Betty. She said she always goes with the group thinking. “It’s worked out well for me” she said. I just don’t get that. While the trip was really well planned, by Betty, and beautiful in the terrain, it was a bit tense at times. It also showed me how some people let others do their thinking, make there decisions, and accept them based on their compliance rather than their really looking at issues and recognizing the pluses and minuses of a particular situation. They assume they know what another intends, what another is thinking and feeling. When either of them would start with “they want….” I’d say, “you don’t know what they are thinking”. They’d pause, and seem to think a bit, and change the subject, until another similar blanket statement would come up. I was not a great or easy companion. I can be such a bitch. As so often happens, I’m left feeling different, alone, and seeking others who might be more like me. I suspect you have that feeling sometimes, too. Part of it is that you are highly intelligent, well educated and continue to stay informed, and are a decision maker. You are really perceptive in your reading of people, honed by years as a State Trooper. I know you have insight and compassion, and a short fuse for stupidity. In many ways, you are your mother’s son. In the long view, with this political season, there really is little new. Right now, the fear mongers, the violent, short sighted ones who are inciting murders and stupid decisions about the environment, and not looking at the fact that they are getting old, and will need their Social Security and Medicare one day. It’s search and destroy anything that might cost them a penny. Ruth Bader Ginsberg points out that the pendulum swings from one extreme to another. Always has, always will. I’m hoping the swing back to a less extreme government will begin now. One thing I know is the answer to your angst is not in the bottle. Take care with that, please, my son. Love, Mom

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