“Woe to that land that’s governed by a child.” (Richard III, act 2, sc.3, l.11.)
“I feel like I’m waiting on something that’s not going to happen.” (Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander)
“I hate that I’m still hoping.” (unknown)
I was searching for quotes about the insurrection of January 6th, about government, about politics, about hatred…and, as is my ADD-inspired routine, surfed from page to page, finding all manner of verse and theme. The lines above seem to reflect somewhat of a continuum of how my emotions have been trending over the past few days.
For the past four years, I’ve been alternately sad, mad, and terrified. I definitely felt there was a large room full of doubt about the results of the 2016 election, but I tried to keep an open mind. Like many others, I tried to put my disappointment into perspective, and rationalized there were limits built into our government that would not allow things to get as bad as I feared. The first time I remember abandoning that posture was shortly after the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States, when his first action was to summon members of the new media to the White House for a tongue lashing. My first thoughts about this were…with everything going on in the country right now, with all of the campaign promises made, bitch-slapping the media is the first order of business? It felt as though the bitch-slap was more about “You made me angry, and now that I am in charge, I can make your life miserable, so I’m going to do that. And I’m going to like it. ”
The words “fake news” are now a part of the common lexicon, and had become a part of his brand during the campaign. That campaign must be regarded as one of the most contentious in history, and the resulting Presidential administration has maintained that form. All of the standard rules of propriety and civility, and one could argue respectability, were abandoned, and the modus operandi became one of truth assassination. While journalists have long been accused of bias and partiality, there was somewhat of an optimism that such defects were rare, and not the norm. The campaign for the 45th President destroyed that optimism with no holds barred, and that continues.
The ends of the campaign against truth, often manifested as denial of science and revisionist history, have brought our citizenry to an unyielding mistrust of leadership and authority. We have sought refuge in the familiar, in the similar, in the past. Many expressed their frustrations – I want to go back to when things were good, when I didn’t have to be afraid to go shopping, when I didn’t have to have an alarm system. Those sentiments are understandable. I don’t think anyone in America finds any of that unreasonable. The problem, though, is that a lot of that vision was never reality for everyone. Some of us were always afraid to go shopping, some of us always had to rely on some kind of alarm system (a dog, a gun, iron doors with multiple dead-bolts). Bringing us back to a time when “things were good” means bringing us back to a point in the past, and we don’t agree on that point in time. Is that when Blacks couldn’t vote? Is that when women couldn’t vote? Is that when homosexuality was considered a mental illness and gays and lesbians had no rights? Or maybe it was when non-white people were lynched and killed…just because they MIGHT do something wrong. Like whistling at a white woman, or protesting.
Many say yes, because those were times of lower crime rates, greater prosperity. I say, those were times when crime rates were lower for a smaller number of people, when prosperity extended to an even smaller niche. I say the euphoric recall of those times as better is a euphoric delusion that simply eliminates pieces of the whole picture. The picture is void of mob violence, riots, political corruption, inequity, and death; those horrid scenes have been photo-shopped out of the picture. But the spiritual and emotional residue of all remains, imprinted on our land, on our psyche, on our spirits. Woe to us, indeed.
Over these past tense, divisive, frightening years of the 45th Presidential administration, I’ve found myself sitting on the edge of my chair more often than not. While life was still happening outside of the political environment, I think all of us were forced to reflect on what defined “living in America”. Coming home to be surrounded by your stuff, your loved ones, your pets, your accomplishments began to clash with our common good. America began to look like a condominium, and half of the residents objected to joining the condo owners association. The common roof was leaking, the common green area was overgrown, and there was no money to resolve either issue. The residents who contributed to the owners association refused to pay for the repairs because the other residents had not contributed. What to do? What to do? Some of the non-participating residents attempted to have their own repairs done, with their own contractors and their own funds and their own plans.
This did not go well, because once the work began, they discovered the infrastructure that supported the entire building could not be isolated for only their benefit, and they had no choice but to depend on the “enemy” for access. The “enemy” refused to allow access, because the other side wasn’t paying and had behaved very badly. This made everyone angry, and the roof still leaked. Time passed, there was negotiation, but the two sides could not agree on how to navigate their impasse. The roof continued to leak, property was damaged in the individual units, mold and mildew formed, and some residents (very fine people on both sides) grew ill. And still, there was the impasse.
After several people died, and property value plummeted (following news coverage of the situation, which made them all feel silly), a new generation of residents came of age. Ignoring the protestations of the original residents, the current residents sat down at one of the few undamaged tables in the clubhouse, hammered out an agreement on how to fund the repairs, and the plans to do so, and shook hands. There was food. There was drink. There was music. And the next day, there was construction. In a week, the roof had been fully repaired. A month later, a hurricane roared through the city, and the new roof held stead, protecting them all. In their gratitude for having survived the hurricane with few ill effects, the condominium community erected a plaque to commemorate the story of the roof. It said “We’re couldn’t be under the same roof until we got over ourselves.”
For me, this is how some of my conflicts are resolved – i get sick and tired of being sick and tired. i learned a lot about that in recovery, that until i have lost enough, enough peace, enough sense of well being, even material things i will probably not feel motivated enough to change anything. it’s interesting how we have to lose something in order to gain something, or regain something. you have to give it away to keep it is another concept i was taught in recovery, that only by sharing what has been freely given to me will i be able to hold onto those gifts. i am wondering what should be given away to pry us out of these idealogical wars. perhaps we simply have not lost enough yet, and i do believe that’s a yet. it’s not a wish for loss, just a cyclic inevitability. loss always brings us to hone down what is important to us, to choose our battles. privilege doesn’t call us to reflect on much of what’s important, only to maintain our status quo, what is comfortable, what works for us. i say that not to judge, but merely to acknowledge the anatomy of movement. inertia is a real thing.
so. why do we still hope? i suppose that is part of the human condition, to hope, to imagine different circumstances. I still hope that we don’t have to fight, but I fear that is hard-wired into the human condition. Power is our currency, and the impoverished have no choice but to attempt a leveling of that resource, whether it be food, economics that enable acquisition of food, health, luxuries…we are always wanting something we do not have. The B-side is…we are constantly afraid of losing what we DO have. Somewhere along the way, our satisfaction was not enough, and happiness became rooted in having more than enough. Unfortunately, the system – the planet – continually sets about leveling itself, and we overestimate our ability to make that a fair fight. Mother Nature always wins, and we have no humility about our true place on this planet. Just because we can manipulate chemicals and geology does not mean that we should, and we find ourselves playing whack-a-mole with the effects caused by our effects to cause…effects. It’s just hubris at times.
I suppose I have more confidence than is due for humanity. Somewhere along the line, I realized that I maintain idealism at nearly all costs. This rarely works for me, and causes me a great deal of angst and constant see-sawing between hope and despair. I know what i see, I know what has occurred, and that evidence would seem to render little hope. A lecture I was attended online featured a speaker who said that he existed between history and hope, acknowledging what has occurred but still dreaming of something else. I guess that sums it up for me. i fear that if i consciously abandon hope, the outcome will be the same as a shark that ceases to swim,. Death of the entire being, as the water of Life no longer circulates around the gills, knowledge is no longer a current of growth and change. I believe I have made a conscious decision against that, as I did many years ago when I realized that I really did not want to end my own life. I romanticized that, because I was miserable and I wanted the pain sto end, but I did not want to actually commit suicide. I just didn’t know how else to express my extreme and inconsolable distress. I did seriously fantasize about the act, but always pulled up short of implementation. What is suicide changed nothing, and the misery remained? What if I was simply incorrect about life after death, if there was such a thing? Too much uncertainty for such a big step, so … here I remain, still hoping, still wondering what the hell this is all about.
I suppose we are all in the place we are supposed to be right now. That’s hard to swallow, when I look at the millions who are starving, dying miserably in their poverty, the millions suffering and dying in addiction and feeling as though life is simply too much to ask. I’ve heard that nothing happens in the world of the Divine by accident, but I’ve also heard that we create our own reality. Trying to wed those concepts is a work in progress for me, but right now I suppose I’m standing at the intersection of my concept of the Divine and my concept of self-determination, and i suppose that’s a big X on the ground in a lot of ways. But X marks the spot where i choose to believe that I don’t have to understand any of this, and that my only real surety is my spirit, my essence, my refusal to forego my morality, my knowledge of what is right and what is wrong. That is subjective, but when I am in a conscious connection with my concept of Divinity, that informs my morality in a deep;y spiritual way. Can I override that? Of course, but I choose not to. The discord deep within me is too great, too noisy, too distasteful. It is too great a price to pay. I have been disconnected from that deep connection before, and that was a time of the greatest misery and despair of my life, so I’m not willing to go there again. It’s not always easy, but it’s really very simple: sometimes you just have to hold on, with everything you’ve got, until the correct path becomes clear. And it will.