Musings From The Rabbit Hole — Unity

Joe Biden, who will take the Oath of Office in just 67 days, has promised to try to unify the people of this country … unlike the current occupant of the Oval Office who has done nothing but divide us.  I applaud that effort, and until yesterday I naively thought it might just be possible.  I still hope that it can be done … certainly if anybody can, Biden is among the best candidates to do so.  But today I have my doubts.  I don’t want to be negative or a naysayer, for we all need all the hope we can find, but I am nothing if not a pragmatist, a realist. Yesterday as I perused the news, considered what was happening, it occurred to me that a large number – about half – of the people in this nation do not want unity, but rather thrive on division and chaos.

Certainly, there have always been political divisions in this country and always will be, for we are a nation of humans, but what we are experiencing now goes beyond ideological differences and into the arena of personal hatred.  This “Reign of Cruelty” as I term the past four years, has changed us, has made us more willing to accept things that we once abhorred.  It has made us less human.

I hate that it has boiled down to Republican vs Democrat and the language of hate, the finger-pointing, the blame game is always … always the fault of everyone who identifies with one party or another.  I, too, have been guilty of saying, “The republicans only want …” or “The republicans are the cause of …”, and it’s not something I’m proud of, but admittedly it will likely happen again, for I am human.

Today, thousands of people are gathered in Washington to … what?  I’m not sure what they hope to accomplish, but they are protesting the results of the election, results that clearly prove Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States. They are parroting Trump’s false claim that the election has been ‘stolen’, that there was massive voter fraud, even though this has been disproven.  They’ve brought their guns, they’ve brought their Proud Boys, their maga hats, their Trump banners, and while so far nobody has been killed, I won’t be surprised if there is violence and death before the day is done.

I am neither a democrat nor a republican, but for the past twenty years or so, I have found nothing particularly valuable in the republican platform, while I do support the same sorts of things the Democratic Party supports, things like providing affordable health care for everyone, women’s rights, equal rights for the LGBT community, equal opportunities for people of all colours and religions in such areas as housing and employment.  I support raising the minimum wage, workplace safety, and perhaps most importantly, taking care of the planet that we have long neglected.

The pandemic perfectly highlights the differences between the two ‘sides’ in this nation.  We cannot even agree to protect each other from a deadly virus, cannot agree on something so simple as wearing a mask in public, else staying home.  If we cannot agree on even that, how can we possibly come to terms on such things as environmental regulations, universal health care, and ending systemic racism?

This nation was founded on freedom of religion, which also means freedom from religion, and yet today a growing portion of the population believes that their religious beliefs ought to be the basis of the laws that we must all live under, even those of us who do not share their beliefs.  This only further divides us … wars have been fought over this very thing, but we fail to learn the lessons of history.

The effort to unify will require compromise, and I just don’t see a willingness among the people of this nation to budge so much as an inch, let alone meet the other side at the halfway mark.  What will it take to bring the people of this nation together, united in a common goal?  Will it take bombs being dropped on us by an outside entity?  Will it take the deaths of half the people in the nation before we open our eyes and realize that we cannot keep killing each other?

Can we possibly set aside our vitriol and hate for a moment and think about the things we have in common?  Or do we still have anything in common?  I think we do … we all love our families and want the best for them, we just don’t agree on what is the best or how to achieve it.  We all have certain basic needs such as food, water, shelter, and breathable air … we just don’t agree on how to achieve those things.  We all want our children to have a good education … we just don’t agree on what, exactly, that is.  So yes, we have much in common, but we view it from different perspectives.  All of which would be fine, if we respected each other, respected others’ viewpoints and agreed to compromise.  Instead, we try to shove our views down the throats of others.

If you’re waiting for me to tell you how we can fix this … don’t hold your breath, for I have no idea.  I only hope that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are far wiser than I and can make decisions and policies that will help narrow what I refer to as the Great Divide.

A Moat … with Alligators!

I am psyched about an idea that popped into my head as I was reading an article this morning!  There is a woman who lives across the street from me, and I really have nothing in common with her.  Add to that the fact that she has frequently parked her car in my parking spot, sets off her car alarm periodically, and wears her pajamas to the grocery store, and you can see that she and I have nothing in common!  So, here is my idea … I am going to build a moat right down the center of the street, fill it with water and stock it with alligators!  The idea was actually inspired by President Obama who, in May 2011, speaking about the conservatives and their insistence on building more and more fences along the Mexican border said “They will want a higher fence. Maybe they’ll need a moat. Maybe they want alligators in the moat. They’ll never be satisfied.”  Now yes, I realize he was being sarcastic, speaking tongue-in-cheek, but it is a great idea!  A moat … with alligators …

What’s that you say?  It won’t work?  Why not?  Oh … you think that neighbors should try to get along instead of building fences, walls and moats to isolate each other.  Well, I used to believe that too, but then I heard some rumours that the U.S. is planning to build a wall between us and Mexico to keep out “others” … those who look, act, think and speak differently.  And see … the lady across the street meets all of that criteria:  a) she doesn’t look at all like me, she is short and has blonde or red hair, depending on the month; b) she doesn’t act like me, as I would never wear pajamas to the grocery; c) she obviously doesn’t think like me, as I would never take somebody else’s parking space; and d) she doesn’t speak like me, as she has a southern accent.

And anyway, everybody else is building fences and walls, so why not a moat?  Even Europe has almost as many physical barriers on its national borders as it did during the Cold War. The U.S. already has a 670-mile long fence between itself and Mexico and is talking about building a wall spanning the entire 2,000-mile border!  And you don’t want to let me build a little moat that would be only a few yards long?

What poem?  Oh, that poem … the one by Robert Frost, titled Mending Wall.  No, I don’t remember it … I never did understand poetry and don’t read much of it.  What?  Oh … how does that line go?

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know,

What I was walling in or walling out,

And to whom I was like to give offense.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That wants it down.

 

Oh.  Well, but I am not building a wall … only a moat.  With alligators.  Still, I rather see your point, or Mr. Frost’s point.  I certainly do not want to give offense, even to the lady across the street who wears pajamas to the grocery.  Sigh.

pogo

In the words of Pope Francis, “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”  In a world threatened by terrorism and economic disparity, building walls might seem reasonable. Yet in a world united by the Internet and intertwined economies, building walls will simply not do. The Berlin Wall came down for a reason. Kindness transcends language. Think about it.

Have We Forgotten How To Be Human?

How many times in the last month have you said “I just don’t know what is wrong with people today”?  Or, “What is this world coming to?”  If you are like me, you say that on a daily basis, perhaps every time you pick up a newspaper, turn on the television, or log onto the internet.  I sometimes think I need a 3-day hiatus from the outside world … no internet, no television/radio, no forays outside the home, just peace.  But alas, SIGH, I am a news junkie and unless forced by either death or an electrical outage, I am not likely to allow myself that break.

So, what is the world coming to and what is wrong with people?  The answer to both questions is the same, in my humble opinion:  a lack of humanity.  Humanity: compassion, brotherly love, fraternity, fellow feeling, philanthropy, humaneness, kindness, consideration, understanding, sympathy, tolerance; leniency, mercy, mercifulness, clemency, empathy, compassion, tenderness; benevolence, charity, goodness, magnanimity, love, generosity.  Now turn on your television … any program, any channel … and tell me how many of the above-named traits you can find in a 10-minute period.  I am betting your answer will be zero.

When we allow ourselves to believe that we are somehow ‘better’, or more deserving than other people, whether on the basis of race, skin colour, religious beliefs, or culture, we take a step away from the concept of humanity.  It is human nature to live in our own small world, to put our own needs and desires first, and I cannot argue with human nature, as it is no different today than it was 1,000 years ago.  But for a time it seemed that we were on the path to becoming a kinder, more gentle society; a society that was trying to overcome prejudices and see others as different, but not inferior.  But today that trend is reversing.  Today we are regressing back to a society that views all who do not look, act, speak, and think like us as being somehow inferior.  And that is just wrong.  It is a reversal of the lessons learned during the migration from Europe to the New World seeking freedom of religion.  It is a reversal of the lessons learned from the devastation of an entire group of people in the Holocaust. It is a reversal of the lessons learned during the Civil Rights era.  It is a reversal of the hope we once had that human beings might yet be able to learn to live together on this earth in peace and harmony.

Two hundred years ago, people lived in very sheltered, close-knit communities where they might pass a lifetime without ever straying more than 20 or 30 miles from their homes.  Children grew up and took care of their aging parents, neighbors pitched in to help neighbors in times of trouble.  But the globe became smaller, just as our individual worlds expanded, with the advent of communication tools such as telephone, television, and most recently the internet.  And our horizons broadened as access to travel thousands of miles via airplane was made readily available.  This should have been a good thing, should have opened a whole new world of experiences, of learning about other lands, people and cultures to us.  Today, I am not so sure. Perhaps, instead of taking the best of each other’s societies, we have taken only the worst.  Perhaps instead of learning to love more, we have learned to hate more.

Politicians, world leaders, and religious leaders alike, have failed miserably in their jobs to help bring peace among nations.  They scream, they threaten, they bully, and the people eventually follow suit.  Violence is the norm, where it should be the exception.  We believe we have a right to kill another human being, we believe we have a right to deny the basic necessities of food, shelter and medical care to others who are less fortunate than we are.  We believe that we have no responsibility to our fellow mankind.  And therein lies the problem.  We all have a responsibility to others.  But we, as a society, have listened to those who screamed that we must protect ourselves at all costs, even at the cost of another human life.  They would argue that abortion is wrong, yet that it is okay to murder a person because their religion or ideology is different than ours.  They rant that the wealthiest in the land have no responsibility to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves.  We have been told, in essence, that it is “all about us”, and we believed.

If there is any remaining hope for humanity, it lies with our children.  Children do not see others as black or white, as Muslim or Christian, as Syrian, Mexican, or American … they simply see them as potential friends, playmates.  If only we can stop ourselves from poisoning their young minds with our own prejudices, there may yet be hope for humankind.  I wonder how many of those words that I used to define ‘humanity’ any of us can honestly say apply to our lives today.  Can we do better?  Yes.  Will we?  I do not know.

9/11 – Fourteen Years Later

My 9/11 post is late this year. I’m not sure why, but I simply did not have the motivation to write earlier. I was heartened to see a record number of posts on social media sites. Even though I was not able to look at them all, I was pleased to see that so many people took at least a minute out of their day to remember. It seemed that there were more posts this year than in years past, and I hope this is a trend that will continue into the future. Just like Pearl Harbor and the Holocaust, we simply cannot afford to forget the lessons of the past.

Now those of you who know me at all can probably sense that there is a “but …“ coming. So here it is. Almost every post I saw had the words “we will never forget” or “we will always remember”. And yet, while it is likely true that nobody who was alive and of an “age of cognizance” has forgotten the event, the horror they felt, it appears to me that many have forgotten the lessons of that day. In the past year, I have been appalled by the increasing hatred and vitriol put forth by so many otherwise rational and seemingly sane people. Today we are seeing a level of racial hatred that I cannot remember since the 1960’s. There is unprecedented bigotry toward anybody who is “different”, whether in the area of gender orientation, race, religion, culture, economic status or politics. We seem to have forgotten the basic premise stated by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence that “All Men Are Created Equal”. We seem to have forgotten how to tolerate beliefs and values that may not fully agree with our own. We seem to have forgotten how to respect one another, how to care about our fellow mankind.

I think one of the things that bothers me most is the fact that some are actually using 9/11 as an excuse for their hatred toward fellow human beings. I have heard too many say that we should reject immigrants from Muslim countries because 9/11 was perpetrated by radical Islamists. Nobody in this nation has EVER known, or is ever likely to know, the horrors that millions have lived through in places like Syria, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan in the past decade. These are innocent people who want only the same things we all want, to be able to take care of our families and live in relative safety. Millions of innocent people are fleeing for their lives with only the clothes on their backs, and in our almighty arrogance we reject them? We fear the organization daesh, commonly referred to as ISIS, yet the vast majority of their violence is perpetrated against innocent people in countries in the Middle East, not the West. Does anybody remember the words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty? “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

I could go on and on in this vein, but I really have neither the heart nor the stomach for it tonight. I conclude only by urging my fellow mankind to “Never Forget and Always Remember” not only the horrors of the events of September 11, 2001, but the lessons that we should have learned about compassion, humanity, tolerance and yes, love. Here’s hoping for a better world, a kinder world … someday.