Of the kind those who know me (and only them) will expect.
I grew up on a dividing line. It used to be one where conversations were held. The conversations were usually civil. They rarely came to shouts or blows.
That doesn’t happen much anymore.
I know it can get worse. In the U.S. we’re not killing each other in large numbers. Yet. But from where I’m standing in No Man’s Land, it’s not hard to imagine the current insanity leading to slaughter. It’s happening in other places in the world, and our history is pock-marked with brutal conflict.
And here’s the thing that terrifies me: With all the Us vs. Them jargon being tossed about in the U.S. right now, almost no one seems to realize that we’re all in this together.
People are treating “them,” as absolute enemies. If they aren’t spewing hate and making threats then they’re jeering, mocking, belittling.
But countries are a unit, like a family. All families, like all countries, are a little dysfunctional. You don’t necessarily like your family members all the time, and you will not always agree with them, but if you start viewing each other as actual enemies, the dysfunction tears the family apart. In short, you cease to have a family.
It’s a pity we don’t have a national version of family counseling.
My point is that we really have two options.
Nationally, the U.S. is headed for a cliff. Not like lemmings (because lemmings are, despite popular belief, far too smart to follow each other off cliffs), but like humans who are so engrossed in fighting each other that they won’t step away from the edge, even though everybody knows we’re in trouble.
Education, poverty, healthcare, national debt, environmental issues, the list goes on… We have serious problems that need solving. And we’re far too busy fighting each other to even converse about how to solve anything.
So, speaking to my fellow U.S. citizens. Forget, for a moment, all political affiliation. Stop trying to figure out who’s side I’m on and ask yourself this:
Do you want the United States of America to continue to exist, or do you want us to go down in history as one more failed social experiment? Do you want us to be pointed at as proof that different people cannot live peaceably together? That ordinary folks can’t be trusted with the right to vote because it all goes to hell eventually? Do you want to be the scorn of the world?
Because that is where we are headed unless we can look “across the aisle” and see fellow citizens. We don’t have to like them, we don’t have to agree with what they believe or what they say, but we do have to figure out how to converse with them again, and work with them, because the only other option is to lose our country.
Someone may read this who doesn’t care if the nation breaks apart. They may feel that “their” part of the country will be better off without the hated “them.” I have a hard time sympathizing with that kind of thought, because it’s reductive and naive. This country’s strength and health comes, and has always come, from the differences, the tension, the fact that we are forced to converse with and work with people who don’t share our views. Take that away, and homogeneity will emphasize the weaknesses in each position until we collapse. Those people you hate, also happen to be the people you need the most.
I can already hear the clamor of excuses. The “he started it!” “No I didn’t! She did!” juvenile accusations. Let me get one thing straight: I DON’T CARE. I don’t care who did what, I don’t care what horrible things will happen if “they” get their way. I’ve already heard it, and it is all beside the point.
What I want is people to put themselves in time-out until they calm down. Then I want them to get over themselves and start holding conversations in which they don’t simply talk, but also listen. I want this nation to become functional again.
…And yes, I know it’s highly unlikely that I will get what I want. But we did survive the Civil War mostly intact. I’ve touched artillery-pocked stone that proves it. Maybe, just maybe we can get through this bout of screaming insanity without so much destruction and bloodshed.
And a side-note to friends and readers in other countries. Yes, humanity is like a family, too… even more screwed up than my nation is right now. What happens to some of us, affects all of us. I’m sorry if the dysfunction in my country is affecting you right now.
P.S. On a lighter note (and a complete non sequitur) Tracy J. Butler of Lackadaisy created some hilariously disturbing valentines this year. Go forth and enjoy them.