I sit down this week with a tangle of feelings around what I want to say. It’s hard to know how to begin.
Sometimes I think with longing of the days I lived alone. There were things about being alone that were destroying me, which is why I left that life, but I did have the ability to control my audiovisual environment, and that’s not possible when living under a roof with someone else.
I seem to be always wincing away from things lately. I avoid the living room because I don’t want to catch a headline on the muted CNN news channel out of the corner of my eye. If the sound is up, I don’t want to be anywhere where I can hear what’s being said. I’ve taken to singing a song to myself, or reciting a piece of poetry or a Celtic prayer to provide audible distraction when the TV is on, the adult equivalent of sticking my fingers in my ears and saying “la la la” when my brother is teasing me.
It’s nearly impossible to be online without seeing headlines and commentary, both during leisure and at work as I research for my medical transcription job.
The worst thing, though, is how I flinch away from other people, especially my partner, whom I love. He’s on Facebook, of course. I’m not. He’s gregarious, outgoing, outspoken, intelligent and has hundreds of “friends.” He’s also a news junkie and a voracious fact checker and science reader. He has, you might say, strong views. He thrives on controversy. I don’t.
Sharing the things that occupy our attention, questions, observations and what we learn is the most vital part of our connection and normally I treasure it, but not in these times. Right now I don’t want to talk about what’s occupying our attention. I’m miserable about that.
The current political and social landscape feels like a black hole to me. It’s exhausting and horrifyingly futile. Half of the “news” is about what might happen. What is happening is so disturbing on so many levels I don’t even want to deal with that half of it. All of it together is like drowning in sewage.
At this point Americans can’t even agree on what the “real news” is. It all depends on which alternative facts we choose to believe.
I don’t want to talk about it, hear about it or think about it. I want to play music, watch the light come through the windows, fill the bird feeders and watch the birds, take a walk and listen to the trees sleep, feel the grit and crunch of ice under my feet. I want to talk about the simple pleasures of the day, like clearing ice dams off the roof, running into town for groceries, something we’d like to learn or do together, a book we’d like to read. I’d like to put up a couple of new shelves for our spilling-over DVD collection, clean a year’s worth of cat hair and dust from the old shelves, wipe down the DVD cases and reorder them.
What I don’t want to do is get sucked into an endless individual, community, national and even worldwide debate about who’s right. That’s what so much of the “news” seems to be these days—a contest. Each side has a stockpile of memes, quotes, leaders, “news” sources, labels, ideologies, statistics, videos, pictures, threads and articles as ammunition. Oh, and don’t forget the tweets! People on each side are cutting, contemptuous, scornful, threatening and just plain mean.
Everyone, it seems, wants to win and be right. Everyone hopes passionately for the chance to say “I told you so,” to the other side. We seem to believe that agreement and validation from others makes us even more right than we were in the first place, and the righter we are, the wronger all those other knuckleheads are.
I was never a big competitor. I can’t see victory in being right. Sure, it’s always pleasurable to find out one was right all along, but being right automatically presumes someone else is wrong, and I’ve spent so much of my life feeling wrong that I can’t glory in watching anyone else go through it.
I’m not suggesting it’s wrong to have opinions and beliefs, and I’m not suggesting it’s useless to take action in support of our beliefs. What I am saying is that I question the usefulness of expending our energy on arguing over the size of a crowd, for example. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t change anything. The only possible constructive thing that comes out of an argument like that is the satisfaction of being right, but we aren’t satisfied unless the wrong ones agree with our rightness. A Trump ally is never in a million years going to convince a Trump enemy about crowd statistics, or vice versa. It’s not going to happen. Every word and moment we put into that argument is wasted energy and effort and further divides the two camps. It doesn’t create change, understanding and agreement. It cements and further polarizes our differences.
If our agenda is in fact to create a bloody, bitter divide, then pardon me. I didn’t get the memo. In that case, we’re doing a great job and I’m wasting my time here.
I myself was hoping for change and understanding.
Pretend, for just a moment, that everything you believe is absolutely right. Everything. Your religious belief; your belief about how to eat appropriately; your political beliefs; your stance on abortion, sexuality and marriage; your beliefs about climate change and the environment. Luxuriate in it. YOU ARE RIGHT! Everyone who believes differently or contradicts you or refuses to listen to the facts is both stupid and wrong. Well done.
Now what? Or maybe I should ask, so what? Do you have more power? Will your life work better? Will the people who disagree with you behave themselves now—straighten up and fly right? Will your health and relationships be better? Will you make more money? Be less stressed?
Right or wrong, we all still wake up in the morning and think about money, food, families, friends, work, play, health, weather, time, the future, the past, hopes and fears. We all live on a planet called Earth. Right or wrong, the same face is going to look back at us from the mirror. However right or wrong we are, everyone else is going to go right on being wrong. Or right, as the case may be.
So, you win. You’re right and I’m wrong. Congratulations.
Now that that’s out of the way, may I give you a hug? Would you like to take a walk? Would you like to come swim with me, or dance? Shall we make a lunch date? The kitchen’s a mess—will you come do dishes with me? What kind of music are you listening to these days? What are you reading?
Could you, by any chance, put up a couple of shelves for me?
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