As we slip closer to becoming the dystopian world we used to chuckle over while reading the fantastical novels of our youth, I now wonder about ever leaving the house. Even then paranoia creeps in while watching/listening/reading the news. It’s melting ice caps and fire storms. It’s waring tweets from men plenty old enough to know not to taunt but daily they do. There’s corruption in Facebook, phone apps listening, and Amazon with one-day deliveries causing insurmountable mountains of cardboard. Gun violence passing epidemic proportions that not even George Orwell would have imagined. Rational stuff gone daft too, like the inability to debate issues in Congress or use Science as a base for fact. Everyone is distrustful of any branch of government. People are retreating, especially the L.G.B.T., unsure if our marriages or jobs or civil rights will stand this latest round of Supreme Court discussions.
I know it’s not Nine Cent Girl’s style to wallow in doom, but I do think a moment of worry might be in our collective best interest. “Earlier this week Donald Trump, commander in chief of the U.S. armed forces, tweeted that his impeachment “will cause a Civil War” from which the country might never recover” (Patricia Ravalgi). Civil War over an inquiry into a possible breach of National Security? If you are not worried about these words then please consider an undisciplined but armed mob of citizens rising to violence prompted by this undiplomatic president. What a firestorm he has caused in his short years in office! Did you imagine this never-ending-digital vitriolic discourse in our feeds? The absolute lack of debate between opposing positions? Or the rise in hate crimes, hate speech, hate justified? How about the apathy that follows us home at the end of our exhausted days and causes us to settle for this as normal? I’m worried about that too.
Listen America, we can do something about this. Quite simply too. First, find a few old friends, regardless of their political affiliations, in fact, the more diverse the better, and meet them for a tea. Ask them about their kids or business or health or adventures. Listen for the commonalities. Inquire about their queer Aunt or gay son. Probably something they can’t talk about at the Club or in the pew but gratitude will surely emerge after sharing with you. Ask them about their dad’s dementia or their daughter’s depression. Neither of those topics are easily exchanged in the everyday bustle either, but again, your friend will appreciate you listening, and sharing some of your own challenges. Don’t press. Don’t one up. Listen. Start there. Insert facts when they stray, but be gentle. America has lost the skill for debate, and we must walk back to that adeptness slowly.
If we start small, with the personal, we will discover the roadmap to understanding the complexities facing our planet today. For it is personal. It is about our air and water, our food and neighborhoods. It is about safety and the continuation of all that we care about. It is about understanding people who are different than ourselves. Perhaps, someone like me, who married a same sex person, who needs your empathy and consideration when the courts try to undo such a union. Those walking in the shadows wondering what lies ahead for their love, their job, and their dignity.
Let’s face the challenges with the united force we know to be our most basic and common American value, the same force that has defined all our best moments. As friends do.