As an introvert, I have a tendency to process my thoughts internally. As a writer, this personality type significantly impacts the way I express thoughts and emotions. I’ve been described (accurately I’ll admit) as emotionally closed. Research shows, individuals who have difficulty expressing emotions and feelings often encounter major problems in the relationship arena. I’m certainly no exception to this maxim. More times than not, writing is the only way I’m able to shed emotional baggage. Many well-known authors have described their writing as more of a compulsion than a choice. I found, the hard way, this to be true of myself as well. For a period of approximately sixteen months, during 2014 and 2015, I stopped writing. Looking back, I realize the disastrous effect this had on my life. Not only did I lose a partner of twenty years, I lost myself as well. During that time the need to write never left me. I spent most waking hours completely inside my own head, virtually worthless to those that needed my emotional and physical presence. If that wasn’t bad enough, I experienced crippling guilt for not writing. People would ask how my book was progressing. My response: “I’m taking a break, but still writing it in my head”. Therein lay the major rub. I was indeed self-absorbed with writing at the expense of everything else. Had I actually been plying my craft instead of being preoccupied with it, life would most certainly be different for me today. That’s life however and, fortunately, most of us learn and grow from our mistakes. In my case, the anguish of lost love forced me to start writing again simply as a means of surviving the trauma. Pain is indeed a great muse of creativity. During these last nine months of starting over, I’ve made significant progress in finishing a novel, written a nauseating amount of poetry, and drafted a number of short stories. I plan on participating in a world-wide flash fiction competition later this month. Surviving pain is a process rather than an event. Armed by this realization, I celebrate small victories each day. Failure has both humbled and softened me a bit and, I feel, impacted my writing as well. Time will tell. The important point here: I was able to take a good look at myself, my behavior, and begin the process of change.
I share the above as a contextual preface to my thoughts and feelings in response to the recent (and not so recent) events that are, I believe, driving a wedge between groups in this Country. Mass murder and senseless loss of life has become a daily media topic, to the point it rivals the weather as a casual conversation starter. Such carnage, both here and abroad, impacts, to varying degrees, every individual on earth. The extent to which Media and Technology bear responsibility for the global impact on individuals is certainly debatable; however, the fact remains, people are angry. They are angry as hell, and their vitriol is poisoning the well of humanity that binds us together. Through the years, I’ve written by share of editorial opinion on political and social issues. My “take no prisoners” rants and biting satirical pieces were written as a means of expressing anger as well as exposing the absurdity woven in the very fabric of our political system. For various reasons, I’ve left my brash persona behind, but that hardly means I’m not as angry as the next person over the terrorism that plagues our life on this planet. We are both overwhelmed and desensitized with the concept of war. There is war on terror, war on drugs, war among countries, economic war, etc., etc. Point being, if an issue threatens economic, social, or political stability, there’s a war on it. This modern concept of “war” is different from the traditional model in that these new ones have little chance of being won. These “ wars” however, are effective in diverting public attention from larger issues. And, they serve to ease public fear by creating the illusion that something is actually being done to address a particular threat. From this perspective, it could be argued that declaring war on issues or vaguely defined “enemies” has some benefit. What really concerns me is the war raging between groups within n this Country. It’s yet to be officially declared, and probably won’t be, but it exists nonetheless. The war I’m referring to is the war between the various racial, socio-economic, political, and ideological factions that exist within our borders. This is the one war that, in the absence of a true armistice, will destroy us.
To say we live in a diverse society is a given. We have all grown accustomed to the issues that arise from cultural, geographic, economic, and political diversity. We’ve somehow made it work without war for over 150 years. During this time, we have survived Industrialization, Depression, World War, the Civil Rights Movement, massive protests, and global economic shifts. Few countries could successfully endure such change in the absence of some unifying purpose to which all could come to agreement on. Concessions from various factions have to be made to ensure a nation’s stability. The concepts of compromise, concession, tolerance, and acceptance are common to every crisis this Country has successfully endured. In the absence of unifying principles, we end up with diverse factions, all disenfranchised. Currently, the only commonalities I see between the warring socio-cultural-economic factions in this Country are negative ones. These negative commonalities include: fear, mistrust, dissatisfaction, intolerance, and hate. These are the same negative characteristics that precipitated the dissolution and redistribution of countries and regions all over the world. All adults today have witnessed at least one such upheaval in their lifetime. While I believe this Country is too powerful to crumble, I do see the potential for massive changes that would horrify the average citizen. Most of these changes would affect the individual rights and freedoms we now enjoy.
The Federal Government of this Country does not have (and never had) the power to fix all our societal problems. Given the corruption and ineptitude that characterizes most of our elected representatives; this should be a commonly accepted belief. However, somehow, we continue to place faith and blame (in equal measures) at the feet of these elected officials and rely on them to fix everything. Whatever is wrong is the fault of the other party. We sometimes forget (or fail to accept) they are just as weak, self-serving, greedy and fallible as anyone else, regardless of their so-called party affiliation. One may shrug their shoulders at this and be satisfied with their right of free speech to bitch about it. I would ask: how’s that’s working for you? Based on my visits to Facebook and legitimate news sites that allow comments, I would have to conclude, not too good! The amount of anger and pure hate I see posted on social media sites scares me. These comments come from ordinary citizens and I understand, to some extent, where this anger comes from. It comes from placing faith and trust in, and the subsequent betrayal by, the very Government we hold sacred. The same holds true for other institutions such as the police and the military. We are programmed from an early age to regard these entities as being our saviors and protectors, only to find that degree of faith and reverence attracts despots that are drawn by the power that our worship affords them. And yet, we continue to place blame on whatever person or group that suits our particular ideology or prejudice. It’s the Liberal’s fault, the Conservative’s fault, the Blacks, the Muslims, blah…blah…blah.
I believe there are a few basic things that all of us have to face, if we are to survive the changes occurring in our Country. These include the following:
Mayberry is a Fictional Place – In the 1960s, millions of people tuned into watch Sherriff Andy Taylor and his lovable deputy Barney keep the peace in the idyllic small town of Mayberry. The older generation of the day remembered the simple life portrayed in the show and children benefited from the basic human values that resonated from the comedic characters portrayed. Travelling the Country as I have, especially out West, I have seen small towns that retain some similarity to the lifestyle portrayed in Mayberry, but they are few and far between. Mayberry’s population was Caucasian and everyone shared a common set of beliefs. The United States is not culturally homogeneous. Coexisting in a diverse society requires acceptance and tolerance on the part of everyone, as well as a keen self-awareness of the impact ones behavior has on the beliefs and culture of others. We can’t afford to rely on TV and Government to dictate these basic values and behaviors. The responsibility lies on the shoulders of every individual regardless of their origin.
Free Speech and Hate Speech are Not the Same Thing – We all enjoy the right of free speech and expression. However, as children, we should have learned that rights can be taken away if we abuse those rights. The groups of individuals that use a basic constitutional right to spread hate infringe on the basic dignity and rights of others. This is not only hurtful, it places us all at risk of having the Government take away our right to free speech. If we govern our own actions, we are all likely to retain the freedom to do so.
You are Being Manipulated – We live in a Country where cash is king. Every hour we are awake, someone is trying to influence one’s beliefs and values for a singular purpose: to get your cash. “News” sites or programs are not meant to educate you. They are designed to cater to one’s specific belief system or entertainment preference with a singular goal: to get your cash. Many of the so-called writers or journalists don’t believe what they are telling you. They tell you what you want to hear because: they want to get paid. It is the responsibility of everyone to navigate these mine fields without relying on laws or legislation to keep one safe from manipulation.
People of Authority are Human – If one places their entire faith and trust in any person or institution of authority, they will always be disappointed at some point.
Times Change, Get Over it – The older we get, the more we are overwhelmed with the change around us. It’s a fact of life. It’s our responsibility to deal with this change without getting angry or harboring hate toward others that don’t share your station in life.
Rights and Freedoms can’t be Legislated – Granted, equal rights legislation for people of color, women, and the LGBT community was needed and a great thing; however, it was necessitated because humans failed to do the right thing. It didn’t change people’s attitudes or erase the prejudice that threatens to tear us apart. Until we, as humans, begin to change our attitudes toward each other, we are in danger of dissolution as a society.
There Will Always be Good and Evil – It is our mandate as a society to accept this fact without infringing on the rights of other groups or cultures for the purpose of retributions. Extremism or radical hate groups exist within every culture or ethnicity.
Fear is the Root of all Hate and Injustice – With the racial diversity and economic inequality in this Country, it’s hardly surprising that misunderstanding and injustice exists. We constantly cry and wail for change to little avail. The more militant we are in response to injustice the more things will stay the same. The police, for example, are faced with maintaining order within a system that is inherently unjust. They become the front line defenders of a flawed system. They see first-hand the horrible conditions people have to live in. They work in fear and that fear festers into hate. The two emotions go hand in hand to create injustice and, in the worst cases, murder. A similar situation exists in the judicial system. It’s is a vicious circle that can’t be remedied through legislation. We as humans are tasked with changing ourselves and our attitudes toward others. Change starts with individuals and is accomplished through acceptance and tolerance. Trust, understanding, and love will ultimately follow.
Think About It.