Saving ourselves with hope, not fear.

After a very tough year, and dealing with the crazy world we all struggle with today, I have become very sensitive to our social and political climate. I have always followed politics with great interest; I love a good debate and I think we all should understand the people, the process and the laws that govern us. But the past few years have really challenged all my sensibilities, when all I really want to do is get on with life – I know I am not alone, so that phrase is not as selfish as it may sound. Determining how to deal with this political and societal ‘conflagration’ (aka dumpster fire) has been my toughest challenge so far. Physically and mentally, I have been able to fight my disease. I am managing grief as I lost a close friend, and my children and wife lost a grandfather and a father. I miss my parents and my family, but I manage. I absorb the social, physical and even mental restrictions I am challenged with daily, keeping me from friends and basic everyday tasks. But somehow, I manage to get through it because the one thing I know is I am definitely not alone. So many are going through so much and many, are going through so much worse. Personally, I have made regular morning meditation and prayer a must do, everyday activity. It keeps me somewhat centered as the world tries to push my soul around and grab more space in my mind. This may sound hokey to some, but it is true, and I believe it works. It keeps me grounded in so many ways. I feel lucky that I have my coping mechanisms, yet I am still allowing so much of the emotion that is playing out in the world to take up a lot of space within me. It’s like a toothache that is really starting to hurt. 

I find it almost impossible to find anyone not frustrated by either side of whatever issues are going on: whether it’s the pandemic, social injustice, the government, the environment, the media, big business, small business, your neighbor’s political sign, their eco-friendly car or the loud, boosted, Ford F-3500 HD that belongs to the teenager down the street…a sea of endless triggers are out there for so many that make anyone want to shout ‘get off my lawn’. The very worst of it all: that there are those in positions of significant influence and power who are choosing to drive fear as a major trigger, enraging their followers, and promoting the fact that you should be afraid of what is around every corner…regardless of your religion, race, political party preference, or social status, whatever, there are too many people at the highest levels of government, media, entertainment etc. that are very willing to make you afraid of something for their own gain. 

From A Course in Miracles, Lesson 22, “‘What I see is a form of vengeance.’ This idea accurately describes how anyone who holds attack thoughts in [their] mind must see the world. Having projected [their] anger onto the world, [they] see vengeance about to strike at [them]. [Their] own attack is thus perceived as self-defense. This becomes an increasingly vicious cycle

The reality is, there are real issues we should all be worried about that are affecting all of us every day. Unfortunately, those issues are too often being misrepresented with more fear mongering, political hyperbole and lies, being played out across every imaginable screen we access. Here’s a great example from the Lincoln Project. Politicos are choosing their fearful adjectives and adverbs very specifically and then overlaying those words with vivid imagery to instill maximum fear that is embedding fear into our psyche. The biggest perpetrator, the President of the United States. Pardon me, I don’t hide my political slant. Last week, as I watched the Republican National Convention (of course I watched it), I noticed that after each presenter clearly listed out all of the things Americans should be afraid of, they praised ‘dear leader’, then they claimed that he was the one person who could save them…one person. Our society is facing real present day problems and future challenges; one person is not going to save anything. How could they mislead you this way? After witnessing the mismanagement and lack of true, sincere leadership over the past 4 years, how can they vouch for this man who is incapable of leading. Unable to bring people together. Unprepared to set aside his own ego to focus on the greater needs of the people? Unable to tell basic truths. He has alienated friends and allies of the US around the world. Too often he has become the subject of ridicule and has even fallen prey to the feigned sycophancy of leaders who have proven their cruelty and thrive while their own people suffer. He is not going to be that one person to save us.

We, the people, need to make a conscious decision as a community, to work together, and across the political aisle, using all legal levers to make any true progress. The Republican tent has shrunk and has become the party of Trump. To me, it makes sense that hope for all, or as many as possible, will most likely be found within the Democratic party. While it is definitely not a perfect party, it is proving that the ideas are there and ready to be incubated into reality. We are all witnessing the face of tyranny, the twisting and killing of the truth, the manipulation of procedure under the current administration and the unabashed use of fear to manipulate the public. We must correct those levers that have allowed this, and work together to create a more perfect process. All is not lost, and we must believe that hope can drive change.

Some specifics please…

Many will have you believe that there is a virus currently destroying our country because another country was negligent and hateful. They say states mismanaged themselves and the issue will just disappear by itself. While the coronavirus is wreaking painful havoc across our states, killing almost two hundred thousand and debilitating over six millions more, it is the inability of current federal leadership to face the truth about the disease; their intolerance for professional medical and scientific advice and guidance, the state of tactical readiness and the uncooperative situation that has lead us to the worst performance against this plague by any first world country. American exceptionalism is nowhere to be found, so instead of leading, America is seen as not able to maintain any type of self-control or unable to cooperate as is necessary to successfully fight this disease, like we did to overcome Ebola not too long ago. Ebola was not a perfect fight, but the lessons learned were there, they were recorded and systems were implemented to help. Those same systems were dismantled and quickly forgotten mere months before this latest catastrophe. We were told our failure was due to mistakes from the past, when nothing is further from the truth. Systemic failure was caused by lack of true, forward thinking leadership that was unable to recognize the potential human suffering this virus would cause. Imagine if after a major disaster, the federal government refused to do the right thing like develop a good strategy, enable basic logistics and send in the appropriate level of support or help to a large population struggling with the basic necessities required for survival (Puerto Rico, New Orleans are good examples) now multiply it by fifty plus, plus. But I digress. 

You need to be American and outraged. How dare the Republicans talk about fear? We’re the ones that need to be scared. We’re the ones having to talk to every black child. What white father has to give his son a talk about being careful if you get pulled over?

Doc Rivers

Many will have you believe that there is no systemic racism in this country, that anarchists are at fault and they burn stuff to the ground because it’s fun. The inability to face the truth about racism and go beyond the fear of change, fear of difference, fear of reparations, fear of the truth continues to fuel the fires that burn our cities. While most peacefully protest to bring issues to light, there are those that are enraged by the injustice and the fear their lives do not matter.  They have witnessed too many examples confirming that fear.

After another black man was shot with seven rounds into his back at point blank range, by a police officer, more protests, more violence: the streets are again, on fire. Real people are afraid and frustrated by the obvious disregard for life. They have lost faith in our institutions to make any relevant progress and change. Their cries ring loud amidst a chorus of deniers, or the ‘whataboutists’ who justify the acts just as loudly. LeBron James and Doc Rivers both succinctly described the fears and feelings felt by persons of color this week…they fear for their lives, they honestly feel they do not matter, and that they are not loved, all because of the color of their skin. They have to warn their sons every time they go out, to fear danger from authority and how they should respond in case confronted, with or without probable cause: hands prone, submissive, meek. I am a white male. I will never pretend to know how that discussion feels like, but I have to imagine it rips the joy out of everything – this is no way to live. Fear. Where is the ability to enjoy life without fear, liberty without fear or to pursue happiness without fear? 

On the other side, the focus is being directed towards the perceived ‘lawlessness’ of our time, telling people their neighborhoods will be ripped apart. Vigilantism is being encouraged and those citizens who point loaded weapons at peaceful protestors are being hailed as maligned heroes. Those same ‘heroes’ claim your neighborhood will be overrun with low income housing and bring undesirables too close to your homes. Fear…based on race, fueled by a genuine disrespect for life. An officer, supposedly trained on how to properly subdue a suspect reverts to fear of that suspect because of the color of their skin, erroneously understood crime statistics and potential misinformation. They forget their training, a plethora of other options are available, and the basic instinct is to immediately turn to lethal force…they are afraid, they have been told to be afraid, it’s self-defense. The vicious cycle continues. 

“A candle as it diminishes explains, gathering more and more is not the way. Burn. Become light, and heat and help. Melt.”  

RUMI

The current unemployment rate is unfathomable and threatening to grow. So many people are out of work and not sure how they will make the next rent payment or fulfil event their most basic needs at the grocery store. There are people who have to decide between paying for vital medication or food…they have to decide between vital medication and food (often a concern even when working for many). Let that sit for a minute. Legislation sits on the desk of the Senate majority leader as the constituents wait to see if they can get some relief before time runs out. Their greatest fears are realized and they are yet again, unheard; they are at the mercy of government dysfunction while their utility payments go delinquent.  Yet, there are those that celebrate that the economy is the best it has ever been, all thanks to ‘one man’ despite the momentum actually created by his predecessor’s policies. If you don’t believe me, look it up, or reference this Forbes article. This economy is not the best there has ever been, and it was the previous administration that set the foundation for our prosperity. This administration destroyed it. But, there are those in power that spread fear and claim that if the Democrats comes into power, they will destroy it with taxes and regulation. Companies record unfathomable profits because they leveraged what was labelled as an economy stimulating tax cut, and instead of using it to stimulate growth, many bought back shares of their own company and increased executive pay. Now the socio-economic divide grows even wider. The stock markets (which are not the sole indicator of the health of the economy) hit record highs, while food lines at local food banks are longer than ever. What is real? Who is suffering? There is the ‘reality’ on TV and the reality we see in the streets, in our communities, within our families. 

You’re supposed to love thy neighbor…

While we are in a more connected world, more than ever people are disconnected from each other. Communities struggle to come together to help themselves through adversity. Neighbors who in the past may have disagreed but agreed to live in peace, are now being told to fear each other – love thy neighbor has turned to fight thy neighbor or be beaten by thy neighbor. As a society, we are struggling. We are angry, we are tired, we are frustrated, in so many ways we are confused and now we are being inundated with fear. Fear that is justified as we witness the facts and actions that surround so many acts of injustice and so many examples of incompetence. We are also overcome with fear perpetrated by lies and hyperbolic attack campaigns created to do nothing more than stir fear at our very core. Witness an older lady not being able to reach the police while her home is being broken into…this is a campaign ad. It is deliberate fear mongering, focused on the wrong problem, when there are real issues that law enforcement needs help dealing with. This vicious strategy is affecting too many and it is creating this air of hopelessness. This needs to be rebuffed as we can see there are very specific examples where the weaponization of fear is starting to erode not only our spirit, but our moral fiber where we can easily become confused by what is right or wrong. Let’s stop the cycle.

Our vision must be better. Our hopes and dreams should be motivated by hope and focused on actual progress for all, not just those that look like us. Our plans must be underpinned with honest introspection, broad perspectives and actual, executable tasks and measurable milestones that lead to great satisfaction. We must understand that it is likely some goals will seem insurmountable, but only because there is so much to overcome, yet we must never stop making a more perfect process or goal. Every step must lead us to a better place. The only barrier is our readiness. We must be ready and work towards these goals. So, let’s begin by defining the place where we want to be, without fear, while working together to refine each step as we take it.

“Our task is to refine our hearts and minds. There is so much blessing and beauty near us, that is destined for us, and yet it cannot enter our lives because we are not ready to receive it. The handle is on the other side of the door.”   

John O’Donohue

Identify and eradicate systemic racism and drive equality

  • Identify the fears, and constraints, as well as the hopes and dreams of people of color and their communities. 
  • We must make an ultimate effort to sincerely understand and document their experience directly, not through what we assume or perceive from the outside. 
  • Use the understanding to determine appropriate reparations for descendants of slavery.
  • Use the understanding of these experiences to identify the flaws in the systems that separate us from each other through inequality. 
  • From jobs, to justice, to basic rights, let’s remove the barriers that have overshadowed black communities since slavery, the era of Jim Crow and even today’s social inconsistencies and injustices thrust upon them because of hate and ignorance.
  • Provide better training, not just better weapons to police and other agencies meant to keep the peace – this is not defunding the police, this is making sure the police are doing what they need to be focused on. 
  • Bring back community-based agencies helping with mental health, family support for domestic issues and societal and community support groups.
  • Criminal justice reform and prison reform.

Now, let’s develop similar listening and action-oriented activities for women and the LGBTQ communities, indigenous peoples, and the citizens of American colonies. 

Develop an economy that benefits everyone and focuses on the environment and to slow and where possible, reverse the effects of climate change

  • Let’s work to develop good paying jobs that are sustainable (renewable energy, medicine, conservation, high tech manufacturing) and bring not only money, but dignity back to working class families.
  • Smart regulations that fosters a partnership with corporations and encourages community and environmental investment so their workforce can thrive in the cities where they work and their land is not ravaged and destroyed.
  • Increasing the minimum wage to make everyday needs affordable.
  • Let’s eradicate the phenomenon of homeless veterans. No one who has served this country in any military capacity should be left behind within our borders.
  • Build apprenticeship programs that offer an alternative path for those not pursuing a post-secondary education
  • Encourage consumers to buy American and ensure that quality is never compromised. 
  • Develop policies that support young families and their careers
  • Invest in renewable energy and develop jobs in the US to support growth and progress.
  • Drive conservation efforts in every way.
  • Preserve our great forests and special places like the Grand Canyon, Yosemite National Park, Alaska and other great natural sites across the US.
  • Become totally energy independent.
  • Refrain from mining for coal

Improving the quality and the access to all levels of education for everyone 

  • Let’s improve the quality of K-12 by properly funding and training teachers and stop trying to privatize public education.
  • Ensuring communities have the appropriate infrastructure, ensuring our children are educated and prepared for the next level and to succeed in whatever way they choose their future education.
  • Enabling safe environments where children can learn in peace without fear of violence or predators.
  • Creating an environment that not only emphasizes reading, writing and arithmetic, but nutrition, self-esteem, overall health.
  • Let’s make education affordable and not a hinderance to graduates for years after they enter the workforce.
  • Let’s incentivize students to strive for excellence in not only science, technology, engineering and math with real post graduate benefits.

We are blessed with brilliant minds and compassionate hearts everywhere we turn. We see examples everyday of people willing to stand up, support, fund and work on what is good and beneficial for all people. Hope is not lost, empathy and compassion do exist. Solutions are available or can be found when we work together in hope not fear. We must be willing to stand up against the bullies of our time, telling us there is no hope and that only one man can solve our challenges. We must vow to work together to reach and grab a better tomorrow with both hands for our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren and beyond. It IS possible…we just can’t be afraid. 

“Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it and to work for it and to fight for it.”

Barack Obama

It doesn’t have to be like this… photo from @JYSexton on Twitter

As always, I thank you for reading and welcome any thoughts or constructive criticism you may have, Featured image from Markus Spiske, Pexel

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s