On Facebook today I commented on the continual and deepening divisions in the country. It is starting to rip my insides. While people I know and love have always represented a variety of views, recently there seems to be more hostility and people are taking sides as they demonize the opposing positions. It is especially evident in the politics of Washington where people of different parties no longer talk to one another. Any socializing, building of friendships, they tell me, no longer happen. These people are no longer experiencing one another as people. They are, rather, enemy combatants.
So Christmas is upon us once again. I fear that even the celebration of the great Preacher of Peace is a source of division. Christians with certain beliefs say that those who believe differently are not really Christian. Only they have the correct view of who Jesus was and what it means to be his follower. This comes from various factions, each making the same assumption about the others.
I almost started to list specific issues around this, but stopped myself. All that would do is raise blood pressures. Instead, I will just confess that my Christmas spirit has been ruined. I dread what people will put on Facebook or even comment casually at parties we might attend. For me Jesus is a symbol of Oneness and Love. When I see hatred and judgment thrown about in his name, I cringe. And it happens often.
I love history, especially when it is about my own country, and I have read a lot of it over my years. At times, it feels encouraging to know that what I perceive to be catastrophes in what is happening today has happened before (sometimes worse) and somehow we overcame and moved on.
The downside of reading history is that it tends to be a myth buster. I am coming to the end of “Undaunted Courage”, the story of the Lewis and Clark expedition, by Stephen E. Ambrose. It documents the whole experience from when it was first a dream of President Jefferson, his sell job to congress, and his choice of Lewis to lead it. The political climate was not pretty and Thomas Jefferson lost some of his hero-osity for me. Congress also came off looking pretty nasty at times. Already there were signs of egoism and bitter division between parties. This was only 30 years into being a country!
So my reflection this morning is not whether we lost something of our purity over the years or whether we have matured in our efforts to become a true democracy, but whether we ever “had it” in the first place. Readings I did about the revolution revealed division and violence between factions, deliberately misinforming the populace, intense animosity among the leaders, and manipulation for personal monetary gain.
I miss the rose colored glasses I once wore.
First day of a new month, a good time to start anew. I have decided to shift my schedule. In my effort to put exercise up on my priority list, if have found myself giving to the local health club the best hours of my days. All of their senior exercise programs are in the morning. Most of the participants really like this because then they have the rest of the day to do laundry, gardening, or whatever is on their list of things to do. But mornings are my best thinking times. In fact, mornings are the only times I still can think reasonably well at all. Mid afternoon I begin to get dim witted and even befuddled. If it weren’t for the lists I am always making, I wouldn’t know what to do after 3 pm.
Writers need brains that can do thinking activities: pondering, studying, reasoning, questioning, remembering, and brainstorming. Add to this the creative brain activities of being open to new thoughts outside of one’s own realm, making connections, and being able to select words and construct sentences that communicate ideas in a pleasant, understandable way. It is important. And for me at 73, it is vital as I consider the few years I have left to write.
My first book is about to be published and I am already forgetting the names of my characters and the details of the research I did putting the stories together. It is scary to think of myself speaking to a book club in Iowa and not being able to name Peter’s mother-in-law or the territory where Jesus met the woman at the well. Yikes! I am already embarrassed.
So I have chosen to alter my schedule and prioritize my time so that I have my mornings to write…like now as I write this blog. If there is time later this afternoon, when my brain is starting to go numb, maybe I will head over to the health club to walk the treadmill or peddle the bike. I will miss the old folks (like me) at the a.m. classes but I may return another day when I feel I’ve done too much thinking and need to readjust my schedule again.
While we are on politics…I listened to a news commentator on TV the other night who tried to explain why Republicans of Alabama who believe that Roy Murphy is guilty of sexually abusing women and children will support him anyway. She said that it is because, in their minds, being a Democrat is worse than being a child abuser. I was shocked to hear this as I consider myself a Democrat or at least my political views are in that direction. What does that make me?
I have not met a Democrat who thinks that Republicans are as evil as this (although sometimes I wonder.) However you cut the cake, this is poisonous thinking. Are human beings losing their sense of right and wrong? I have relatives who are Republicans. I don’t think of them as evil. I love them and want the best for them even if they continue to hold onto their views. We are one in blood and in spirit. We share in being Americans and being human beings. We share in being children of the One God.
Sad, sad situation.
There is an interesting thing happening with men right now. My husband was with a group of men that he says are quite conservative and like to give him grief about politics. He said he expected some comments about Al Franken and was ready for a joking response which is his style. He said he was surprised that very little was said. They were kind of somber and he reported that one guy said, “I guess I will never be able to run for political office.” His comment got a few chuckles and nods.
It is somewhat different hearing that a person you care about has been accused of sexual misconduct. What I felt when I heard about our own Minnesota Senator Al Franken today took me off my guard and made me sick to my stomach. I was at the health club but had to leave. It was difficult. It isn’t that I doubted a woman’s story. I wasn’t thinking he was innocent. It just hurt inside.
I listened to the woman’s story. What a sincere and credible person! She has forgiven Franken, she said. I felt for her as a woman, a mother and a grandmother.
I went on line and read Franken’s statement, which I will post at the end of this blog. I am not going to in any way defend what he did or try to water it down. But there are a couple of things that make me proud of him and that also give me encouragement about the future of our culture. First of all, he didn’t deny what he’d done. He apologized to the woman and to his staff and to the people of Minnesota who put their trust in him. He said he let down those women who turn to him to represent them as he defended their right to be heard.
The most important thing to me, however, relates to what I’d been thinking just before I read his statement. He said that he has reflected over the years about the kind of comedy he participated in, realizing now how disrespectful and harmful it was to women.
Sexual humor has always made me uncomfortable. As a women, to hear men joke women’s body parts was violating to me. I felt embarrassment as though it were me personally they were talking about. Along this line, the entertainment industry in general has been harmful to women. I could list tons of examples, but I won’t here. Too many.
For me, Al Franken’s statement wasn’t encouraging because he is a senator accused and not going overboard to deny and blame, but it is an encouragement because he is a member of the entertainment world admitting that his craft has done harm and he regrets his part in it. I only hope his peers in that industry pay attention.
Here is Franken’s comment:
I am going about some changes in my life right now – by choice. Can one get bored with a schedule? I can keep one for a really long time if it helps me to stay sane but lately I feel the need for some variety and space for surprises. Also, I realize I have been adding things to my schedule without taking anything off. I have this commitment problem. Some people have trouble keeping commitments. I don’t know when to stop. At what point to you drop out of an organization that is no longer meaning much to you but you are attached to the people? I finally came to the realization that if I am attached to people, I can meet with them outside of the organization that brings us together. If the friendship is solid, it will continue.
Because I dropped a few events from my calendar, I picked up a whole morning and an evening to dedicate to something else…or just to catch up or relax. I am already feeling less stress. Meanwhile new adventures are on my horizon and these may require letting go of even more. I am ready.
At my age, self-esteem and ego are rarely an issue when I make decisions. I just do what seems right. I am not afraid to back track, that is, to change my mind after I have dropped an activity.
I don’t always know the right thing for me to do. I don’t have any fears, though. I wish I had been in this spiritual place years ago. It would have saved me a lot of grief.