Monday, July 11, 2016

The Great Divide: America's not-so-civil war

 "Not causing harm requires staying awake. Part of being awake is slowing down enough to notice what we say and do. The more we witness our emotional chain reactions and understand how they work, the easier it is to refrain. It becomes a way of life to stay awake, slow down, and notice."
 Pema Chodron
Divisions all around, family member against family member, friend against friend, presidential candidates fighting it out, acting out America’s daily dysfunction all over the globe.   

Does airing our dirty laundry make us proud, or full of humiliation and shame? 

Brain researchers say that conservative brains and liberal brains are different and I believe that must be true.  How they develop in those ways, we aren’t so sure.  

We can argue all day long about our values and our differences regarding a variety of topics: police killings of black and brown boys and men, allowing big money to control our elections, women’s reproductive rights, gun violence, mixing church and state, and income inequality.  All day long, I can talk myself blue in the face about these and other issues.

Would anyone listen?  Those who agree with me would nod and those who disagree would send me hate mail and instructive missives, asking me to come over to their way of thinking.  And, I would not.  We are such determined people, often sure that we are right, and that good and bad, right and wrong are black and white instead of murky gray.

Debating and arguing has its benefits.  We feel passionate and excited, our energy peaks and we jump into the ring time after time, sometimes enjoying the battle, wondering who will become the next American Idol (or President)?  Human beings like to feel connected and engaged with other people, either through loving, kind actions, through debate and controversy, or through reality shows and the news. We bond together against those others.

But, the arguing gets exhausting, and we tire of butting our heads against walls, weary of the rhetoric when there are usually no clear winners or answers, unless someone rules that the contest is over.  Then, the winner is praised, described as the best, while the loser may seem wrong and bad. And, that’s just not usually true.

We all have something to contribute to our world, to our families and our country. Why do we isolate so and look across the aisle with such venom?  Do I need you to agree with me about almost everything and only then can we be friends?  Differences can tie people together or break them apart.

We may be living in America’s 21st Century Civil War, including some of the blood. Now, a tiny few, less than 1%, wins big while the rest lose greatly.

Life is messy, not full of tangible, concrete answers much of the time. Life can be mysterious, uncertain, and confusing, and we hunger for guarantees and solutions whenever possible. We fight tooth and nail searching for certainty.

When a civil war occurs, people often gravitate to their opposite corners, just like in Rocky and Creed, glaring at each other with hate.  After the battle is won and lost, we wonder if we will continue repeating this destructive pattern that turns us all against each other.

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