The frenzy associated with the recent elections has, at last, died down. There seems to be a bit more balance restored to the goings on reported on Facebook, a bit more calm, a bit less desperation and hysteria in the opinions that have been boldly and somewhat carelessly thrown about. But the aftermath has left me still a little out of breath. Tilted and dizzy. Unsure of things I thought (hoped) I knew about people. Never before have I experienced such loud and conflicting opinions shouted back and forth (if typed words can be shouted). Perhaps it is because, in no past election, have I been involved in social networks. In no past election have “friends” been able to, with such ease, spout their views at one another with out having to do so face to face.
More than once, over the past several months, I found myself blushing and ashamed over the manner in which someone expressed an opinion that I actually shared. Not because I didn’t agree with the viewpoint, but because I was embarrassed at how insensitively it was put forth -- how carelessly it demeaned anyone who might not agree. Likewise; more than once I found myself intaking my breath sharply, hackles raised, over an opinion, different than my own, voiced loudly and with no room for discussion or exception – no room for anyone who might disagree to be a decent or valid person.
The thing is, I have gone about my life (perhaps naively?) thinking that most of us, at our core were the same. Sure there were bad people. There were petty and mean and even horrifyingly evil people. But the rest of us? Most of us. Didn’t we all love our friends and families more than all else? Didn’t we all want to be respected and liked and understood? Didn’t we all want to listen to Christmas music while laughing, reminiscing and drinking cocoa with loved ones? Didn’t we all want to stop and help the person with a flat tire (regardless of the political sticker in his rear window)? Didn’t we all like to wave at the crossing guard standing dutifully in the rain, keeping our kids safe on the streets near school; or pull a shopping cart out for the lady struggling with a kid in each arm? Didn’t we all want to tuck our kids safely in bed at night; and be the kind person who helps the kid who can’t find his mom at the grocery store; or let the man with only a gallon of milk cut in front of us in the checkout line? Didn’t we all like to share a laugh, even with a stranger, over something funny just witnessed? Didn’t we all want, in our hearts, to be kind and good and understanding and decent? Wouldn’t we all, given the chance, actually like each other?
(photo credit goes to my awesome sister Amy who captured this moment of me and several of my sisters, nieces and nephew having a laugh following a family wedding)
And, if we did share all those things, didn’t they bind us more than our differing opinions and views, lifestyles and choices separated us? That might have been something I would have typed nicely as a rhetorical question before, but not now. Now I am really asking it. Of you. Of me. Do those things matter more? Do we even share those things after all?
Like a child hesitantly asking their parent if Santa exists (or, in my case, unicorns), I am afraid that I might not want the answer. Maybe we aren’t all equally good – or at least wanting to be. Maybe we don’t share those same basic things. Or maybe we do, but they aren’t enough.
We do all have beliefs – things that shape our very selves and our very ways of living – that we must stand for; that we can’t just set quietly aside if we are to be true to ourselves or if we are to ever change the world for the better. And maybe my Utopian-like ideal – where people matter more than ideas and opinions -- can’t exist because not all ideas, beliefs and opinions are decent. Maybe they aren’t all ones that we can, if not respect, then at least understand. Maybe some are just simply too wrong, too bad, too ridiculous or illogical. . . . And when we are sure our views are the right ones (which they very well may be)? Well, what then? Do people, do our relationships with them; how we treat them; how we make them feel still matter more? Can they still matter more?
It discourages me because while I do want to be able to share my opinions, to talk about my belief system; while I do want to better learn how to listen to others who feel and believe differently -- with my defenses kept tightly down; what I want, most of all, is to be living in a world where people -- individuals -- matter most. What I want is to have all those similarities between us matter more than our differences. What I want, in my perhaps unaffected way, is for love to be at the top of everyone’s pyramid of beliefs and the Golden Rule to be the thing that governs us. All of us.
It is a difficult thing to work out for a girl who wanted unicorns to be real. A girl who is perhaps dreaming up some impossible world full of good people who, while making different life choices, are all trying to be thoughtful and kind, but there it is: my question. And here I wait, hoping for my own “Dear Virginia” letter telling me that Santa, unicorns, and people who care more about each other than about being right still exist.