Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Stormy seas

I've been lost in my own sifting and metabolizing thoughts.

The past eighteen months have been ... 
Tell me, how do we even talk about these past eighteen months? Humans are meaning-making beings that love gathering up a host of disparate experiences and saying "this is what this has been." Trauma, I believe, begins when that meaning making process hasn't found its way up into the surface of our thoughts. We try on different ways to articulate an experience (or many experiences) and it keeps coming up short. 

In the past, this country (and any other country) would build a national narrative of What Happened and How We Move On. What has become clear is that the cultural or social construct of a narrative is always driven by a particular point of view. In today's America, the national narrative is now polarized into two wildly different camps - with millions in the middle who don't dare open their mouths to share their own perspectives. Evangelism is not limited to religion anymore. Everyone is finding a soap box on which to stand and shout down anyone who has different values and beliefs. This is how social constructs are structured - you have to curate your data, marginalize alternative data, dismiss what doesn't fit your model and continue to righteously proclaim your truth. 

In the past 200 odd years, I'd say that we had one primary source of how data was interpreted. Most news was filtered through our government messaging. Outlier stories that poked holes in that national narrative were shut down hard and fast.  I'm reading Daniel James Brown's Facing the Mountain and was sickened by the way Japanese Americans were vilified in the press while not reporting on the mass incarcerations of American citizens in concentration camps throughout the west. 

Today, we have two prevailing sources of data and news - and each side demonizes the other. "Main stream media" is for the lazy left to swallow and Fox News is the fodder for idiots (and prime comedy material for shows like the Daily Show). Somewhere in the middle are the rest of us who read various platforms and often go seeking the details and research that went into what we read. That brings us to the worst rabbit hole: The research and details that can be falsified and provided by anyone out there with a "following."  As someone who has worked with research, I can usually quickly identify sources and studies that are reliable.  And still, I only do that based on factors that might be construed as faulty by someone who has a different point of view.  

Point of View. 

Its not just about having different points of view right now, is it?  The COVID-19 pandemic has created rifts due to the varied ways in which people have seen this virus as a threat.  Fear and vulnerability create strong feelings. Offensive and Defensive actions have to play out. One person's safety protocol is another person's violation of personal freedom.  It then becomes oddly necessary to fight for what one feels is the more essential value. Individual Rights or Protection of Community.  

In the past, how I decided to act in relationship to those factors was just how I was deciding to live my life. My world view governed my actions and I understood that other people - due to their own social, cultural, familial norms - had their own ways of determining belief and value sets. Being able to hold multiple perspectives as possible is a skill that I have tried to hone - but it has come up against the violent and abusive refusal to even try to find any common ground. The experience that my beliefs threaten another person's sense of freedom is strange - especially when those most outraged are affluent white people. 

I don't care if you don't want to get a vaccine - but don't tell me I'm an idiot because I choose to believe that a vaccine might help me stay healthy. If I choose to wear a mask or politely refuse to go eat in a busy restaurant, don't make it about your choices, respect my right to choose. If you are going to large gatherings, please don't get mad at me when I wait to see you for a a number of days. Think about why I might not want to hug you after you get off a plane.

Why indeed. Could it be that I am a caregiver to a beloved elderly parent? Could it be that my husband has identified risk factors that make this virus particularly scary? I also know people who can't get vaccinated for medical reasons - I never assume that I know why anyone has made their choices. 

Its been hard to make sense of how quickly we fall into rabid attacking of the Other when our safety is threatened. I'd venture to say that quality is so fundamental to the biological creatures that we are. The veneer of civility is extremely thin - perhaps already irreparably destroyed. How do we go forward as human beings? As Americans? We need a great deal of courage and compassion.

Stormy seas, indeed. Summer of 2021

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