We’ve just about had it all this year, haven’t we?
A pandemic; a recession; fires; earthquakes; murder hornets; murders of innocent men caught on camera; riots. Jobs have been lost. Families have been broken. Dreams have been put on hold at best, crushed at worst. We all hate each other. Everything is a lie unless it confirms what we knew all along, at which point it’s true, but it’s only true if the people saying it are people we agree with, people who look and talk and act like us. Conservatives are evil. Liberals are evil. The virus is fake. The virus is real. If you wear a mask when you go to the store, you’re doing your part to keep your family and your community safe. If you wear a mask when you go to the store, you’re bowing down to authoritarianism and yielding up your rights.
I’m sure I’ve missed something else, but I’ll stop there.
Adding to that list won’t do anything but add to our collective aggravation. You know what’s going on out there as well as I do. Much like the coronavirus itself, few of us are immune. There are days when it feels like we’re all being pushed right to the edge of something terrible, and we’re clawing at whatever we can to just hang on but we know we can’t hang on much longer. I’ll say that when this nationwide quarantine started, I compared it to 9/11 — a horrible thing we would endure but which would also bring us all together. I believed that. As painful as 9/11 was for those who experienced it, 9/12 was one of the best days in our country’s history. We mourned together. Set aside our differences. Saw one another as neighbors. For a few precious days we were not believers and atheists, right and left, pro-life or pro-choice.
We were just Us.
That hasn’t happened this time, has it? Far from bringing a broken nation together, these past months have only widened the gap between us. We can’t seem to agree on anything anymore.
I make it a point to keep this space somewhat light. Find out the big things hidden in the little things. Usually that means telling you about people I know or people I’ve met, ordinary folks who see life in extraordinary ways. Every writer faces a choice each time he or she sits down to a keyboard or a piece of paper: write something good about how we’re all different, or something great about how we’re all the same. Time and again, I steer myself toward the latter. Because I don’t care who you are or where you live or how you vote or how your skin is colored, you and I are the same in more ways than we’re not. That idea has always been foundational to the way I see the world. Sadly, it seems a lot of people don’t agree.
Somewhere along the line we quit seeing each other as human beings and started seeing them as their opinions.
We’ve forgot that people are precious, valuable not for what they believe but simply because they exist.
I wish I had a story this week. Nothing would make me happier than to tell you of some good ol’ boy I ran into at the store, or share a story from my childhood, or relay what some of the kids are doing around the neighborhood. I don’t have any of that. All that’s left to me this week is mourn what we’ve become, and maybe that’s a good start.
Maybe mourning is the only way we’ll ever change.