I’m freeeeeee! Finally, at the age of 51, I’ve graduated from college. Yay me. I’ve spent the last 3 1/2 years busting my butt, studying, reading, thinking, and writing, and it’s come down to this: I got an email the other day saying that they’ve checked, and yep, I’ve completed all the requirements for a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree in English with a concentration in Creative Writing (I do have to admit to some disappointment that its a B.A., and not a B.S. degree, although, as some have pointed out, I’ve had a degree in BS for decades. Still, it would be nice for it to be official).
The last semester was particularly hard. It’s difficult to concentrate on Frances Burney’s Evelina, or, The History of a Young Lady’s Entrance into the World, first published in 1778, when the whole world seems to be losing its shit. Seriously. In the (sur)real world, we had Donald Trump, whose chief accomplishment seems to be losing money on casinos (and in fairness, even I would find that difficult) vs. Hillary Clinton, who is most famous for being the only politician on earth who has spent her entire existence under congressional investigation (and inconclusive investigation at that).
On top of that, we had dozens of examples of malfeasance by both parties, the campaign was virtually issue-free (why waste time talking about the future of the country, when you can just get on TV and sling shit at your opponent? It’s like the whole thing was held in a monkey house full of incontinent chimpanzees). Finally, Trump won, despite losing the popular vote (by almost 3 million votes), and all of a sudden, it seems like everyone is talking revolution; lefties are gearing up to stop Trump no matter what (although honestly, if they couldn’t get their shit together enough to beat Trump during the election, it seems fairly naive to think they’ll get it together now), and the rightest of the right wing are proposing armed revolt if Trump turns out to be a disappointment to them (it’s like cognitive dissonance has become viral).
So like I was saying, it was really hard to concentrate in school. All the time I was supposed to be writing papers, and reading books, I just couldn’t help thinking about all the stuff I wanted to write for Moonsthoughts. Every conversation would turn to politics, and I’d think, “Ooooh, that’d make a good post,” and “Hey, I have thoughts on that subject too!” I have to admit, I wasn’t really doing my best work there at the end.
And now, 2-3 weeks later, I’m free to write whatever I want . . . and I’ve got nothing. I’ve started several posts, and given up on them all. Part of it may just be ennui, after straining my brain for school, but I’m more afraid that it’s just . . . well . . . despair? resignation? depression? I thought that things would change after the election. I thought that, no matter who won, everybody would calm down, lay off the panic buttons, and maybe start talking to each other again (what can I say; I’m an optimist). Sadly, that doesn’t seem to be the case. All the craziness and hyperbole (on both sides) just seems to keep getting worse.
Most people seem to just want it to be over, to forget about it, to get back to their lives. I’ve had at least two conversations in the last couple of weeks, with intelligent, reasonable, compassionate people who just want to stop talking about all this stuff. This is the wrong approach to take, I think. There’s way too much of just sticking our heads in the sand in that response. Of course, I think it’s also because we were all white, straight, married, Christian, several-generation American, lower-middle-class to middle-class people. The only thing we really have to worry too much about is our own slow slide into poverty (which does seem increasingly likely). Nobody wants to register us, or deport us, or revoke any of our rights, so we’ll probably be okay with our heads in the sand for at least a few more years. Yay us!
The only way I see things getting any better, is if we (and I mean all of us), pull our heads out of the sand (or wherever else they may currently be inserted), and talk to each other about the issues, about the ideas, about our fears, about what direction the country should take. We need to get off the talking points, stop talking about the politicians, and stop talking about what they want us to talk about.
One of the things I learned in college is that you don’t learn a whole lot from people you agree with. We need to talk to people we don’t agree with; to find out why they feel the way they do, to let them know why we feel the way we do. Of course, in order to do that, we’ll have to learn to stop communicating in memes, to stop parroting the misinformation machine that feeds both sides a steady diet of Bullshit.
On the Facebook, I’ve got a lot of pretty hard-core, right-wing friends. I’ve also got a lot of hard-core, left-wing friends. If I’m honest, I have to admit that I find the left’s bullshit much more palatable, but that’s why I don’t unfriend or unfollow my right-wing friends. I don’t want to live in an echo chamber. I know a lot of people who voted for Trump; some who did so proudly, and some reluctantly, but I have no problem with anyone, based on who they voted for. Whether I like it or not, I can understand the reasoning (or at least most of it), to some point, anyway. I think they’re wrong, but being wrong doesn’t make them bad people (to paraphrase a famous guy I used to know).
We’ve got to see past the generalizations. I’m soooooo tired of seeing right-wing propaganda that refers to all liberals as “libtards” or worse, and I’m just as tired of left-wing propaganda that refers to all conservatives as fascists. It’s bad enough in the memes, but when people I know start slinging that kind of crap around, I really get kind of angry, because, (I’m gonna let you all in on a little secret here) I’m a conservative – more on that later.
It’s not just counterproductive, it’s stupid. I don’t know anybody whose entire existence can be summed up by one word. Like I said before, I know a lot of folks on the right, and even though I disagree with almost everything they say, I know that they are not fascist, racist, gay-bashing, Troglodytes consumed by hatred for anything that doesn’t look or act like them (at least not the ones I know). I also know a lot of folks on the left, and none of them hate America, or want to invalidate your religion, or to take any of your stuff away and give it to anybody else. Pretty much all of the folks I know, left and right, just want to live their lives according to their own lights. None of them wishes harm to anyone else. None of them want to hurt anybody, or rule over anybody. They just want to do their jobs, support their families, and live in peace.
We like things simple; we like the idea that there are good guys and bad guys, absolute right and absolute wrong, and we all, left or right, like to think that we’re on the side of the Angels (or the side of Right, anyway). That way we don’t have to think. We really hate to think. We really, really hate to think that we might not be absolutely, completely, 100% right on everything (although ironically, we do like to post about how flawed and imperfect we are on the Facebook, especially us Christians). We need to talk, and more importantly, to listen to people who think differently than us because, the chances are that on any given subject, neither of us are really, completely, 100% right on anything.
We’ve got to talk about this stuff; capitalism, socialism, gay rights, racism, abortion, women’s rights, freedom of religion/freedom from religion, guns, immigration, all of it, among ourselves. We’ve got to take the power out of the hands of the politicians, and back into our hands, where it should be. The powers that be don’t want us to come together; it’s much easier for them to get what they want if we’re too busy fighting with each other to look at them. Our loss is their gain.
We’ve all got to do whatever we can do to contribute to the conversation, but first we’ve got to start that conversation; what we’ve got right now is essentially a nation of incontinent chimps flinging shitty memes at each other, thinking “that’ll show ’em.”
I know I’ve got to keep on writing; not to convince, not to convert, or to preach, but to present what I think, and why I think this way (and yes, I was dropped on my head as a child. Several times). It’s the only way I know to try to fix things.
What can you do?