Lose the Labels

We in the United States are stuck in a word quagmire these days, a quicksand-like atmosphere where we can’t even slog along for all the mud on our boots. Everywhere you turn, people are talking, yelling actually, and yet what is actually being said? We slap a label on something and draw lines. Don’t you dare step on the other side. We have created otherness to the point that it’s like walking in a carnival funhouse, only without the fun.

And what about these labels? Where do you and I fit in? Are you a libtard or deplorable? Are you a nasty woman? Are you sexist, racist, and a xenophobe? Are you a poot, a faketriot, a conservative, a tea bagger? What exactly do these designations mean? What are they saying about us, both the speaker and the recipient of the label?

When we label someone, we don’t have to consider their ideas. We just summarily dismiss them. What about the kernel of truth in what the “other” is saying? You know there is one. By labeling and dismissing, we are missing out on a chance for dialogue and understanding. We can’t all know everything about the issues, and many of us don’t have time to delve deeply, so we respond off the cuff, reactionarily, to maintain our personal status quo. But who is that hurting?

Beyond the initial personal sting to the recipient, it’s hurting us as a country. It’s weakening our integrity. It’s the water in our joists that softens the stability, providing the perfect substrate for theย ideological termites and divisive carpenter ants to eat away at it. One day soon we will look up to find the walls are caving in. Then will we stand back and try to figure out how to fix what we’ve destroyed?

This American experiment in democracy is a beautiful thing. We all have a chance to get involved, but we have to allow others their opinion and their right to vote. We must attempt to create understanding based on logic and empathy, not divide with fear, innuendo, and intimidation.

This election is nearly over. We are all dissatisfied. Can we at least agree on that? Let’s figure out why. We were given two candidates whose character has been called into question, affecting their ability to lead. We had other choices. Whether you agree with him or not, Bernie attracted a huge following, a groundswell of support from the people, similar to Donald Trump. Unlike Trump, however, his personal ethics were never called into question. His integrity was sound. This is theย type of person we should look toward to lead us as a country. It’s too late for us this time, but we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. We have work to do.

How can we help good leaders rise to the top? First, get big money out of politics. The mostly unseen influence of just a few voices has given us legislators who work for them, not us. Groups like Represent Us are fighting this corporate corruption at the ground level. Second, step back and consider what people are saying, from those at the top to your neighbors and family members. Each of us has issues that are really important to us. We might need to just agree to disagree on some things because what’s really happening is that while we, the people, are distracted by our infighting, someone at the top is bankrolling lobbyists and influencing politicians, creating a country that benefits him, but not necessarily us. How do you think that will affect our future conversations?

In addition, a separation of church and state would be nice, not just from a constitutional standpoint, but from the view of those who don’t toe the line with the conservative right. Some of us who have been silenced by our own faith-based organizations really believe in the tenets of Christianity, especially that of loving our neighbor as ourselves, even if that neighbor is gay or Muslim or fears for their child’s safety when they walk out the door in the morning. Sticking fingers into politics sullies the message and highlights any and all hypocrisy. Is that the light you mean to shine?

This is our country. We are fellow Americans. Our citizenship, our day to day struggles define who we are. We are not more or less American based on the number of flags we wave or whether we kneel during the national anthem in quiet protest. We can fight injustices without fighting each other.

Let’s unite these United States.

Are you with me?

Side note: My son just informed me that John Cena scored a 36 on his ACT. Wow!

Good News Needed

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s exhausted with this election cycle. It seems to have brought all of the baseness of human nature to the surface, and I, for one, am sinking into a mire of depression. We have just witnessed the Brexit vote and all of the political fallout and as we watch the UK fall apart, we might be wondering what will become of us as we deal with our own two less than stellar choices of leader.

I’m in need of cute puppy videos. Laughing babies. Anything to steer me away from this feeling that we are at the tipping point with awful things to come.

But laughing babies and puppies, cute as they are, are just a momentary escape. The world will still be spiraling downward out there. What is within my power to change before we reach that tipping point?

In the wake of the Orlando shooting, I wondered what the world would be like if instead of fighting over gun rights yet again, instead of hurling insults and stockpiling weapons, we committed ourselves to acts of kindness in remembrance. Would that get any press?

I’ve also heard a lot on the news about Christian intolerance and Tea Party politics, but I have a high school friend who, with her husband, is heavily involved in Christian ministry to urban youth in Southside Chicago. In a world where black lives matter, they are two very white people who take the whole love your God/love your neighbor mandate seriously and are reaching out to a community in need.

We still need a colorblind society. A just society. A society where nobody gets a slap on the wrist after raping a woman. A society where words are measured before they are thrown out like punches to the gut. A civil society. A society that seeks understanding and inclusion over divisiveness and hate.

We hear over and over about what’s going wrong in our world, and there’s so much going wrong, but I, for one, am in desperate need of hearing about what’s going right. Where has change happened and been successful?

I think that was a lot of the appeal of Bernie. In a world that seems to be going into the sewer, he made us see the other end of the spectrum of what we could be. I joked with my 19-year-old Bernie supporter about the marijuana/free college appeal of the old senator. He steered me toward a post about equality, and I knew in that moment I had raised him right. Maybe the youth are not looking for entitlements. Maybe they are looking for equity and fairness. Maybe, just maybe, they will be the ones to make this a better world – if we just let them.