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Chatterbox: Comfort under the learning curve

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In “Peter Pan,” J.M. Barrie says, “All of this has happened before and it will all happen again.”

The situation America finds itself in right now may be unique to many of us, but it isn’t unique. Not only are other nations in similar situations and/or have been in the past, but America has been in similar situations before. She survived them – though recovery time is usually required.

Regardless of which side of any of our current political issues we are on, we can all agree that we don’t all agree and, for most of us, our feelings are pretty clear. One common thing about harsh political climates is that people who have an opinion, have a pretty strong opinion.

We’re struggling to maintain important relationships from opposite sides of the line in the sand. Some of us agree not to talk politics with co-workers we like, friends we treasure, or even family members we don’t want to alienate. It’s better that way, as they can’t see our point and we can’t understand theirs.

America is dealing with the same issues other nations face and the climate issue that haunts every nation on the planet. Humanity’s future and world politics makes for angry table conversation and haunting bedtime stories. Globally, no one knows what to tell kids about the safety of their future; do they even have a future? Will it be like the end of “The Time Machine” with the Eloi and the Morlocks, or go the way of “Soylent Green”? None of us knows how the planet will respond, in time, to its new environment and how that will alter, or end, our ability to survive.

Americans are also wrangling with some pretty wild horses of our own. What we’re feeling and seeing in America today isn’t something we’ve experienced in a long time, at this level. Our people are on opposite sides of a grand chasm; it isn’t growing any smaller nor are we bridging it well. The patriots take their corners. We are growing immune to inappropriate public outbursts by private citizens and the diatribes of public servants. The alienation creating the spin on the news is purposely manufactured for specific goals to be achieved, especially to divide and conquer the American people, fractioning our strength against powerful forces. The evidence is all obvious enough to dissect.

America and the world have been in sticky places before, as specific issues fractured the unity of their people. Neighbors, friends and family members have found themselves on opposite sides of huge issues down through the ages. Just in recent history, Hitler’s policies divided dinner tables in half, as did the Civil War, civil rights and Vietnam, now so do America’s world politics, homeland policies, and dozens of other issues.

Politics have always been divisive and pitted people against one another, each side believing it is right. Today, the open animosity in too many public places and in the political arena is neither productive nor any kind of path to a viable solution. What many of us find uniquely depressing, however, is our confusion as to how to be part of the solution, and our feelings of futility as to our role in what we see as the cure, as dictated by our own perspective. We feel overwhelmed and helpless.

Well, not everyone can run for office, stump for our candidate, march in Washington, work at the polling booths, or donate millions to a cause or campaign, but it is important to remember that we can do something. Being part of the solution is better than caving to apathy. Keeping a perspective that is positive is imperative in times as challenging and potentially depressing as many are today, in America and around the globe.

We can only do what we can do but, no matter how small the part we play may be, we can find our power and serenity, sanity and solace in playing it. Above all, we have to remember to keep our dignity and our senses, not only as a nation among the nations of the world and in the eyes of the world but across the dinner table as well.

Whether we politely agree to disagree or elect to be silent, we can find comfort in remembering these wise words by Mark Twain: “No amount of evidence will change the mind of an idiot.”

How to identify which of us is the idiot, however, he failed to mention, and it’s probably better that way.


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