Back to Basics

With the events of the last week, it is hard to know what to post. 

Do I add my voice to the fray of others who look at the life of RBG and all she accomplished and what her stubborn determination to keep her seat meant, what it prevented, and what we should do now?

Do I write about the anger and despair I feel over the lack of justice for Breonna Taylor? Do I write about the disgust over the sham investigation, the total lack of honesty, or even willingness to face reality, within the Louisville PD – and point to how this is a blaring example of why we need to reallocate funding for the police and bring in further accountability to those who are called to “serve and protect” all of us?

Those topics are being covered by voices more knowledgable and articulate than me. There are people within the community most affected by the lack of justice for Breonna that can speak to the pain, injustice, and complete asinine aspects of this situation. 

So where do we go?

I keep trying to figure out what is tearing us apart and why everything somehow gets divided over ideological lines… 

A friend and I are reading Daring Greatly by Brené Brown. Written in 2012, it still has some incredible insights to offer. The first time I read it I got a lot of takeaways for me individually, but now I am picking up on clues that correlate to the situation we find ourselves in today. 

In the intro to her chapter on scarcity, Brené writes:

“After doing this work for the past twelve years and watching scarcity ride roughshod over our families, organizations, and communities, I’d say the one thing we have in common is that we’re sick of feeling afraid. We want to dare greatly. We’re tired of the national conversation centering on “What should we fear?” and “Who should we blame?” We all want to be brave.”

Written in the wake of 9/11, Brené argues that our national sense of safety has been destroyed. We have latched onto a fear of scarcity as our form of PTSD. “Rather than coming together to heal (which requires vulnerability), we’re angry and scared and at each other’s throats” (p.27)

The tension and division have only escalated since the book was published. Instead of moving towards bravery and healing we have dug the trenches deeper and isolated more. Every conversation nowadays focuses on:

  • Who is to blame?
  • Who should I fear?

The reality is that we are nothing more than squawk boxes, regurgitating sound bites and trite tropes. We are told how to feel, who to believe, what to think because to do so for ourselves would require accessing emotions we have repressed.

We cannot feel joy without feeling pain. We cannot feel happiness without feeling regret. Yet, we are so afraid of our emotions, so scared to take a breath and reflect, we just lobbing bombs all over the place indifferent to the casualties.

That is why it is so hard to discuss anything. We turn off our ears at the first word we don’t like. We reject anything that does not align with our point of view. Our opinions are skin deep because we do not take the time to rationally or critically dissect them. We have let our positions become our identity because that is easier than having to do the hard internal work and think for ourselves. 

Instead of leaning into each other and finding solace, we isolate further because that is easier. Our fear is literally killing us because we cannot risk naming and dealing with what is really going on. 

We are a country built as a house of cards and it is falling apart. 

We are 40 days from the election. At this point, I assume you know who you are going to vote for. There is no eloquent post I can write, no data I can share, no outsider insight that is going to change your mind.

The election is not the end of things. We all have to wake up on November 4th and still co-exist together. Instead of focusing on what is largely decided individually – I am going to focus on what we do come November 4th – regardless of who wins. 

If we want to break this spiral we have to get back to one another. The government – regardless of who is in charge – cannot fix us. Movements cannot heal us. Programs cannot bring us together. We are waiting for someone else to come and stop this merry-go-round when really it starts with us. 

If we want a more civilized, less-divided, just society, it starts with each of individually deciding to put away our bombs and step out of our camps.  

It is letting people be more than issues. It is listening. It is realizing there is more going on than politics. It is acknowledging that just because we don’t agree on one thing does not mean we disagree on everything. So let’s focus on what we do agree on. 

I can be dear friends with someone I disagree with politically because we are way more than any platform or issue politicians use to divide and categorize us.  

The stats are startling. We are more “connected” than ever before – and yet more isolated. We are surrounded by people who think just like us – and yet feel totally misunderstood. Our social feeds are curated to only give us the information we want, and yet we are more divided, angry, and alone. 

Something has to change. 

Brené points out that in the 60s we had more diverse friendship bases. At a backyard BBQ, you would have Catholics, Protestants, Republican, Democrat, bankers and business people, Black and White… 

And the data shows we were happier, more content, and connected to one another.

We have got to get back to really knowing our neighbors, dining with people we don’t agree with, listening more than we squawk, reading/watching more than one news source and thinking critically about the issues, admitting that we are not red or blue – that people are nuanced and while we don’t agree on X, I bet we can agree on A, B, and C. 

We have to see each other as people. We are told to fear and blame tropes or cliches – but underneath are people who want the same things you do – to provide for their families, to feel safe, to live in peace. But the only way we get to those things is to admit that people are not the enemy. Allowing politicians to tell us to hate the “other” is only keeping us all from the real work of getting better. 

What if we stopped hating the other and started looking for commonality? 

What if we stopped letting politicians and the news spoonfeed us hate and dumbed down versions of complex issues and instead started educating ourselves from a variety of sources? 

What if we turned off the news, took social media off our phones, and were fully present with the people around us?

What if we took a moratorium from what riles us up and divides, and talked about anything else? 

What if we took the bold step to engage someone unlike us from a place of curiosity instead of hostility?

Does this solve the headlines above? No. But there are other things going on than whether or not you think RBG’s seat should be filled by November. I would love to know where you went to college, what your favorite food is, your favorite vacation spot, the last interesting book you read. 

It is in those pieces that make us who we are that we will find the respect we need to be brave and vulnerable, to stop believing soundbites, to look at those who divided and categorize and say enough. 

It is in cheering for the same sports team, talking about Marvel films, swapping fishing tips, sharing our favorite meals that we start to break down the walls we have surrounded ourselves with. It is in breaking down those walls we are able to do the hard things well because we realize we are better together than we are apart. 

It is time for us to be brave.

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