We can’t have it both ways, or can we?

It was 2008. My colleagues and I were cleaning out our offices preparing to be unemployed because of our organization’s bankruptcy. Given that, we threw caution to the wind and talked about politics.

I was a different person then.  I had strong opinions formed over a lifetime by those around me who shared the same thoughts.

My colleague, in discussing the upcoming election, said that the global community distrusts and dislikes the United States.  I believe she was focused primarily on what was then 7 long years of war instigated by our country.

My first impression after that statement?  I didn’t really care that other countries didn’t trust us. We, after all, had a long and glorious history of hard-earned freedom and opportunity where anyone could, with a little hard work, succeed.

That was me in 2008.  It seems like a lifetime ago now.

I am writing this in 2020 in my home office, banned from doing anything but shopping at the grocery store and ordering take-out.  It’s going on four weeks now – a very long time to do nothing but ponder things.

Apparently questioning my strong opinions formed over a lifetime by those around me who shared the same thought has become my new normal.

I think it all started with a black President who, I believed, wasn’t acting as “my President,” because he was shining light on the fact that freedom and opportunity may not be as equally distributed as I’d thought. Honest white cops who held a prejudice against black people were simply informed by the fact that blacks were more often in trouble, right?  That’s why they were more cautious, and perhaps drew their firearm more frequently when approaching blacks. Perhaps.

This challenge to my paradigm wasn’t instantaneous.  It evolved over several years, as events occurred. But there were whiffs of prejudice you could begin to hear in dialogue.  People on either side of the fence were jumping in to defend their actions, a little more loudly with each event.

It hit home for me a little bit more when Roger Ailes and Harvey Weinstein were called out for the pigs they were.  Those nagging “just below the surface feelings” that women weren’t quite as far along in equality as I’d believed grew with every news release.

But they also made me revisit my own past as a woman in a man’s world.  I was successful without compromising my own values. Was I just lucky?

As all of this pondering mess was swirling around my head, we entered a new election where our options were a woman or a womanizer. I didn’t much care for either, honestly.  I was looking for credibility, experience, intelligence and a presence that would unite the country.

And here we are….more polarized than ever. I see MAGA and wonder what is really behind the desire to make America great again.  I see fighting against immigration laws and worry about where my tax dollars will go. My swirling head has now become a tornado, and it’s starting to hurt.

Anger seems to be the currency of the day.  Who can generate more anger by their vitriolic and hateful words? Who can make the other side look worse?

The words to a song from Les Miserables got my attention the other day. “With so much anger in the land, how long before the judgment day, before we cut the fat ones down to size.” (Watch the video at the link. Sound familiar?)

As I listened to those words, I realized that I am angry. I saw a Facebook meme that helped me formulate why I am angry.

I think I’m angry because everyone thinks they’re right. But if everyone is right, and at the same time, everyone is different, where is the hope?

We can’t have it both ways. Or can we?

Maybe I’m just naïve but could the answer possibly be that we, as humankind, acknowledge that there are other wants, needs and opinions that are just as valid as ours?  Could it be that if we were to simply make the decision to look beyond ourselves and find the good in others, we might actually become better ourselves?

Is the only way to have it both ways, to let go of our own personal “ways” just a bit so that we can allow others to have theirs?

Perhaps we are afraid that if we let go just a little bit, “they” will win.  That’s a valid point and one I worry about.

So we just yell louder and hope to convince others.  How’s that working for us now?

I wish I had an easy answer.  All I have are questions, fears and anger.

Ah, how about this. We stop putting polarizing political memes on social media.  Instead, we encourage ourselves, our friends and our relatives to read various sources of news, including those they don’t agree with.

And then start listening.

We can even start a new hashtag – #standwithallofus.  Because it really is about all of us and the only way any of us can win is if we all win. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that we are all in this together.

 

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

3 thoughts on “We can’t have it both ways, or can we?

  1. We are all in this together, and I believe that most of us want the same things, but we go about it in different ways. I know that I try not to put others down, even when I disagree with their opinion. Then in deciding how to respond, sometimes I go back to what Mama taught me “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” That leads to worry that if we are all silent, nothing changes, or others think you agree with them. What is the answer? I’m not sure, but I do agree that we first need to listen to both sides before we crush others with hateful or inflammatory remarks.

    • I guess I’m not sure we all do want the same things. Where I have arrived is that we need to go deeper that headlines and sound bytes to better understand. We don’t do that. We (me included) get irate at a provocative headline and dig in. Do we all really want the same thing? Perhaps peace, love and brotherhood? Maybe, but each of those have myriad definitions. That’s what I have concluded with the simple statement “Make America Great Again.” What does that mean. Even in my family we are powerfully divided. But now we talk on the surface so we can never uncover the real definition.

      I appreciate your comment. Your point about staying silent is on target.

  2. What a thoughtful post. Like the cat and dog, it’s so easy to see things through the lens of a mirror instead of a window! I know I can do much better here and this post inspires me

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