"If I ruled the world,
Every man would be as free as a bird
Every voice would be a voice to be heard..."
~ Cyril Ornadel, Leslie Bricusse
This has been a tough week. I have watched with dismay as this President signs executive order after executive order that I disagree with. I have serious concerns about his mental health and the agenda of many of the people he surrounds himself with. I can't believe that the interference of a foreign government, let alone Russia, hasn't raised more of an outcry nationwide. I have watched demonstrations that remind me of the divisiveness of the 60's that tore apart our families and communities. I fear our very democracy is being eroded before my eyes, fed by the beliefs of a small segment of our population with little regard for the needs or values of the larger whole, even blatant disregard.
I want to think "we are better than this." But that belief is being tested almost everywhere I look. When lies are called alternative facts and people brag about posting false stories, when basic Constitutional rights (freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of assembly) are threatened, when I see resistance that looks as ugly as that which is being resisted, when I see and hear behavior I would have chastised a 10 year old for, I am at best stunned, at worst saddened and afraid. So....
If I had my way -
- we'd challenge our generalizations - not all Republicans support this president and his policies; not all Muslims are terrorists; not all Christians are Evangelical; not all Democrats are Progressives; not all Pro-Choice supporters advocate abortion; not all voters who didn't vote for him voted for her; not all who voted for him are racist, etc., etc.
- we'd "seek to understand, then be understood" - whether in personal conversation or on social media, we'd ask more questions for clarity; consider at least a point, if not the entire perspective, that is being made; provide feedback for understanding (even if not in total agreement) before countering with our own points of view.
- we'd move beyond blame, especially overarching blame of a single group of people - there are many factors that contributed to the outcome of this election, many groups that can be pointed to for the roles they played or didn't play; we'd do well to remember that blame elicits more defensiveness than ownership.
- we'd tamp down the flames of hatred rather than fan them - name-calling, profanity, insult, ridicule and rudeness are running rampant; hatred is being justified by anger; respect is being demanded without being given; "argument turns too easily into animosity; disagreement escalates into dehumanization." (George W. Bush)
- we'd be as aware of our own biases, as much as we are the biases of others - President Bush said it beautifully in Dallas, "too often we judge other groups by their worst examples, but judge ourselves by our best intentions." I also would add that too often we justify with single anecdotes rather than patterns of behavior, belief rather than fact.
- we'd do our homework - we'd learn from history - ours and that of other countries, understand how easily populism morphs into Fascism, what trade wars can do to an economy, how easily the fabric of a society is torn apart and how long it takes to sew it back together again. We would demand more than platitudes and slogans, proof and plans, not mere promises; personal character would be as much a criteria for success as wealth is.
- we would be engaged citizens - we'd understand how our government is supposed to operate; we'd understand something about basic economic theory; have some knowledge about the rest of the world; at least we would vote...and rid ourselves of the gerrymandering that has contributed to the belief - and in many cases, the reality - that our vote doesn't matter.
But most of all, we'd look for ways to pull together, rather than divide further - we'd seek compromise, solutions that work for the largest segments of our population, not just a single segment or group. Next month I will be 76. Although I am concerned for my own future should this regime impact Medicare and Social Security and health care as they promise to, I am not going to be here in 15 to 20 years, maybe less than that. But my nieces and nephews, my grand-nieces and grand-nephews will be. If I had my way, they will enjoy the opportunities I did. They will live in an environment of clean air and clean water. They will feel safe to express their political views, to practice the religion of their choice, or no religion at all.
I know I will never rule the world. But at least, I can still hope "this is not who we are."