Sunday, January 31, 2010
How Do We Handle Loss?
It is tough for Americans to admit defeat. We are a society of believers in the dream of forever expanding... outward. We thrived for many years on growth, on more and more, bigger and better. And now we have moved into a constrained and restricted period and, frankly, that makes us angry. It makes us feel defeated. We are not a nation of folks who enjoy or even want to look within. Most likely we are fearful of what we will find there. It's not the unknown more readily conquered like the West or even the Middle East. A few years ago at the funeral dinner for my dad, soon after 9/11 and immediately after the invasion of Iraq, my brother, a regular working class guy who has busted his butt his entire life to take care of his family, said something that upset me at the time. He said (regarding the invasion of Iraq) that at least Bush "did" something. It was hard for me to take in. I had marched for weeks pre invasion against the "war" and here was my own flesh and blood condoning it. I felt separated from him and the rest of my family who never spoke up in dissent over what he was espousing. His second statement that we should just "blow them all off the face of the earth" I dismissed as hyperbole and silliness. But now I think, looking back, that his reaction was probably pretty significant and symbolic of the frustration many blue collars feel when confronted with "intellectuals" and left wing thinkers. They don't get "us" any more than we get "them". This has created a division in America that is a huge challenge. It is a tear in our fabric that needs to heal. Obama is trying and failing to heal it. After all he is a Democrat and an intellectual, subject to suspicion and a million projections on his very essence. And one wonders at times if he is not just another cog, nothing special, in the political wheel that drives America's policy. This split between the intellectual versus the regular guy is one reason why Coakley just lost in Massachusetts and why Kerry lost the Presidency a few years back as well. It is the college educated liberal versus the so called teabaggers. I don't know how to bridge that gap in our country any more than I know how to bridge the gap in my family. Having left Massachusetts and more significantly a working class life to embrace the artist's and the intellectual's way (I am after all a college teacher) has estranged me from my family in ways I can not fathom. It is the split between us and them. It is the division in America. And while America's slow demise, its collapse under its own weight, is maybe not such a terrible thing, I can understand why it feels that way to many. When you have been on top so long, it's a painful admission of defeat. It means you have to change. It's not easy having to change. I have trouble changing a small thing like washing dishes in the sink rather than the dishwasher. Would it really be possible for me to adapt to an entirely different way of life? After all, everything seemed to work so well for so long, it's only natural to wonder why everything has gone so wrong so quickly. Who do we blame? Well, the teabaggers blame the intellectuals and the intellectuals blame the teabaggers and we all blame "Washington". I suggest, however, that maybe things were only really okay in this country for a very short time, perhaps during WW2 when we had a clear and true threat and we could be heroes and fight for something no one could argue about: the human desire to be free. After all a nation built on the backs of slaves, how long can that nation exist without having to pay back what it took to get born? Now we are at payback time. Paying our debts, both psychically and monetarily, is the task we all now face for years of wealth and ease, for bigger and better. The expansion has ended and now we have to look elsewhere for growth, we have to look inward. That "eastern" concept feels a little alien to all of us. Even those who have been practicing yoga for a few years still stop at Starbuck's for their morning coffee, don't they? So what do we do now? Here's an idea. What about that place where we all reside, teabaggers, artists and intellectuals, Republicans and Democrats, that place of stillness we achieve now and then when the din of the forever babbling ceases and the world just is the way it is? In that here and now place, aren't we all really pretty much the same? Politics aside and in the hope that we can conquer a much more difficult inner terrain, maybe we need to BREATHE. That's it. Just breathe. Long, deep, clear and wonderful breaths. Maybe we all need to ride the wave of breathing. It's hard to be screaming at others if you are really breathing in the day. If you are really taking in the beauty that is life. Such a brief time we are here, spinning around in a larger and infinite universe. Maybe we just need to take care of one another, not in spite of but because of our differences. Now there's a thought.