Happy birthday to this young and blundering country I call home. Today I celebrate one of my favorite holidays with pause and uncertainty.
It seems we Americans have forgotten how to have compassion, respect, and empathy for one another.
We are so naïve and entitled that we are laughing in the face of a pandemic even as it kicks our ass. We are pointing guns at children and ripping down our cities’ landmarks. The world is shaking its head at us in amazement and disdain as we destroy each other from within.
Individuals in America are so tied to their version of what is “Right” that they have become deaf and blind to any viewpoint that seems to veer from their own. We have become crazed with hate for the “other side,” whatever that may be. We assume that anyone who doesn’t do or say exactly what we want them to must be our enemy.
In the past few weeks friends, family, and strangers have called me everything from an ableist to a racist, a socialist, and a liberal puppet. I have been accused of squelching free speech and wanting to revoke the Bill of Rights.
I support social justice and equality, kids returning to school, safely reopening the economy, and wearing masks in public places. These are MY beliefs and my values. They are constantly evolving as I acquire life experience, listen to others, and learn. I am navigating the conflicting science and news reports just like the rest of us, trying to find the good in all this and do what is best for my family.
Many times, I have been the only person wearing a mask in stores and gas stations and received looks of mockery and derision by the other customers. I have asked people to respect the importance of Black Lives Matter regardless of the alleged political ties behind the organization of the same name. I have suggested that kids need the structure and stability of schools more than society needs them to isolate at home.
Other people may disagree with my views, and that’s ok. I try to hear them out and find compassion for what drives their vigorous opposition. Far too often, I am met with a punctuating “It’s my RIGHT!” or “You are wrong!” or “THEY are the ones with the problem!” Like toddlers throwing a fit, we are unable to hear anything else over the noise of our own wailing voices.
America, we need to start closing our mouths and opening our minds and our ears. LISTEN to each other. Stop seeking out arguments. Find instead what connects us and binds us together. It’s the only way we will make it through this alive.
Yesterday, on the way home from vacation, my family of four was pulling up to the drive-thru window at McDonald’s to get our breakfast when the cashier said that the woman in front of us in the red Volkswagen had paid for our food. “Happy Fourth of July,” he said. Surprised and grateful I leaned out the window, waved, and yelled “Thank you!” as the red car pulled away. A manicured, brown-skinned hand waved back.
Compassion. Respect. Empathy.
©Vixen Lea 2020