“Everyone sees the world through his own green bottle.” –Stefan Novak
The obvious struck me recently, when I was feeling worn down from the tension in our nation, tension that trickles down into friendships and familial relationships so effectively that our now right wing government wishes it could clone the process to prove an economic point. I am chastised by my left wing friends for not doing enough or not doing it the right way. My right wing friends smile politely because I am being nice, and they have won the battle. But they don’t trust me either.
My friends from the left are addressing an acute problem in our nation, a problem that is obvious to half of us and nonexistent to the other half. This problem is the “fact” that our nation has elected a dangerous man to rule it, and that the integrity of the very election is in question.
That may be true. I do not know. I do not have access to classified information. I was not a fly on the wall of clandestine meetings. I do not know, and neither to they. They believe. Like, them I have my beliefs and observations. But I do not know.
John Trudell once said to remember that in the middle of believe is a lie. Remember that.
The second, and I think more important problem is chronic, and it is the hatred and lack of tolerance between the opposing wings of the eagle. This problem is bred from generation to generation in our country.
Like most of you, I’ve sat in a hospital room listening to doctors while my loved ones languished in bed. They were there due to an acute problem. If it didn’t get fixed, they might die. It was serious and commanded our attention. When it couldn’t be fixed, it was because of underlying chronic conditions that made treating the acute problem inadequate or impossible.
The left, or the resistance as it’s called in this incarnation, is obsessed with the acute problem. Much like the occupiers of the previous decade, they have bent their realities to address the crisis. They are fulfilling their sacred duties as citizens, and I am proud to live in a nation where they can do that with relative safety. In other nations, they would simply be shot or silenced in a different way.
I was once focused primarily on the acute as they are. It was 2003, and we were about to invade Iraq. I wrote. I phoned. I marched. I sat in the street with my comrades until the polite sheriff deputy helped me up, cuffed me gently, and took me to the paddy wagon. I took the witness stand to defend my actions to a contemptuous assistant DA. I actually got the judge to listen. I was strip searched and incarcerated for protesting in order to communicate my beliefs. I felt then that I had to do everything in my power to stop the president from invading the axis of evil. I yelled, “He’s not my president!” An alternative fact if there ever was one. I knew deep in my heart that we wouldn’t survive as a nation if Dubya were allowed to carry out his agenda.
I was wrong. We survived. It turns out I was correct that the Iraqi War did more harm than good to every country involved, and that it exacerbated the chronic problem of intolerance on a global level. Meanwhile, my strident actions diminished my relationships with those around me who were not of my echo chamber. Through my actions, I created a less tolerant environment.
A few days ago I tried an experiment on Facebook. I shared a post from Sarah Palin’s website, a post that from my perspective was misinformation. I don’t really know, though, and probably almost all of you don’t know either. To me, that’s less important than the fact that millions of people accept her truth without question. What’s important to me are the acerbic, racist, intolerant comments that someone who was close to being our vice president allows on her Facebook page. But the left is no better when it comes to name calling and ad hominem attacks. Their focus is simply different. People from each side behave like petulant children throwing tantrums, acting like bullies on the playground. Safe inside their cyber reality’s echo chamber, they lose touch with their humanity.
My experiment met my anticipated results. Even though I made my intentions clear by referring to the right-wing echo chamber, I was chastised for the post. The several comments I received indicated that few people bothered to click the link and see what the opposing side believed.
And so the chronic problem becomes cancerous, and I fear soon incurable. The surgeon will sigh sadly and tell us there is nothing we can do to help the acute problem of our poor choice in leadership. The body of citizenry itself will be past saving; there will be no point.
A day after I posted my experiment, I received a private message from one of my very far left friends. The Sarah Palin link was attached. “Thank you,” my friend said, and went on to say that he has been trying to make himself watch Fox News so that he can better understand and relate to the opposing wing. He agrees that this is imperative. He recognizes the chronic as well as the acute. It speaks volumes about our nation’s climate of discourse that he felt the need to express his gratitude privately rather than on my public page.
Last week, a couple hours from here, the emergency spillway to the tallest dam in our nation was in danger of imminent collapse. Nearly a quarter million people were evacuated, and hundreds of them came to a town near the farm. The same people who spew horrible insults to those who dare disagree with them turned into compassionate creatures, opening their homes, dropping supplies at the fair grounds, offering cash for gas, food, and supplies. They did not ask who supported our president, who believed the election was valid. They did not stone or spit on those who believed differently. They accepted the humanity of all. They stepped up and helped. I wonder how many new friendships were made, and how, once social media connections were shared, jaws dropped in horror upon the realization that in a moment of human “weakness” they had aided their enemy.
Ideally, the doctor can treat the acute and also address the chronic problem that complicates matters. This is often accomplished through diet and lifestyle changes. In the case of the two factions, the mindless diet of truncated, false information on social media is exacerbating the problem. If we as a society begin to practice the mindful and critical ingestion of media, we’d take a huge step in the right direction.
Or is crisis the only antidote to the chronic problem that divides us? Tolerance seems off the table. And without mindful care and critical thought, truth becomes invisible, nearly impossible to find. Humans behave collectively as reptiles suddenly lacking a tail, writhing from the brain stem in incomprehensible rage. Without an attempt from those in both factions of our nation to create one-on-one bonds with fellow Americans—regardless of political views—we have no hope to remedy the chronic condition that threatens us. The acute will come and go, leaving us weaker with every bout, until we have nothing left to fight with, and nothing to fight for.