In a Land of Strangers

on

“No man, no madness

Though their sad power may prevail

Can possess, conquer my country’s heart

They rise to fail”

‘Chess’ is a musical written in the early 1980’s. These lyrics to “Anthem”, its signature song, have been heard and felt in our souls perhaps no more keenly than now.

I have always felt that we the people of these United States of America were more than our politicians represented us to be.   The rest of the world may see the President and think of him as being the face of our nation, but we always knew differently.   As corny as we might view the whole melting pot scenario to be, there has never been a better description of us.   Ancestry DNA rises in popularity because not only do we want to know more about our ancestors, but we want to compare notes with our neighbor and marvel at the diversity of this country’s population.

Nobody would expect us to be like-minded about everything, especially about our leaders. We are who we are today because of the absence of like-mindedness, because of people who were so contrary that they stood up and fought to prove themselves. Or to do what mankind said could not be done.

Up to now, we have managed not to lose our humanity no matter how big the disagreement. We’ve come close. Very, very close. But we’ve always found our way back to each other.   The Presidential election of 2016 feels like the end of something, with nothing to take its place.   I’m not saying this because my candidate lost.   As the election played out, I don’t think it would have mattered who won.

The honest truth is that I perceive Donald Trump to be a very dangerous man. When I look at him and hear him talk, I see someone who is flooding us with generalities, gross exaggerations and outright lies every time he opens his mouth, making up policies and positions as he talks.   He does this to reach the forgotten working class men and women, whether or not he believes or even remembers what he is saying.  And even if I were to conclude that he is a harmless, loud-talking asshat who is all talk and no action, there is the issue of the people he has surrounded himself with as advisors and cabinet appointees, not to mention his Vice President. These are people of the kind of action that has and will continue to benefit the super-rich while taking away the hard-fought rights of women, people of color and the LBGTQ community. These are not champions of the working class.

I cannot state the following clearly enough: This is MY view of him and MY opinion and MY fear. Your view, your opinion and your fear may not jive with mine. That’s called freedom. Our freedom as Americans.   If I am moved to speak out or act based on my views, I have the right to do so. You have the right to engage me in debate and take your own action.

Until now, we the people have been able to do these things in relative civility.   What in the name of all that is holy has happened to us?   I blame the 24/7 internet news media AND I blame social media.   There is a fine line between debate and disrespect.   Clearly, the line is different for everyone.   There are just enough people out there on both sides of the fence who see nothing wrong with name-calling and vulgarities to make a social media conversation into a minefield. Believe me, once you are the target of someone’s all-out, no holds barred wrath on Facebook, you will be forever wary… and…. much more prone to jumping to false conclusions to next time around. Multiply this by the number of people all over our country, never mind the world, who engage on Facebook and Twitter and it’s a wonder anyone trusts anyone anymore.

I can go days without a negative engagement on the election, but I am always aware of the undercurrent of tension. Because we’ve lost our trust in one another as a people, we are afraid to engage or even to make a casual joke about the election.   We know that roughly 50% of the voting population supported a candidate who made our blood boil and our stomach churn. Of that 50%, we know that a lot of those people had no real knowledge or passion but were merely voting for the least objectionable person. If you supported Hillary Clinton, you know that she received over 2.5 million more popular votes than her opponent in the largest voter turnout in our nation’s history.   If you supported Donald Trump, you know that he won the Electoral College vote by winning all of the swing states with a campaign that precisely read the pulse of the frustrated working class population of our country.

If God were going to be merciful and take pity on us, he would have arranged for one candidate to soundly trounce the other.  Instead, we find ourselves being put to this macabre test. I’ve been way out to lunch on various Presidential candidates over the years.   When they were trounced, I just had to accept that I was truly……. “out to lunch”…. and that it was time to move on.   This time, it was painfully, and for over 50% of the voters, heartbreakingly close.   Now, moving on is made ridiculously difficult for all sorts of different reasons. We continue to take jabs at one another on social media, trolling each other’s comments and activities and striking without warning with opposing comments of our own.   The obvious answer would be to walk away from social media.   Easier said than done when it is the #1 method of communication in our world today.  Probably the biggest shock for me was the realization that there were people who I thought to be like-minded and were either not at all…. or if they were…then at least not nearly as passionately like-minded as me. Not passionately like-minded enough to take a stand, to stand behind their beliefs in the face of pressure to accept Trump as our President, even when they are made to feel unpatriotic by doing so. I made a lot of assumptions for a lot of years.   And you know what they say about that. I have nobody to blame but me, and the price I am paying is a feeling of disillusionment and to a certain extent, disappointment in myself.

At times I feel like I’ve stepped through the looking glass. With a handful of exceptions, I am living in a land of strangers.   Hardly anyone is who I thought they were, and it seems that I am not the person they thought I was. Certainly I’ve had to seek out strangers to find people who share my concerns and beliefs with the same conviction.   It feels odd, but what other choice is there?   I can only hope that I am not condemned for acting on my beliefs by people who know me and have the means to accept me even if they don’t agree or understand.   I struggle every day to reciprocate, but the chasm seems as wide as the Grand Canyon. I cannot be alone in these fears and feelings…others must be wrestling with the same disillusionment.

America feels like the sane – if somewhat unpredictable and eccentric – relative who suddenly went off the deep end and is no longer recognizable as the person we once knew.

“How can I leave her?

Where would I start?

Let man’s petty nations tear themselves apart

My land’s only borders lie around my heart.”

I will never stop hoping for the return of the America that I believe in.

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