When I was a little girl, my sisters and I invented a game to make cleaning the basement (aka: lair of imagination and awesomeness) more exciting. We sat on the basement stairs with a stopwatch and took turns running into the playroom for 60 seconds at a time – cleaning as much as we could before the clock ran out. We’d race back to the stairs, tag the next sister in line, and she’d begin her 60-second assault on whatever mess we’d created. It was fun to see how much we could accomplish in rushed one-minute intervals. We didn’t have time to consider the entire big-ass disaster…we raced into the room and tackled whatever we came upon first, one thing at a time.
I am overwhelmed. My country is deeply, deeply divided. According to the news (I use that term loosely) and most of my teachers, the sky is falling. People everywhere are furious, afraid, and combative. I do not participate in social media, but from what I hear, Facebook and Twitter feeds have become hateful battlegrounds for the politically polarized. Folks seem to have parked themselves in one of two extreme camps: feverish and resolute in their belief.
I am overwhelmed because I am fine and I also fear I should be doing more and then I wonder what’s the point? The whole system (locally, nationally, globally) is a hot fucking mess. No one seems willing to listen or discern. No one seems teachable. Sometimes I wish I was more of an idiot…one of the masses who blindly follows the well-rehearsed, purposeful, fear-based rhetoric of the ‘right’ or ‘left.’ How much simpler life would be if I identified with a “side.” Fortunately, (unfortunately?) I identify as: human with myriad questions and disdain for the two-party political system.
I am overwhelmed because I am a person of privilege and I don’t quite know what to do with that. Yes, I am white, but I believe the umbrella of privilege extends beyond race. I am a person of privilege because I have a family bursting at the seams with love. I am a person of privilege because I received a wonderful education and lived in a home where reading was encouraged and my parent’s helped me with my homework and we ate dinner together and attended church together and played together. I am a person of privilege because I have a great job and more income than I need. I want to do something with all of my privilege because I believe that’s what God wants us to do – to love one another above all else, to give what we have to those who need it, to serve. But what can I do when I feel so insignificant and the issues are so huge?
I am overwhelmed because our government (ALL sides of government) has turned education, healthcare, criminal justice, and so many other institutions into businesses with the sole intention of creating profit. What can I do when the money generated from those institutions pays decision-makers to create laws aimed at further increasing the profitability of those institutions, no matter the casualties? What can I do when consumerism is king and ‘success’ is measured in stuff and today someone will purchase a $250,000 Bentley while someone else digs through a pile of garbage in the hopes of finding dinner? Is that just the way of things? Am I anti-capitalism? What can I do when it all works together: economics, education, oppression, cultural history, institutionalized racism and sexism and injustice and hunger and addiction and environmental degradation and warfare and agriculture and human rights and heath crises and media and on and on and on and on. What can I do when America feels like the land of the ‘me’?
What can I do when people are suffering down the street, throughout my country, and around the world? What is fair? What is right? What is true? What is honorable? What would Jesus do? Is there a place for any of that in politics or is the world too complicated and scary and fucked up for that kind of hippy-dippy malarkey? I genuinely don’t know.
I am overwhelmed because I don’t believe anything will actually change under the current power structure. I am disenchanted. Greed is our ruler – to believe anything else is ignorant. The “people” were forgotten long ago. Corporations govern; the dollar is king. While we bitch at one another on Facebook and cling to divisive labels: Democrat, Republican, Liberal, Conservative…and the ideologies associated with those labels, there are people at the tippy-top of this bullshit structure laughing in their private jets and all the way to the bank.
Laying in bed at night, I find myself scouring the internet for fact-based news and guidance from people who are working to achieve a better world. What is the most effective use of my time and resources? What can I do? What can any of us do? At the same time, my life is largely unaffected by any of the outside noise because I am blessed beyond measure and maybe I should just block it all out and focus on myself? That’d be easier, right? Who needs opinions, right? Very quickly, I find myself feeling hopeless and disconsolate. I am without answers. The mess is just too big.
But then I remember the cleaning game we invented when I was small. I’ve decided that it’s true – there’s a lot I don’t know about international policy or refugees or terrorism or economics or global stability. However, I can focus not on the big-ass disaster that is our current reality, but on my little piece of the pie as I meet it each and every day.
I can remain teachable and open to new information. I can be kind to the people I encounter at the grocery store. I can disagree with you but respect you. I can love you…no matter your religion, race, income, nationality, or political beliefs. I can open doors for people and smile and say hello. I can be a steward of my resources, which means researching before purchasing and using my wallet as a ballot. I can pray. I can serve. I can volunteer. I can read and seek truth and support organizations I believe are doing good work. I can stick with my confusion and my questions because at least it means I care.
I can’t help but wonder if the divisiveness of the two-party political system was designed purposefully…with the intent of keeping us all stupid and fighting and fearful and distracted. I wonder what would happen if we were all required to shed the labels and start communicating with one another. I wonder if we’d find out that we’re all far more alike than we are different. I wonder if we’d agree on most things. I honestly don’t know. I genuinely wonder.
The only thing I know for sure is this: if you feel like I feel and you’re frozen somewhere in the middle of the mess, you can’t go wrong with this: focus on doing the next right thing, be kind, be teachable, spread love.