When I went on hiatus in June, I said I was going to shut up and listen, and try to figure out something positive to do.
And then everything just kept getting worse. And then it got inspiring, and then it got worse again. Now we’re all just starring in our own versions of Groundhog Day, praying for time to move faster, for leaders who can think and care about something other than themselves, for safety and relief and help for health care and other essential workers, and for a return of common human decency and compassion.
Before the pandemic, when the shouting matches were mostly about immigration, not masks, I attended a town hall meeting held by my congressional representative. There were shouting people there. Fortunately, my seventh grade social studies teacher was presiding: she has held the post of town president for years, and has lost none of her fearsome, teacherly formidability. Her stentorian call to order and threat to expel misbehavers quelled the noise.
After the meeting, I encountered one of the shouters – the female half of a husband-wife team of shouters, and I asked her, “if you came across a person dying of thirst in the middle of the road, would you ask them if they were a citizen before you gave them a drink of water?” She said no.
When I reminded her that her obviously European heritage (this was before we had the “Karen” meme, but this lady was an aged, fearful, trembling, supercharged Karen presumably of the red-hatted type) meant that her family all started here as immigrants, she could barely contain her rage, shouting “No! THEY WERE SETTLERS!”
Let’s just let that land for a minute.
I haven’t figured out how to engage in useful dialog with shouting, red hatted, mask-free types yet, but I have recognized two things I can do: I can write, and I can ask good, and possibly challenging or impertinent, questions.
Before you say this is a cop out, that I should be out there in a yellow shirt with a Wall of Moms, let me say that I mostly agree with you, but circumstances require my presence at home.
I don’t flatter myself that anything I write or any questions I ask could possibly inspire change on a grand, or even micro, scale, but they might be helpful, or cathartic, or amusing, or thought-provoking, at least.
The writing is for readers who need a laugh, or need to “feel the feels,” as many in the writing community seem to like to say.
The questions will be offered in the hope of spurring discourse, or at least reflection, for long enough to get whoever reads them to stop shouting and think – perhaps, for example, about the existence of Native Americans, Madam “settler?”
When I started this blog I promised no politics. This was about working through grief, focusing on gratitude and being generous with love and laughter. But it was also supposed to be, in part, about letting go of fear, and being courageous enough to be who I am – vulnerabilities, imperfections, impertinence and all.
In a distant other life, in law school and around the dinner table with my long-departed Dad, I was taught by the Socratic method – my law professors, or my dad, would ask a series of questions designed to lead me toward a solution to a problem, or a point of view, or a realization of a fact I hadn’t seen before.
As we’ve seen time and again, people in power don’t like to be led down paths of self-examination, and they don’t like to be asked questions that expose their weaknesses and their lies. That didn’t end well for Socrates.
But his method of teaching survived. And asking questions isn’t just for teaching – it’s also for learning. So I’m going to ask questions from time to time, here – I’ll probably write about questions I wish others had asked, perhaps at Senate hearings (yellow card! politics!) or of people who refuse to wear masks (masks are NOT politics – just basic human compassion and decency – oh, wait, we’re talking about asking people who refuse to wear masks why they won’t behave with basic human compassion and decency) or directed toward people who can magically think their way into believing that a pandemic that has sickened over 17.3 million people and killed 674,000 globally (as of ten minutes before I’m writing this, according to Google), is a hoax.
So here are my first two questions:
How is populated land “settled?”
Are individual rights and the common good mutually exclusive?
Good to be back, doing what I hope will be some small good. I remain,
Your mask-wearing, hand-washing, fretful, and nowhere near as brave as I’d like to be,