This country is a cancer that disfigures the landmass of North America The natural wonders we once lauded in lyrics are defiled every day There is a special kind of shame that comes with celebrating years of injustice and genocide Gloating over our stolen home as we are still unearthing the dead bodies of native children The constant reminder of those that have died for us with un-ironic exclusions The bittersweet remembrance of a little white Christian girl who passionately loved her country A tiny heart that swelled with pride and gratitude for the red, white, and blue Innocence ripped away unveiling the horror of the truth Today is a day of mourning for reflection and repentance for the atrocities of our forefathers A god that would bless this nation is no god of mine
Despite it all I still love this country not the people or the putrid institutions or the racist men who impose them I love the land that spreads beneath my feet from sea to shining sea the majesty of the earth and all her creatures I'm proud of our prairies not the president I praise the coastlines not the constitution written for rich white men The expansive flowing fields the splendor of the snow capped mountains the acres of old growth forests the vast diversity of lifeforms that flourish here under blue skies I won't stand to salute a flag or die for a monstrous lie but I kneel in awe before the earth and count the blessings bestowed upon me by her beauty
Corporate greed clacking claws against the protruding ribcages of starving children jostling them to see if any stray coins come tumbling out The price of preventing protections for people is cheaper than paying your fair share putting a foot on the throat of democracy was easier than we thought America's cruelty is compounded by unending attempts to indoctrinate the children into believing they'll be given a fair chance the stark contrast cuts deeper when you realize the rug as been pulled out from under you The peasants of the past were probably much happier for not being promised life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness at least they were spared the pain of feeling foolish for looking forward to a lie
Capitalism slinks through filthy city streets with bloodied paws and heaving breath snarling at the huddled masses it had once offered hope There are plenty of those who still believe the lie we were all promised of possibility and upward mobility productivity and endless progress Hungry eyes follow trim and tailored suits down the avenue of ivory towers chapped lips mouth the words "if only I was good enough" from sallow faces with sunken cheeks The flurry of chaos a flock of flapping pigeons fighting over forgotten french fries idolizing the eagles they were told they might someday be The sickening inward momentum spurred onward by imagined sins stealing the joy out of simple pleasures productivity and profit replaced purpose long ago Corruption and greed infiltrate everything every soul a commodity to be exploited and consumed egregious inequality passed off as objective justice sour, scornful faces point fingers at the people who are suffering It's your fault if you fail the mantra of Manhattan sowing self hatred within misfortune the cruel optimism of the elite blame handed out as bread Don't fall for the fiction that this system is fair the land of the free is stained with red blood, green bills, and the rusty metallic taste of coins
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I work with a lot of different local law enforcement officers. All but one of them that I know of are staunch conservatives. Most of the friends we have at the local sheriff’s office know that my coworkers and I don’t hold the same beliefs, so we all show each other courtesy and respect by not discussing politics in each others’ company. However, a lot of the small municipal police stations will send a trooper out once in awhile that wastes no time in telling us all about the latest conservative conspiracy theories, with blatant disregard for what our political leanings are.
I’m someone who goes out of my way to make sure I am not offending or upsetting anyone, especially in a work environment. I’m not above discussing politics, but I’m sure to get a feel of the audience I have before doing so. It never really made sense to me why these officers were so eager to bring up these topics among mixed company. Yesterday it finally dawned on me though. Not only do they not care if you agree with them or not, they are pleased with themselves either way. If you agree, then they’re happy. But if you disagree they’re equally satisfied. In the latter case they’ve successfully “owned the libs” and “triggered” people, which they seem to enjoy for some reason that is beyond me.
I try not to become upset by the outrageous things they say and believe. I know I have absolutely no chance of changing their minds. Instead, I try to use their openness about these topics as an opportunity to ask questions and find out what exactly the other side is being told and subsequently believing. I’m also curious to know what their thought process is when exposed to this false information. To what extent, if at all, are they employing critical thinking skills? The more practice I get with these situations, the easier it becomes to diffuse my anger with genuine curiosity.
Yesterday the cop that came told us about a story where a man was told he was going to die of Covid. He was in the hospital on a ventilator and there was nothing more the doctors could do. According to this cop, the family begged for Ivermectin, the doctors refused (because it is not an effective treatment for Covid), and the family proceeded to petition the court to grant them access to the drug. In the cop’s version, the court ordered the doctors to comply with the family’s wishes, and the man miraculously made a full recovery.
Now I didn’t think much of this story. I was skeptical that it was even true, but either way it didn’t really matter. Even if it had been 100% true, that wouldn’t be relevant evidence that Ivermectin was the cause of his recovery. One anecdotal example is not enough to prove anything. Especially when the body of scientific evidence and controlled studies have shown the opposite. However, I was absolutely shocked to discover that this was not even an accurate version of the story.
I was telling my sister about it later that night. I don’t keep up with the news anymore, so I knew nothing about it, but she told me that story was actually on the news. Although the news story was identical to this officer’s up to a certain point, it diverged entirely at the end. The real story was that the court denied the family’s petition for the drug (because it’s a horse dewormer, not a Covid treatment), the man did not take it, and he died in the hospital exactly as the doctors predicted. Now I knew that the divide between political parties in this country is worse than ever, but I had no idea that there was this level of discrepancy between the information both sides are receiving.
I’m truly at a loss to even imagine a way that our country and the world at large will ever be able to come back from this age of polarity and misinformation. It’s no longer merely a difference of opinion, perspective, or interpretation between liberals and conservatives. These two groups are now living in completely different realities. While I understand that the propaganda the right is being fed is usually obviously false and laughably ridiculous, it does make me less likely to believe any news sources about anything regardless of whether I agree with/like what they say or not.
I think more and more people are starting to feel the way that I do. There is no more trust when it comes to facts, assertions, or “truth” regardless of the source. It feels like as a species we’ve lost all bearing on reality. It makes me wonder, and quite frankly fear, what that will mean for us going forward. As a child we are taught that there are facts and opinions. We’re taught how to identify the difference. Yet now it feels like there are only opinions. We’re never taught that even facts can be manipulated and skewed by our personal beliefs and expectations. If you want to find an article or even a scientific study to support just about anything you believe, you can find one.
I have been disheartened by this ever since I realized it, yet I still believed that if we had the time, effort, and access to resources, there was a real truth somewhere to be found and proven definitively. Now I don’t know if I even believe that. In today’s world, with so much knowledge and scientific data available to the general public, it feels like we are more lost in intellectual obscurity than ever before. It does give me more sympathy for the other side though. Hell, if I was constantly being bombarded with the stories and supposed facts that they are, I’d likely be just as angry and frustrated.
Instead of anger, all I feel is hopelessness. There is no urge in me to try to fight what I believe to be a futile battle to return to any sense of middle ground as a nation. I fully believe the divide between our realities will continue to grow wider and wider. I’m not sure how that is going to turn out, but I can only image it is going to be ugly. Yet, I see no possibility for intervention or reunification. All that’s left to do is wait and watch this slow motion train wreck proceed.
Avoiding our emotion is an American past time. We pass this down from one generation to another, adding on layers of fear and shame as we go until not only are we afraid to cry or be nervous, but also afraid of the way others will judge us for feeling these ways. I learned the other day that other countries don’t have the same desperation to escape even mild sadness the way Americans do. There is much more complexity and grey area to the range of emotion overseas. Many countries have words about feelings that cannot even be accurately translated into English. The nuance simply doesn’t exist here.
It’s also interesting to consider the wise advice from centuries ago in the east, such as the idea that trying to avoid our suffering only causes us to suffer longer, is just now being proven by science. Unsurprisingly studies show that people that view most of the emotions besides happiness negatively are more likely to end up being unhappy. In other countries there is room in the language, in the culture, for happiness to reside alongside things like grief, sadness, anger, anxiety. We have convinced ourselves in this country that all these emotions are mutually exclusive.
One of my blog notes was listed as “writing about anxiety as a friend” for months now. After initially writing the idea down, each time I read it I was perplexed. What on earth could I have possibly meant by that? I find it humorous now that I remember my intention. It’s hard for me to even hold this perspective in my mind for too long. I have spent my whole life viewing my anxiety as the enemy, my kryptonite.
I’ve just started to give myself permission to look at it another way. If I imagine my anxiety as a separate entity, I am able to look at it more objectively, to offer it compassion instead of impatience and disdain. When I start to feel that tension building in my chest, pulling at me. I imagine instead a small child, maybe even myself as a child, tugging at me instead. “I’m scared,” she says. And instead of shaking her off roughly and pressing on or running away from her, my response is now to crouch down, to take her hands, to tell her it’s okay, we’re safe. It feels so good to just offer your emotions acknowledgement. To say to them: I see you. I hear you. Thank you. We’ll be alright.
For most of my life, my anxiety was a cue that it was time to start thinking about all the ways things could go wrong or all the reasons I am a broken person. I took it as a signal that something is wrong out in the world as well, that I should hide myself away. I’ve realized though that there are many other ways to interpret these uncomfortable emotions. Here’s a recent example of what I mean:
Yesterday my office was putting on a Halloween fundraiser. I was to attend to help out with selling raffle tickets and to stay afterward to clean up. Although I was excited, I was also anxious about this all week. I was worried about having such a busy Saturday, about whether or not I’d even be able to stay awake all night after waking up at 6AM. Now, while these were valid concerns, they weren’t things I could run away from or avoid. They were things I had to face. My anxiety wasn’t telling me that I would fail or that things would go badly, it was just saying “I’m scared.”
And it’s okay to be scared. Being scared doesn’t always mean that we should run away. Sometimes it is just a signal from our bodies that we need some extra love and reassurance. Let yourself know that you’ll be there, that’s you’ll be okay, no matter what the outcome. When I try to avoid my anxiety that dense little ball of tightness in my chest seems to become bigger and bigger until I can hardly breathe. It demands my attention, but I am doing everything in my power to look away. What a miraculous difference I feel when instead I turn toward that feeling. Just holding our emotions in awareness seems to let them relax.
It’s time for us to do the work to change our response to unpleasant emotions. Some day I hope that we can all see our emotions as an opportunity to offer ourselves kindness, instead of reasons to run away from ourselves. You don’t have to do anything in particular to offer kindness either. It’s whatever kindness looks like to you. How would you comfort that small girl on your sleeve? Maybe she needs a hug or a hot drink and some time to sit and breathe. Maybe she needs rest or a reward. There are countless ways for us to give ourselves loving kindness. In my experience, just having the intention of kindness is enough to make a world of difference. Even if that just looks like saying to yourself, “I don’t know how to make you feel better, but I want to. I love you. I’m here for you.”
Anxiety is not our enemy. Anxiety is a small friend, asking for support. Let’s practice offering it that support instead of neglect or displeasure. Anxiety is just a feeling, just a message from our bodies. We are the ones who have the power to interpret that message. We’ve been mistranslating it for so long, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn to see it for what it really is. Anxiety is not a cue that you are in danger or damaged. It’s a cue that you are in need of tenderness and love in order to keep going. Things that we all need. Things that we can all easily learn to give to ourselves. Things that can help us associate anxiety with self care instead of fear. Tend to that little child inside of you today. Don’t turn away. She’s a friend.
Up until I was around 20 years old, maybe even older, I didn’t really know very much about politics. I honestly wish I could go back to those simpler times. It feels like I had a lot less to worry about back then. It’s always easier not to know. My entire family are democrates, so that is about as far as my political awareness went. I was taught vaguely that poor/low-income people were democrates, rich people were republicans. A very simplified explanation of the two parties in America, but I still believe it holds up. At least that’s what you would expect.
As I got older I came to find that there are tons of poor people voting passionately against their own interests. A good portion of the republican base in fact. I was astounded even more when I became a social worker and got to listen to clients who could hardly survive on the small amount of government assistance they received simultaneously complain about “lazy, good-for-nothing” people taking advantage of the system and voting to cut social security benefits. They seemed totally disconnected from the fact that they were the people their beloved Fox News hosts were referring to when they condemn these societal moochers.
I guess they thought it couldn’t have been in reference to them, because they were good people. They hadn’t done anything wrong. They weren’t worthless, scheming, monsters taking advantage of other people. Yet they were still quick to jump on the bandwagon of hate, directing it at some imaginary, caricatures of people that were making it harder for people like them who really do need that help to be taken seriously. It always broke my heart to meet clients that continuously tried to justify their need and convince me that they weren’t just “some drug addict” or something.
What has been reminding me of all of this lately, is the controversy over the unemployment income many Americans have been relying on since this pandemic began over a year ago. Everyone is able to see the absurdity of going out to find work, when you would receive more money by staying on unemployment instead. It is the perception of this absurdity that varies. Conservatives cry: You can’t give everyone so much money or else they’ll never go back to work! While liberals and progressives insist: If these people were paid a living wage to begin with, this wouldn’t be a problem. We must raise the minimum wage so that these people have an incentive to return to work.
Obviously I agree with the latter. The government didn’t just arbitrarily decide on an amount to pay, they based it roughly on how much these people would need to survive. If working full-time isn’t allowing you to earn that measly amount, clearly THAT is the problem. Not that the government is giving you enough to live on. This seems so simple to me, but I know that nearly half of the country would disagree. These types of disheartening conflicts are the reason that after passionately throwing myself into politics for a few years, I’ve begun trying to ignore it all together again. It is just to painful. It seems so hopeless. I’m tired of fighting.
One of the main things I don’t understand though, is what other people think the government’s purpose is. I’m starting to think my idea of it has been misguided and idealistic. It seems like throughout school I was taught that the government, at least in America, was established “for the people, by the people.” I was under the impression that it’s only purpose was to organize our collective resources as a nation so that we could best serve the entire population. In my mind, government was just a way to work together as a society so that we could accomplish things we wouldn’t be able to as individual citizens. Not only that, I thought it’s purpose was to provide a safety net for the most vulnerable among us, to help people. Not only for moral reasons, but to the ultimate benefit of the whole. Having a system to take care of the less fortunate gives those people the opportunity to some day give back to society again. At the very least it would deter them from criminal activity, because they wouldn’t need to engage in that to survive.
I hear all the time that “it’s not the government’s job to support you.” But isn’t it though? Isn’t that why we have a government in the first place? To take care of our citizens? I’m often tempted to ask these people what they think the government’s job is, if not to protect us and support us. I’m trying to stay curious and not let the unsettling mindsets of so many people get to me too much. It’s just not worth the grief it causes me. And I’ve accepted that fighting about it won’t make a difference. All I can do is watch is stunned silence, or turn away.
Ever since I was very young, I was taught the importance of voting. In school we learn about how hard our country fought for individual freedoms and the ability to choose those who govern them. We’re taught that even though we are only one person, our say matters and can lead to change. These values are the heart and soul of the United States.
However, it seems that this principle applies in many other areas of life outside of politics, but continues to go unnoticed by many. What else has history taught us? That money makes the world go ’round. Therefore, as individuals and as a society, we need to pay attention to and be cautious of what we spend our money on.
For each item that you buy, you are casting your vote that you would like to see more of this product and everything that went into making it and getting it to your local stores. In this way, becoming a vegan can make a practical influence on the world. This is the connection I think many people are failing to make. It may be easy to love animals, yet still find it easy to eat meat because there is such a large distance between the practices of factory farms, the act of killing an animal and seeing its pain and suffering.
Sadly, ignoring the harsh realities behind the steak on your dinner plate will not make them cease to exist. Each time you stop at McDonald’s, buy deli meat, or pick up some bacon for your breakfast the next morning, you are casting your vote as a citizen of this society. You are saying you approve and support the product and its means. We can never expect these horrible atrocities and business practices to stop if we continue to finance them. We need to stand up and make an effort to produce the change we want to see in the world.
Don’t vote for violence. ❤