A man was telling how, a century ago, his father sought 20 acres in the middle of rural Pennsylvania so he could raise his children away from “the mean streets of Huntingdon.” (Huntingdon has a current population of 7,000. The word “mean” seemed hilarious, and I hope it referred to raccoons.)
Also, recently, a young couple near me was speculating about the best place to raise their toddler. Should you isolate them from exposure to harsh realities, or coach them through? That is, how do you teach children about “reality,” and also instill in them HOPE and JOY, and keep them safe?
This is playing into my feeling that our society has turned mean in the last two years. Yes, hate and meanness are being modelled by our leaders on a daily basis. And it is expressed by random “haters,” also on a daily basis, who are killing Muslim children in the formerly-safe suburbs or plowing their cars into crowds or blowing themselves up in popular cafes. Or posting vicious—the worst--things you could say, in great numbers, on social media.
We are hearing that some things we held precious are going to be destroyed: national parks, spiritual places on Indian reservations, whales and dolphins, and clean drinking water. Dog fighting is okay again. It’s okay to say you love dog fighting. BRUTES and BULLIES are in!
Yes, I think we have entered a dark age. And I believe we will come out of it.
But meanwhile, there is period (one year, a decade?) of visible evil and suffering. And yes, a democratic society voted for a leader who is bringing this catastrophe, possibly because they felt so hopeless already that they wanted the whole country to get blown up and suffer along with them. We are headed to be like the banana republics in South America, where the rich live in gated communities and drive from house to rich play-grounds in black-tinted limousines. Like Africa, where septuagenarians suck all the money out of the population, sock it into foreign bank accounts, and turn away from refugee camps full of starving, sick people (who comprise most of their society).
Yes, there are thinkers who say Africa will be saved by the youth, who will rise up and take power back.
Who will save us? Will there be enough leaders and activists to put jobs, health care, money and opportunity back into the hands of the majority of the population? Undo the “wired” capitalist systems that let billionaires avoid taxes, export jobs, exploit workers, make higher education exclusive again, and disdain charity? It doesn’t look like our elected leaders are willing to fix this. Those in power have reached levels of corruption and sell-out formerly seen in other countries.
While the pendulum swings between horrible and okay, in our daily political life, we have to find redeeming hope and joy, and not succumb to hopelessness and anger. Be more kind than we’ve ever been. Help others as much as we can. Random acts of kindness, tolerance, respect, and appreciation. Materially, most of us still live better than most of the world.
I am compartmentalizing. Most of my day, I try to behave like my best self, the person I would want to be in a good, spiritually ideal society. The kids need to witness decency and respect. People around us will see that and we can lift each other. But during other moments of the day, I am angry, incensed. Depressed, hopeless about the good things I value: equal rights, support for the weak and sick, equal opportunity. Social justice. We need to keep acting, and voting, for the values we hold.
Thanks to all the people who are RESISTING the transgressions against democracy, against civil rights, against charity and giving, and respect. I think we will prevail. I am sorry we could not take it for granted, and the election swung us into a dark age, making it hard work again.