Friday, February 3, 2017

Of Lives and Mattering

Sometimes I deeply regret the invention of the Internet.

Because of the instantaneous nature of virtual communication, even a poorly conceived concept can gain ground.  Its originators release the thought and watch it whip around the world.  They stare with varying degrees of chagrin or delight at the burgeoning shares, likes, and scowling faces as their brainchild tumbles down the hill gathering its immutable moss.

I've been reading a lot about perception, reality, and message as I grapple with my natural tendency to despise the current administration and all of its members and actions.  My stomach clenched at a short piece on NPR today claiming the new president "will keep some of Obama's policies in place".  I rejected any connection between the moral strength of the last eight years, and the ethical corruption of the two weeks that have just ended.

Then I took myself to task.  I realized that I had fallen into a dangerous trap.  While it's true that there is absolutely nothing about Donald Trump that I admire, respect, or consider beneficial; nonetheless, I should applaud anything he does to maintain the integrity of the successful two presidential terms which he follows.  Why, then, do I shudder, shirking from the implication that he might make a decision which benefits our nation?

We've become a polarized society.  We are red or blue.  The masses no longer tolerate any gradations on the spectrum.  I slink away at the blast of staunchly conservative rhetoric, clinging to my kind.  Where we formerly stood proud, now we stand strong.  Instead of crowing with glee, we blast in anger.  But we do it together, while those whom we condemn form an equally solid mass across the great divide of our fundamental differences.

When an idea whips around the Internet which threatens the perceived validity of either group, those fearing its message haul out their batons and beat it to a bloody mass.

That's what happened to the #BlackLivesMatter message.  No one should have minded the proclamation.  Certainly, I did not.  I completely agree with its intent as I understand what it originally broadcast. I see the slogan as a painful acknowledgment that for too long, in too many places, for too many people, the lives of people with darker skin than mine did not matter.  The concept of being guilty of being black after dark might make someone squirm but unquestionably has a frightening and documentable basis in the disproportionate number of arrests, tickets, stops, killings, and beatings that men, women, and teens "of color" have experienced in American society.

But the filter of fear turned the phrase into something ugly for some.  In response they blasted #BlueLivesMatter in defense of law enforcement; #AllLivesMatter to try to broaden the appeal of the original message; and a few random humorous variants to make a joke of it all or to create a buffer between warring factions.

I watched this happen with my own clumsy mixture of empathy and despair.

Do the lives of all Americans matter?  To me, yes. To everyone?  I do not think so.  I might be naive about some things, but the sting of racial insult lingers.  The burn of blood shed beneath a barrage of bullets hurled on the streets of our cities emits too strong a stench to be denied.

Here I would like to lay out some grand plan to mitigate this quagmire, to alleviate the burden of our divisiveness.  But I cannot.  Those who disagree with the values which I hold dear have taken over the reins of our nation's wagon and seem determined to drive us over the cliff.    Those who have come to our shores seeking their share of the amber waves of grain let their empty vessels fall from their hands.  Every day another startling revelation radiates from this new government and convinces me that no lives matter to those who have assumed the mantel of power except the lives of the rich, the white, the Christian, and the inner circle.

The tone and portent of the flood of executive orders depresses and terrifies me.  I see no real potential for the harmonizing of the divergent views in these United States.  But I love my country.  So I stand and wait.  I gather and write.  I protest and I rally.  I read and cogitate.  And when a hand reaches out to me, I entwine my fingers with those of my sisters and my brothers, no matter their color, no matter their religion, no matter the origins of their accents or the gender of their spouse.

  Through everything we face today, this truth persists:  All lives matter to me.  It is not much, but it's something, and I cling to it as the frightening days ahead unfold.

I waited for my cardiologist visit yesterday surrounded by hearts.  
Valentine's Day is my least-favorite holiday, 
but I'm thinking of finding new meaning in the concept of a day dedicated to love.

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