I knew they were out there lurking in the shadows. I even knew some of them casually. And I have attempted relevant conversations with some, as in: “Tell me what you believe to be true.” Santa Claus? Peter Pan? The Tooth Fairy? The election was stolen? People are dying from taking the vaccine? Covid is all a hoax to bring money into the coffers of Big Pharma?
But I give you one person I thought I knew personally – for beyond thirty years. She’s been living on the other coast since 1987 when we drove adventurously cross country together. Subsequently, we kept in touch by phone plus all the newly developed communication goodies just short of face to face. Life happened to both of us, and we connected again personally about five years ago—during a long-planned run-a-way 5 day visit on a mountainside in Sedona. We mostly talked outdoorsy stuff – personal development stuff – consciousness, books, art, people, and somehow avoided politics. Recently, we have become weekly zoom buddies, dining together virtually, sharing recipes and every day nitty gritty-ness, defying the constraints of the 3 hour time difference.
Here’s the sticky part. She’s a hard-core “anti-vaxer.” Who’da guessed it? I’m a political junkie, and I watch the “Liberal” cable news stations obsessively. I am aware of my own biases, and fight them daily. I try to give credence to responsible people who express views different from mine, and encourage dialogue about our differences. Unlike many others I know who are so deeply entrenched in blind ideology, I do listen attentively and am willing to validate and sometimes even be swayed by the rationale of those who are equally passionate about a position divergent from mine.
Needless to say there are those who are as solidly convinced of the validity of their own dogma as am I, and chances of dislodging them from their positions are– as the cliché goes – slim to none. The way in which we address those differences, both the oral language and the body language can either shut down or encourage a mutually enriching relationship. It begins with an acknowledgement of the sincerity of the “belief,” followed by “walking-on-egg-shells” kind of steps that seek to clarify those beliefs.
Too many people I know will dismiss “those people” with a flip of the hand and a curt, “I don’t even want to know them.” And yes! Sometimes, it’s a struggle. But such are the current sad conditions that lead to an insurrection mentality. Although I do not adhere to the extremist conclusion that “there are good people on both sides” I do know that there certainly are SOME good people who disagree with me on many issues.
But current times and circumstances differ in ways we can hopefully address, albeit with cautious cynicism. Greed, fear, a need to cling to the status quo, 100% reliance on false information which is increasingly difficult to dispel, and/or to provide tangible evidence to the contrary, transforms us into gladiators in a Roman convention hall. Acquiring the skills that foster a mutuality of respect, requires a defiance of the new habits that society has allowed itself to accept. We have become too prone to making judgments about others based on one singular characteristic that is not the totality of “the other.”
It hurts me in the heart to acknowledge that some of the people I characterize as “awful, extremely stupid and gullible, blind, morally wrong, and even dangerous,” also love family, children, flowers, books, mountains, beaches, sports, a good laugh, some iteration of a god, and their country as they see it. In other words, there is what I interpret as a dialectical condition that exists in simultaneous behaviors. And I am loathe to articulate a one sided condemnation of the person—while feeling free to articulate a condemnation of that person’s specific acts that are a personal anathema to me.
I willingly admit that I don’t know everything. And although I believe in the substance of what I am told by some specific media outlets – there is always room to question. May humanity never relax the need of the collective unconscious to continually question.
And you know what?! There are questions in life to which there are no satisfactory answers. Stable people learn to live with that.