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Thursday, January 13, 2011

I Can't Keep Quiet Anymore

Full Disclosure: I am not a political pundit or trying to make a political statement.

I grew up in the 60s and 70s during a hippy dippy time of love, war, peace, sex, drugs, and rock and roll. My parents raised me and my little sister the same way millions of others raised their kids. With the belief that having and expressing your opinion was important, that if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything, and that anything worth having (from the cute boy in class and great shoes to the dream house in the suburbs and amazing job prospects) was worth fighting for.

They (being the collective "millions of others") also taught us the importance of respecting and appreciating that not everyone has the same opinions or values, and that our God-given freedom to have them, is what made America the greatest country in the world.

They taught us that engaging in a lively debate with someone who had a different point of view was enlightening. And that, along the way, we might learn something that would expand our perception, perhaps improve our way of thinking, making us more tolerant, appreciative, and kind toward others. We were taught that these things would make us stronger as individuals, communities, and ultimately, a nation.

We were also taught a harsh reality of life: that not everyone believes these things. Not everyone teaches their kids to play nice. Not everyone with a differing point of view respects those who don't think like they do. We were told that they may even do or say some horrible things as a way to be heard, but we were reminded that, like us, they were entitled to their opinion (after all, that's what free speech is all about) and that, thankfully, they were in the minority.

I, along with millions of others, got to live in this fantasy world until 2008 when a man who felt that he had what it takes to really make a difference in so many lives stepped forward to become the President of the United States of America.

Those who didn't agree with his views were not happy. And, they exercised their God-given right to say so. But, then something happened. Suddenly, they chose to make it personal. They chose to make it about skin color and sexual orientation and religious beliefs. They chose to rant without offering constructive solutions and point fingers without holding themselves accountable. They chose to believe rhetoric and people, who when given a microphone and camera, wielded a lot of power (and the capability to inflict a lot of damage) without really saying anything of value. They chose to be unbending and inflexible in their support of the opposing leaders who were helping (and encouraging) their followers to fan the flames.

What breaks my heart about all this is not so much that the fantasy world I happily lived in for 47 years has come to a screeching halt, it's that many of the "they", the collective millions who grew up with the same values I did, are participating in, and contributing to (excuse my french, Mom) this bullshit.

When my fantasy world was still my reality, I could see (or try to) all sides of just about any issue that affected mainstream society. I peacefully co-existed with family, friends, co-workers, etc. who had a difference of opinion. "I like red because..." one would say. "Well, we're going to hell in a handbasket without blue because..." another would say. And, then we'd admit that we could see both sides of the issue, laugh, kiss, and make plans for lunch.

Today, the new reality is much less peaceful. It's downright ugly. News about a church protesting a funeral of a little girl has so many things wrong with it, not the least of which are the words "church", "protesting" and "funeral" in the same sentence.

No, the ugly part, the really, really vile part of this is not that such disrespect or hate exists. It's not even that the members of a  "church", who supposedly worship the same God I do (and whom I believe is the only God) could be doing something in the name of expressing their opinions that so flies in the face of what I've been taught God would want for His followers. It's a difference of opinion that, despite what I was taught, I cannot, and will not, under any circumstances, ever, ever respect.

No. The worst part about my fantasy world coming to an end is far more awful and stomach-turning than I could have ever imagined. It's the reality that enough people are buying into the rhetoric and willing to be led by these crazies waving a bright, shiny object that "they" are no longer the minority. "They" are mainstream.

Which means that chances are good that of all the people I've known, respected, loved, liked, worked with, lived with, grew up with and had lunch with during the past 50 years, some of them may actually believe this crap.

Thankfully, I have not engaged in too many political discussions with too many people, so I don't really know who might fall into this category.

And, I'd like to keep it that way.

My personal plea to anyone I know is that you never tell me which side you're on. Having a difference of opinion no longer has the appeal it did when I was growing up.

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