in American Culture/

I Know You Are But What Am I?

So mad, so frustrated, so judgmental! At whom? The left and the right, the liberals and the conservatives. How dare either side judge ‘me’ when I’m so very busy judging each of you!! Ferociously, excoriatingly, ravaging my superior moral position condemning you to your stupid, stupid emotionally-driven positions and beliefs, projecting my own fears onto you.

What? You’re doing the same you say? Your positions and beliefs are more moral, more right? HA!

I’m Right, you think to yourselves.

No, I’m right!! And back and forth it goes, just like the adolescent, no, childhood game of “I know you are but what am I?” Judgers, all, or so it seems.

Polarization Is As Polarization Does

It has become so very, very hard to make any sense out of the individual and group positionalities with nearly all of them driven by emotionality, religiosity, self-righteousness on both sides. Both Sides! The polarization, the ridiculous name-calling on the left and right, conservatives and liberals, progressives and hardcore nationalists (not to be confused with patriots) has become so loud, so fierce, at the end of the day, all we’re capable of doing is screaming at one another metaphorically-speaking, though sometimes literally.

The resistance to listening, exercising courage to hear the other side is staggering. The other day, just before a group hike with friends, a woman asked how I was and I told her I was upset about what’s happening in this country, with the degradation and apparent loss of our democracy. She clearly did not want to talk about it. Regardless, I probed a little but said ‘no matter what side you’re on’ the noise drowns out any meaningful exchange.

Bubblicious

At one point I asked her how she hears the other side. She literally said to me “I don’t know anyone on the other side.” Well, that stopped me. I really have no idea what ‘side’ she is on but what hit me sonic boom-like was the impenetrable problem of living in the bubble of our own belief systems. How on earth can local, grass roots conversations even be had if we isolate, surrounding ourselves with only those folks who reinforce what we already believe?

Implied in that last sentiment is the refusal to take adult responsibility for our own emotions. Notice I said emotions, not positions, not beliefs, not even rational discussions in our living rooms, neighborhoods, social clutches, churches, synagogues, mosques (yes) and political organizations. The overriding engine of so much of what has happened in the breakdown in America has to do with fear. FEAR, that worst of four-letter F words is its fuel.

With fear comes, anger, rage, uncertainty, blame, judgement, condemnation, etc. serving up a cocktail of lethal proportions. It is always so much easier to project all of these interrelated feelings onto others. I’ve heard (and read online) members of both sides, from family to former coworkers to friends and acquaintances project, name call, denigrate, puffing up internally with ‘moral superiority.’ Hell, I’ve done it myself.

The F Word

If there’s anything we do have in common, it’s this: the fear of losing something of perceived value–from our party not in power, to jobs, to resistance, to creating a new life, to ‘those damn foreigners’ taking our livelihood and culture, to they’re all “rapists and murderers”, to guns, to health care, to the environment, and, and, and…. The list is endless. How on earth are we ever, ever going to get past the blame game if we can’t even acknowledge how scared we all are, how frustrated we all are. Ironically, fear and judgment are the most obvious qualities and characteristics that we share albeit from different points on the proverbial compass. It’s the primal response that kicks in all the blame, generating denigration, more blame and projection.

I know you are but what am I? It’s the stuff of little girls and little boys.

Back When We Were Grownups

Man, if we can’t own our own fear and discrimination as individuals, let alone groups, or as a country, we will lose the best opportunity to really communicate with one another and turn this holy mess around. Because America is a mess, careening towards a car wreck of disasters, promising multiple casualties. If none of us has the courage, the ability to share ourselves without raging (or delegating that rage to someone else like the President or the Party), without taking responsibility for the terror that drives our psyche, WE ALL LOSE. This goes for the left AND the right. Democrats AND Republicans. Conservatives AND Liberals.

Taking responsibility for how judgmental and rigid we are ON BOTH SIDES is the one thing we can do. It is the one thing we have common. If we share nothing else, we can at least share in that responsibility and maybe break up the log jam. Fear and judgment is a universal human characteristic that only the gods, the saints, the enlightened and the heavens are exempt from. But not us, though that’s not to say we can’t grow up and take a stab at progress.

And honesty.

 

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