Trouble in mind. I recently read that a new poll reports that 29% of the American people still doubt that their President, Barak Obama, is not a muslim. Though he regularly identifies himself as a Christian, so do they. I feel like conjuring up the ghost of Woody Guthrie to deal with this one. Political and religious denial of the worst order. What would Woody do, I keep asking myself? Aside from a few clever retorts in the form of barbs, the great American folk interpreter would no doubt have a few unusual ideas.
"Get these here folks in a room together and then bring in the Pres, " he might say. "Let them talk face to face with the man they try so hard to ignore. I'll bet they find they have more in common than not."
What a great idea. Demystify the cloak of separation and be required to tell a lie to someone's face. Oh the psychopaths will do just fine, but the one's with a heart and soul might have difficulty. It could be the start of something big for them.
This week has been filled with all sorts of denials of the human spirit. The fear mongers are feeding mightily on all the terrorism threats, so their intolerance is flowing like the Texas flood plains right now. They are closing the wagons while all the while forgetting the compassion that is one of the only remaining positive traits of this culture right now.
Americans have always been a generous, empathetic people because of our history. Oh I know not always. When you give smallpox ridden blankets to Native Americans in trade and you mercilessly invade the sovereignty of nations time and again while lying to your own people (Vietnam, Panama, Iraq, Grenada, et.al.) your generosity and empathy quotient declines rapidly. But on the plus side, billions of dollars in aid, relief, food and weapons constantly pour from the red, white, and blue. So it is that we approach this holiday season with renewed calls for bombing the hell out of our foes and denying entrance to families who risk their lives daily (some lose the gamble daily too)
This polarization is only exacerbated by the polarization of the media. Whole news outlets preach to the converted and chisel out the chasm wider and wider all the time.
How much is ignorance and how much is ignorance fed by fear?
It takes it's toll on our daily lives as well. At least a thousand times a day someone realizes that a friend or family member is spouting untruths or racism, or ethnocentrism or just plain sloppy thinking. What's double fascinating is that even in what we take for clearly polarized communities there is always contradiction. Case in point: I've got a number of friends and family members who are rather conservative. So much so that I completely disagree with any of their thinking. Some borders on anti-intellectualism. Some of them live in fancy houses and off of old money, but some are hardscrabble. Like the thoroughbred horse community I know. They like to remind people that they studied at the school of hard knocks. That old chestnut of a metaphor becomes their excuse for not reading about or thinking through big issues. I get that they are wired differently from us folks on the left side of the aisle, but I do like to give them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to human beings and flat out falsehoods. Just this week, two jockey friends of mine were told by trainers with differing political beliefs that they would no longer be riding for them any more. What to do with these folks? Don't stop. Keep telling what you know to be true. Try to imagine the world from their perspective, and think about Woody's mythical solution. Sit in a room with them or a virtual room and talk face to face.