Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Trampled Under Foot

The Supreme Court's decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (otherwise known as Obamacare) is due any day now.  No matter which way the Court goes (and from my POV it’s not about how many people like it or hate it – it’s about the constitutionality of the legislation which has already been ruled on by the US Court of Appeals), the Court has already lost much of its public trust.  There’s no surprise in that.  No surprise either that many people believe the justices decide according to partisan politics rather than legal precedents.   We continue to be a country divided in many ways.

We are polarized – each side is entrenched in political “rightness” that says to the other: “I’m right – you’re wrong, and nothing you have to say has any value.”  In our not too distant past people could disagree yet still respect each other AND the opinions others had to offer – in Congress some foes occasionally crossed the aisle to offer non-partisan support on key issues and laws.  Those days are gone.  Imagine important legislation like the Civil Rights Bill of 1964 coming up for a vote today…..back then it passed both the House and Senate with almost 70% of the vote, even though the Congress was split 59/41.  The days of cooperation and shared common goals are so far behind us in the rearview mirror that they feel like they never really happened.

We as a country have lost many of the intangible things that at one time made our country great.  Our history is one written with stories about diverse cultures blending together and shared sacrifices that solved problems, won wars, cured diseases, and achieved greatness – now too many of us spend our time looking over our shoulders in fear, worrying about boogey men hiding in the shadows while we tweat about the Kardashians and J Lo.  Instead of caring about our neighbors we judge them by their ethnicity or religion or political views or sexual orientation.  We define ourselves by our political views and wrap ourselves in those beliefs, and those who don’t fit within that framework because of differences in skin color or ideology or hundreds of other reasons become our enemies.

In many ways we are a morally bankrupt society, and the hope I once had for fixing those problems continues to slide away…..

Nobody's right if everybody's wrong.  The first step in solving problems is recognizing that they even exist. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tears, Sadness, and Grace

Most of the time I use this space to rage against something that has me on edge.  Usually there’s nothing I can do to change anything, and although “getting it off your chest” is supposed to be therapeutic, I’ve learned it doesn’t work so well for me.  But writing has always helped call attention to problems or issues, and that creates dialogue and steps, which can lead to solutions.  Anger has its place.
This time it’s different.
This time there are no conversations.  No solutions.  Nothing to do to make things “better”.  Just emptiness and hurt.
I heard from friends today that someone I grew up with had passed away.  We grew up in the same small town where everybody knew everyone else, and we became friends through the randomness of the alphabet and classroom seating charts.  In grade school you were assigned seats based on your last name, and most times your closest friends were the kids who sat around you – depending on class size, someone with a last name beginning with “D” could have D’s, E’s, and F’s in front and back, and L’s, M’s, and N’s alongside.  Dawn and I were together in almost every class from first grade into high school.  We shared milk cartons and snacks.  Laughed at stupid jokes.  Copied off each others' test papers.  Passed notes when the teacher’s back was turned.  Dawn was a good student.  A cheerleader.  An athlete.  Popular.
She was the kindest, friendliest, sweetest person I knew, and for the life of me, I cannot remember a time when she wasn’t smiling.  Her smile lit up a room and made everything better.
Most of all, she was a friend.
People say that death – especially when it’s a friend or loved one – has a way of making each of us face our own mortality.  That's supposed to be scary but it doesn’t scare me.  What scares me is the realization that the world becomes a lesser place – a truly good person has left, and her death creates a huge void that cannot be filled.  When that happens a flood of emotions and memories come at you, and you try to hold on to as many as you can and hope they don’t fade away as the years pass.  You remember smiles and laughter.  The kind words you shared.  The depth and warmness of her heart.  But it makes the hurt harder and the loss more painful.
 If I could wish for anything, it would be to always remember the kind of person Dawn was and become that person.  But I know I am not that good.
I thought this post would be different but it’s not – like always, I am still angry.  I’m pissed off at God and the arbitrariness of loss and the painful memories of things that are gone – things we can’t get back.  Pissed off because I don’t understand why people like Dawn, who are good and beautiful and kind, die and we’re left with a bunch of reality show pretenders in a culture that worships excess and bad habits.  Mostly I am pissed off and sad because I will miss her, even after all the years and through the miles that have passed between us.  I will miss the warmth of her smile and the beauty of her character and the kindness she had for everyone she met.  I will miss the way she made me feel better when I didn’t even know I wasn’t as okay as I pretended to be.  I will miss her friendship.
R.I.P. Dawnie – you will always be a bright and shining light for all of us.