Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Prayer - America's Last Hope

That was on several signs that I passed on the way to work today. I have to say that I disagree completely with that statement. I know what America's last hope is, and it's very simple:

Americans need to get off our collective arses and start working together to fix the problems that we see all around us!

Forget partisan politics (heck, forget the politicians altogether for a while), and the name-calling and blame game. Let those blow away in the wind and start treating each other as people and fellow Americans first, because that's what we ALL are. Instead of wasting time pointing fingers and casting blame for how we got to this position, why don't we join forces to start mending the things within our reach? When Americans are working together and of the same mind, we are the most powerful force on this planet. Unfortunately, the last time that happened was when The Greatest Generation came together and sacrificed so much for so many. I hate to think that it will take another full scale World War to get us all thinking as a nation once more.

I can hear you now. You're asking, "So, what is it that WE can do? The politicians and big corporations have all of the money and the power." Well, here are some suggestions:

  1. Volunteer. I understand that we're all working harder than ever and still losing ground, but you know what? No matter how bad your situation may seem, there will ALWAYS be someone who is worse off than you. One of the best ways to feel good about yourself, and your country, is to contribute time and the sweat of your brow toward helping others. Give time to your local food pantry, help out at the local homeless shelter, find out where Habitat for Humanity is working and help them build someone a home. Don't just throw money at the problem (though donations to reputable charities are good too!), but honestly give something of yourself. Take something that you love to do and find a charity that can use those skills. There is one somewhere out there, there always is.
  2. Clean up. Pick a section of highway and go out there with a garbage bag and some gloves, gather up the trash, and take it to the dump. Our country is our home, and if you can't be proud of how it looks, then it diminishes your pride in the sum-total of the country. Think before you flick that cigarette butt out the window (your car DOES have an ashtray for a reason, you know), consider what you're saying about where you live when you throw that fast food bag along the side of the road. Organize a group of people to adopt a section of highway and maintain it.
  3. Meet your neighbors. When I was growing up, we lived out in the country. We knew EVERYONE on the road for miles in each direction. I think that's part of why we felt safe as kids, because we were never that far from someone we knew and trusted, even when we were a mile or two from home. When my husband and I lived in an apartment, we knew our neighbors and chatted with them as we all went in and out. When we first moved into our house, it took a long time to meet some of our neighbors. We took baskets of home-baked goods and home-made chocolates around to them at the holidays, and were met by pleasantly shocked expressions. No one in the neighborhood had done that before. That blew my mind. My family ALWAYS exchanged gift baskets with the people around us when I was growing up. I couldn't imagine NOT doing it. That's the kind of relationship we need to build again in our country. We've become strangers, encapsulated in our own homes, never communicating face to face with anyone any more.
  4. Adopt a pet from a shelter. More and more pets are being abandoned because their families can't afford them any more. The shelters are full, and having to euthanize or turn pets away. Give a pet a loving home and in return you will receive completely unconditional love. On the days when you doubt that you can continue to fight the good fight, sometimes all that it takes to give you hope is the nuzzling of a cold nose or the rough sound of a loud purr, or a good game of tug-o-war to make things all right once more.
We need to find our hope again. We've opened the box and let all of these terrifying things out, and they're growing larger and larger, threatening to overwhelm us. We need to open the box once more and look for Hope. She's tucked back in the deep corners of the box, waiting for us to find her and let her comfort us. Look at my suggestions above, think of other things that you can do, anything to help Hope grow and heal us all and the country that we love so much.
Find your hope. We've lost it somewhere. We're a cynical, angry people. We need to find our hope again, somewhere tucked away in the deep corners of the box in front of us. Hope is in there, trying to get out and comfort us. Look her in the eyes and take in what she offers, then share it with the rest of the country and the rest of the world.  If we each do that, then slowly things will turn around and our country will become a place of honest pride once more.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I don't understand why things need to be "all or nothing" for so many people in the world. I mean, when you think about it, true "all or nothing" situations are extremely rare. Most of the time the world exists in shades of grey rather than black or white.

I started thinking about this today because of the church that is planning on burning a pile of Qurans later this week. They seem to firmly believe that all Muslims are evil terrorists bent on destroying or converting the entire world. The irony of this, of course, is that by maintaining that set of beliefs they are taking the same sort of stance that they claim to be against, and they are also providing ammunition for the few Muslims who ARE extremists.

A friend of mine posted on his Facebook that he feels that the burning of the Qurans is very un-Christian. This, of course, led to a discussion of the whole thing. Fortunately the discussion remained pretty civil and people were actually polite to one another rather than sniping or snarking. But there was one woman who posted a few times and was obviously one of the folks who either supports the burning or at least doesn't object to it. She said something that helped trigger the "all or nothing" question in my head. She said:

How come so much attention is being paid to the feelings of those from another country? More than is being paid to the feelings of Americans?

She said more than that, but this is the part that caught my eye. So I asked her a question (which she has not replied to as of this point in time). I said:

There are Americans who are Muslim too. How do you think they feel about seeing their holy book burned? Shouldn't that be kept in mind too?

With that question it all crystallized in my mind. Humanity has lost touch with our humanity. We don't care about others any more, we just care about being right. It doesn't matter if the target of the moment happens to be those from another religion, or another race, or even another subculture. All that we care about is that They don't do things the way that We do them. We are obviously right, and They are obviously wrong, so the important thing isn't to stop and think about what reasons They may have for being as they are, but rather to find ways to make Them admit that Our way is the Right Way.

I hope that humanity can find the way to put empathy back into our emotional arsenal rather than continuing to dull our empathetic and sympathetic abilities. I think that part of the problem is our loss of a sense of community. While communications technologies have made our world smaller in many ways, they have also served to widen the gulfs that divide us from ourselves. But I think that's the subject for another post.

For now, I hope that the few people who actually read this think about it and take it to heart, then start finding ways to empathize with all of those who share this world (humans and other creatures). I think that if we're going to save ourselves, we need to start there. And maybe lighten up on the "all or nothing" approach to viewing the world around us. Personally, grey is one of my favorite colours.