Ace, The Big E, and I escaped to small-town Wisconsin for two days last week. We crossed streets without getting run over, shopped in the farmers’ market, and snarfed preternaturally sweet corn-on-the-cob. I basked in the luxury of off-line ignorance for forty-eight hours.
We returned on Saturday, just after a white supremacist plowed his car into a crowd of true Americans, killing one woman and injuring enough others to fill 1.5 juries. This at the end of a bare-faced, tiki-torch, Nazi bacchanal. The president, snuggled up in his narcissistic bed, with Putin on one side and Steve Bannon on the other, basically said, ”Tsk, Tsk. Let’s all just try to get along.”
Let me vomit my thoughts onto the screen. Don’t expect pristine organization.
1) I’m embarrassed to be an American. I read in the paper this morning that a supremely drunk American tourist decided it would be a swell idea to parade around Dresden, Germany raising his arm in a Nazi salute. A German onlooker beat him up. And this morning, a Massachusetts police officer, responding on Facebook to the Charlottesville death, wrote, “Hahahaha love this, maybe people shouldn’t block road ways.”
My grandpa, a WWI purple-heart decorated Marine, is rolling over in his grave.
2) White supremacy is nothing new. Fascists have been lurking among us forever. Slave-owning white men wrote the Constitution. Fascists are no longer lurking; they’re openly smiling for the camera.
3) In America, we are guaranteed Freedom of Hate Speech. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito writes in Matal v. Tam: “[The idea that the government may restrict] speech expressing ideas that offend … strikes at the heart of the First Amendment. Speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express ‘the thought that we hate.’”
4) How did an electoral majority of Americans believe that a racist, homophobic, narcissistic, xenophobic, misogynist is preferable to a woman?
5) We haven’t evolved to the point that our brains can handle a continual onslaught of terrifying information. I’m reminded of the Learned Helplessness Theory of Depression that I studied in Intro Psych. Researchers decided to shock dogs to examine the impact on mood. When the shocks occurred in a predictable manner, dogs didn’t get depressed. When the shocks occurred in an unpredictable manner, depression followed.
My former colleague in clinic noted an immediate uptick in anxiety and insomnia in the days following the last presidential election. As time marched on, depressive symptoms increased. The “Trump Twenty” is real, with stressed patients packing on the pounds.
It’s time to stop being unpredictably shocked. Horrifying events are predictably occurring all the time and we know about them immediately courtesy of the internet. Radical Acceptance = acknowledging that bad shit consistently happens.
6) How can we protect our children from the idiocy and violence that adults are continually perpetrating? I chose not to discuss recent events in Charlottesville with The Big E. Instead, we talked about our family values, that we believe all people are equal. That a particular race, gender identity, sexuality, religion, cultural heritage, ability, intellectual capacity, does not determine a person’s worth. How can we protect our children from Learned Helplessness in the Age of the iPhone?
7) A partial list of suggested new hobbies for White Supremacists: buckthorn abatement, Meals on Wheels delivery, cleaning veteran’s war memorials, reading to nursing home residents (reading materials to be provided by residents’ family members), invasive species management (carp, beetles, worms)
8) We can’t be chronically overwhelmed (or numb) and expect to be effective agents of change. We must balance being informed with being healthy.
9) Tiny steps help. I will smile at strangers in Target. I will recycle to the best of my ability. I will financially support organizations that share my belief that all people are equal. I will model peaceful conflict resolution for my son and help him learn to be an emotionally capable man. #TinyRevolution
10) Set your phone down and do some good. Here are suggestions from the Southern Poverty Law Center.