Greetings from Asheville!
Yep, for those of you who didn’t already know, I moved from Atlanta to Asheville on November 1. So far, as a newly adopted home city, Asheville is measuring up nicely in terms of what I need—time to rest and think in a place of simplicity, mostly, as I reinvent my life.
Considering that I am technically homeless and one of those who no longer shows up on the registers of the unemployed because I ran out of unemployment benefits a year ago, I have—as a result of the great fortune of having adopted family members with the wherewithal to offer a free, comfortable and cozy place to live for a while—the freedom to say what I think without undue concern for how it may be misinterpreted. The old Kris Kristofferson song “Me and Bobby McGee” is, for the record, right. Freedom IS another word for nothing left to lose—in a material sense, of course.
I’ve gained a new appreciation for who my friends are and who my thought-they-were-friends-but-turned-out-to-be-just-acquaintances are as well. Facebook aside, if I hadn’t already known based on the emotional support and assistance I’ve received (and am still receiving) through the financial debacles of the last decade, the recent presidential election certainly provided plenty of fodder for differentiating one from the other.
I recognize that my emotional vulnerability has an impact on my current perception, so if you are wondering if you are one of those to have fallen off the friend “cliff,” you can put that aside for now. I only “unfriended” about five people on Facebook and I probably shouldn’t have “friended” them in the first place, politics or no. I’m hoping that what I saw from some of you and participated in myself to some extent was a reflection of the frustration and disappointment and fear that we all feel in varying degrees and not a showing of “true colors.”
Even so, I am disappointed in many of us, including myself—especially those who represent themselves as Christians—and the degree to which our behavior before the election and even now has fallen far short of the glory of God and of Christ in particular.
I’m disappointed because I learned that there’s a whole host of us who have either never thought about or don’t seem to grasp that our views are just that—views. Not facts, not truths, not immutable laws—God’s or otherwise. Changeable given a shift in vantage point, affected by individual memory and perceptions, fill-in-the-gaps-with-whatever-seems-to-fit-from-our-obviously-limited-experiences…VIEWS.
I can’t put a number to the flat-out easily-exposed falsehoods I saw in print, presented as “proof” of nothing more than wishful thinking. Perhaps it’s because I spent time as a counselor early in my career, but I find it offensive to “bear false witness” against any other human—never mind the fact that it’s one of the Ten Commandments every Judeo-Christian wants to throw around in accusation, but not obey him- or herself. I’ve seen perfectly wonderful people who didn’t deserve to be treated the way they were destroyed by lies in the past. To elect a president by seeing who can outdo one another with ridiculous invective is unacceptable.
We cannot read each others’ minds. We cannot assess another’s motives. And to proclaim that we can is, to me, a failure to obey another of those Ten Commandments—to have no other idols before the God whose purpose we cannot know, despite the arrogance of those who claim authority. I’ve borne witness to a whole lot of people who seem to hold their opinions in higher honor than God, especially with respect to who is and who isn’t a sinner based on who they voted for.
But I digress—that’s a topic for another day.
What dismays me about it all as an American is that because of the diversity of belief and opinion and conclusions drawn from experience, we have an opportunity to create solutions to the problems facing us that no nation homogeneous in ethnicity or religious tradition or racial background will ever have—solutions that provide what every one of us needs and require that we give up the illusion that life is ever fair. The rain falls on the just and the unjust, Jesus said. And so does the sun. Bless you if the sun’s still shining on you in this time when many like me are still struggling for our lives—but don’t think it has anything to do with God’s love or favor on you as opposed to me. Unless you know me and the circumstances of my life, you don’t know. I am loved and adored just as much as you, irrespective of what choices I have made that worked out and those that didn’t, regardless of what kind of car I drive or whether I spend what little money I have on things you would’ve bought. I will live with that reality, not you.
We have squandered massive potential to this point and are living in the bed we’ve made. The opportunity costs of congressional standoffs and blustering adolescent bravado are astounding. What might we have achieved together in the time we spent throwing slurs about dog shit on cars or birth certificates? What of true value might the money spent on these elections, whether won or lost, have created? How much farther along could we have been toward righting this ship?
As the lucky-by-birth American citizens most of us are, we are all responsible—both for where we are and where we are not—and it is clear that we, to this point, are considerably less capable of self-government than our founding fathers hoped when they started this experiment. We have shown that we are incapable of wisdom in governing our own lives, our own mouths, our own behavior, much less working together to sustain the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity. We’re too busy trying to restrict the blessings of liberty for everyone else except those we “think” believe like us and look like us and agree with our rather foolish perceptions.
“Tell the truth, tell the truth, tell the truth,” as Elizabeth Gilbert wrote. Accept responsibility for your part in this fiasco to date (and you have much, as I do), take off the black armbands and attitudes that brand your abdication of responsibility (the 47% in Romney’s faux pas aren’t the ones who think they’re “victims” now), and grow up. Shit happens, life isn’t fair, and no matter how hard we work to ignore the facts, sometimes our best efforts don’t measure up and all of us will one day die.
But until we do breathe our last, starting today, let’s expend a little effort and use the brains and hearts God gave us to count for something more than this.