The country feels topsy-turvy to a lot a people these days and that instability causes me to wonder about a lot of things. We all live with ironies and contradictions every day. Many of them are simple head scratchers like:
- Why does grass only grow where you don’t want it to? It will spread and thrive in your vegetable or perennial garden without any attention whatsoever. But that bare patch you carefully seeded and watered? Nada.
- Who do the wrong clothes shrink in the dryer. It seems like the shirt that’s slightly too big and would fit perfectly if it shrank just a tad will remain stubbornly loose. But the one you splurged on that fits perfectly? That will go down a size before you know it.
- Why do we hit red lights only when we’re late and trying to get somewhere in a hurry? When we have plenty of time and will probably arrive early, though, it’s green lights all the way.
- Where do those missing socks go after they vanish in the dryer?
The Big Issues and Questions
Other big issues and questions also take up our time. These are the national or global events that occupy our minds when we watch the news or hear people talking around us. These questions arise when we just can’t understand how the other side thinks or why people consistently do what they do. Or refuse to see what’s right in front of them. Questions like this include:
- Why do Muslims fleeing violence in the Middle East migrate not to other Muslim countries but to secular Europe with its Christian-based culture?
- How could it be that the people we trust most with our children—teachers, coaches, close family, doctors, priests, rabbis—are the ones most likely to molest and violate them?
- How can observant Christians enthusiastically support a man who has based his whole live on the seven deadly sins and who breaks at least one of the Ten Commandments daily?
- How can many Americans vote against their own best interests regularly and enthusiastically, despite demonstrated evidence to the contrary?
Keeping Mum in Public
When conflict happens in public, I say nothing. Emotions run too high on both sides to risk a confrontation with someone who disagrees with me. Whether it’s politics, sports, or driving style on the roadway, a quarrel just might get Western real fast. If someone cuts me off on the highway or in line, I do not create a scene. I don’t even give them the stink eye. The reactions of our fellow Americans are today unpredictable and the risk is not worth any momentary satisfaction.
Both sides possess a feeling of righteousness, that the policy, the idea, the goal they believe in is the only acceptable one. They act as though God Himself is on their side—which makes that side the only tolerable one. Between zealots, there can be no middle ground.
Like Ice Cream in the Sun
At the national level, our federal government has lost the ability to forge agreements together. One violation of the rules and traditions on one side breeds retaliation from the other, making it even more difficult to come back from extremes. Public comity dwindles daily, like ice cream in the summer sun.
Writers, news anchors and pundits talk about how divided the country is and they are right. When Americans prefer silence and caution to talking with other Americans, when confrontation can result in injury or death, when so many people are so willing to be outraged so often, how can we respond differently?
Exposing Our Dark Impulses
Yet, I remain hopeful that we will resolve these issues and questions. Sometimes we must see where going to extremes leads us before we can come back together. Sometimes it’s better to expose the dark impulses in our country to the bright light of scrutiny before we can defeat them. Sunlight, as they say, is the best disinfectant.
- Will we fall apart or come back together?
- Will we follow our worst impulses or make a U-turn and return to our better selves?
- Will we decide that the end justifies the means—as long as it’s the outcome we want?
- Or will we resolve that we cannot justify any evil means, regardless of how invested in the end we may be?
Only time will help us with these issues and questions. But the clock is ticking.