It is beginning to feel like things in my country are out of control, and I am feeling powerless to change it. I will vote my conscience every election day, don’t get me wrong. I will vote, and I will encourage others to vote, and I will be passionate about it.
But it is not enough.
I am open minded. I have learned over the years to seek evidence and not jump to conclusions. I use that evidence to form my perspectives on things. I used to think that evidence leads to factual understanding (as opposed to beliefs), but it’s more complicated than that. Even my own convictions, based on real evidence, still exist within the realm of beliefs. I may believe, for example, based on evidence, that Japanese beetles are killing one of my apple trees. I see the beetles on the tree every day and watch them eat the leaves. I watch the tree die. Based on evidence, I believe my tree has died because of the damage caused by Japanese beetles. But when I dig up the tree to replace it, I notice the roots were eaten by voles. I was wrong. My beliefs were based on sound evidence, but there was something else at play I did not consider.
What can I learn from this experience? I learn to seek more evidence when forming my beliefs.
So we seek lots and lots of evidence before we form our beliefs, and build our convictions. Or at least we should.
Right now, based on a lot of evidence, I hold a fairly firm conviction that my country is broken, and not just from inequality and poverty and drugs and violence. My country is broken more today than it was last week, and more this year than it was last year. My country is being terrorized by fear. Fear of immigrants, fear of liberals, fear of white nationalists, fear of domestic terrorists, fear of Trump supporters, fear of politics, fear of money and fear of loss of money. Those things are breaking this country apart, and based on the evidence I have gathered, there are forces that stoke those fears, and those forces need to be tamed.
But I feel powerless to tame them.
I like to lend a hand to political causes I believe in. I have gone door to door canvassing, even, which is way outside my comfort zone. But that left me feeling still quite powerless. I am not a politician or a celebrity, and I found that in the rare event that people actually answer their doors when a stranger is knocking, they most often were not impressed when I told them who I was and why I was there. Once upon a time, knocking on people’s doors was common. When someone knocked at your door, you called out, “Someone’s at the door!” and you or someone you lived with answered it. Today, when someone unexpectedly knocks at the door, the more common reaction is one of alarm. People just don’t go visiting each other like they used to.
So I write letters to the editor from time to time, and I write a blog, and I post my passionate feelings about the state of the world on social media. My friends and political allies like my posts and sometimes share them, and political foes will click the laughing emoticon, or respond with “Lol,” or sometimes even mount a rebuttal that challenges my beliefs. But I present mountains upon mountains of evidence, and the best I ever get is, “I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.”
I don’t want to agree to disagree. I want you to either give me evidence to change my convictions, or bloody change yours. See, the problem is, I’m not discussing the status of the Red Sox, or whether or not Tom Brady is the greatest of all time, or whether or not the Rolling Stones, who I love dearly, should just hang it up already and live out their remaining days in the Carribbean. We can agree to disagree on those things.
I’m talking about my country being torn apart by violence, hatred, ignorance and misinformation. I’m talking about freedom and democracy vs. greed and oligarchy.
And I feel powerless, because I don’t know what to do about it. I don’t know how to be truly and honestly politically active in 2019.
I mean I’m not going to give up, and I don’t want you to, either.
I will continue to seek loads of credible evidence and base my convictions on that evidence. I will write and speak those convictions if and when I feel they are important. I will share my convictions with others, openly, honestly, respectfully, and listen to what others have to say. I will do my best to refrain from laughing at other people’s convictions if they seem wrong to me.
But it remains dismally discouraging. What is happening right now is shockingly backwards and ugly. The hate, the name calling, the detention centers, the intentional ignorance, the chants at political rallies, and yes, the mass killings.
And to think, when I do my little part to express my concern, some find it funny. Lol. Laughing face. Silly snowflake concerned guy.
There is nothing funny about this. And don’t deride me for being “offended.” I’m not offended, nobody’s offended; I’m angry, confused, and feeling powerless. What has happened to America?