How can we communicate…?

I haven’t posted for several days because I’ve been trying to think about what I wanted to say…and how.

I’ve been through a lot of presidential elections…and I’ve read about others. Some have been significantly contentious–but I can’t remember any in which communication has been as difficult as this one.

We may have disagreed about issues–sometimes strongly and loudly. That’s part of our democratic process. But we seemed to be looking at the same world.

That’s what troubles me about this year. It feels like we’re not even seeing–or living in–the same world. The visions are so completely in opposition.

And I wonder: how can we communicate with each other following this election if we don’t even see the same world?

Even at the founding of this country–and again, when we were struggling with whether to stay a united country or separate–we saw the world the same. We just had disagreements over issues, i.e., our relationship with England…our beliefs about those who were “other”…what the responsibilities of states were vs. responsibilities of the government…

But now…

One vision of the world seems very bleak and dystopian. Everything is a failure…we must separate into a modern version of tribes in order to protect ourselves from those who would destroy what we believe in…there appears to be no hope.

The other vision recognizes that there are problems and issues that need to be dealt with…but believes that we can work together to solve the challenges before us.

So how can we communicate? How can we build bridges with each other?

I don’t know…and that’s what worries me.

If we can’t find ways to communicate, then it won’t matter how the election turns out. We will all have lost…

But I still have hope.

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Words matter…

I remember the childhood rhyme: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” I wish that were true…

Unfortunately, far too many of us have had experiences with name-calling in one of its many forms…and studies bear out the long-term impact that bullying can have on everyone involved.

When one is a child, bullying can ensure that one is seen as somehow “less than”…pushed to an outer circle. Sometimes the bullying that takes place is clear and undeniable, but sometimes it’s far more subtle, with words that poke fun–and can be (and are) easily dismissed as kids “just having fun.” But it’s not fun to the one experiencing it.

Nor is it good for the one doing the bullying. They never learn how to interact appropriately with their peers, but learn that force (whether physical or verbal) is the way for them to get what they want.

Young people who are struggling to find their own identity struggle often with words used to identify them…and sometimes believe they have no choice but to disappear.

Even into adulthood words matter.

Words create the environment we grow into…and that’s why we’ve come to recognize that words that were common years ago are no longer acceptable–words such as the “n” word or “retard” (which I remember hearing as a common insult when I was young). We’re slowly coming to understand that words that were commonly used to describe individuals whose sexual or gender identity are different from our own have consequences.

But somehow it still seems acceptable to many to shame girls/women…to see us only as sexual objects…to ignore the fact that we are individuals with desires and talents like men…to suggest in many ways that we ought to be kept barefoot and pregnant…that men ought to make all decisions for us (including decisions about our own bodies)…

Those words have helped create a culture where a young man who viciously raped an unconscious woman gets away with a slap on the wrist because “she asked for it because she was so drunk” and because he is an athletic swimmer.

Those words have helped create a culture in which a once-honored comedian found it acceptable to drug women he wanted to have sex with…and then claim it was consensual.

Those words have helped create a culture where some well-known athletes have boasted about the number of women they have had sex with.

Those words have helped create a culture in which one of the candidates for the highest office in our land feels no shame in boasting about groping and kissing women against their will…and where others who hold office see nothing wrong with what he has said.

For too many years we have been quiet, believing (or at least hoping to believe) that “words will never hurt me.”

No more.

Words have consequences. Words have power. And it’s time that we acted in ways that show we believe it.

Memories…part 3

Once you open the door, it’s surprising what pops out!

I thought most of my childhood memories had come up with my last couple of posts. But…surprise! So…here goes.

I remember climbing on Stonehenge. (This was before it got so popular with visitors that for its protection it had to be fenced off.) As a child, the stones looked enormous…and magical and mystical.

I remember learning to knit in school…or at least, the teacher trying to teach us. I think it was Miss Bunny…and unfortunately the lessons didn’t really take. I finally learned to knit years later from my aunt.

I remember my mother hanging clothes to dry in our dining room (I think). That’s where the fire was, and since we didn’t have a dryer, in the cold weather that was the best place for heat.

And along with that, I remember freezing and roasting with the fireplace. In order to get warm all over, I had to keep turning. Otherwise the side facing the fire got super hot while the backside froze!

I remember the weekly doses of cod liver oil to make sure we were getting enough of whichever vitamin is found in it. I was so glad to discover I wasn’t going to have to continue that back in the States!

I remember having sinus issues–and my folks being told by the doctor that it would be better if I could spend the winter in France! That didn’t happen…we all just dealt with the colds and sinus “stuff.”

I remember one Christmas getting to hold a big turkey leg…unfortunately just for pictures to be sent back to grandparents! Once the picture was over, the turkey leg went back to the table to have the meat removed for everyone to share.

I remember when we got back to the States being on the train to come back to Independence. We had a sleeper, and we opened the curtains to watch the lights go by before we went to bed. When we arrived back, there was a large crowd to meet us–and I remember being surprised by all the noise and greetings.

I remember becoming aware that the way history is written (and taught) depends on who is doing it! When I left England, we had been studying the rebellion of the American colonies. When I started school in the States, we were studying the Revolutionary War…and the stories I heard about the events didn’t come close to what I had learned in England! I’ve always been grateful that my teacher was open to my sharing another perspective.

I remember struggling with some spelling…and there are still some words that I struggle with. I’m never sure whether it’s “judgment” or “judgement”…”grey” or “gray”…”acknowledgment” or “acknowledgement”… I’ve gotten over my struggle with “color” or “colour” but there are other cases in which both the English and American spelling look correct.

I realized that the countries really are two countries divided by the same language! Is it a “boot” of a car or a “trunk”? Is it a “cookie” or a “biscuit”? Is it the “hood” of a car or the “bonnet”? Are you going to the “chemist” or to the “pharmacy”? Are you going on “vacation” or “holiday” in a “caravan” or a “trailer”?

I remember being in high school before I knew that some close family friends were just that–friends, not relatives. We had always called them “Aunt” and “Uncle” as was the custom in England, and I just assumed that they really were.

And so it goes…