Eclipsed

Often blogging feels like a chance to pick my head up to the thoughts floating around, to look more closely at them and explore what they might mean.

But right now, every time I look up, the only things I seem to see all around me are either the violent attacks that happen somewhere new every day, or the US Presidential election and its rhetoric of fear and division. I can’t seem to make any sense of it.

I find myself scouring the newspaper looking for something that will happen to make it all go away. I keep wishing it’s just some sort of bad dream.

I read articles about the perspective of poor rural whites to try to understand where all of their anger is coming from, knowing that on some level I must be out of touch, I must be failing my own proximity test since I’m not seeing what they are seeing.

I struggle to convince myself that supporting a candidate who spews racism, sexism, hatred and demagoguery doesn’t mean that a person is, on some level, open to racism, sexism and demagogues. I struggle to put out of my mind that in every single society that descended into institutionalized violence and genocide – every single one – the first step is always a gradual normalization of hate speech perpetuated by a strong leader promising salvation.

And I can’t help but be inspired, and feel hopeful, when I hear folks like Cory Booker proclaim that we cannot be a country where we simply tolerate each other, we must be a country where we love each other – and love isn’t always pretty or easy, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t fierce.

I cannot help but feel emotion when Michelle Obama speaks with fiery, motherly pride in describing her daughters playing on the lawn of a White House that was built by slaves.

I feel like on some level I must be a little bit blind, because right now I’m seeing lots of absolutes. Right now I am failing miserably to make sense of the bile, hatred and fear that is so appealing to so many – including the anger of the Bernie supporters, which feels both short-sighted and self-defeating.

I’d like to believe that I’m aware of at least some of my own privilege, and that this awareness helps me recognize some of the things I cannot see – but, of course, I too am prone to exaggeration.

Mostly, I’m coming up very short on answers.

I really, truly believe that this country was founded on a set of fundamental values, that “we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.”

Yes, indeed, it is self-evident!

What this means to me is that there is an inviolable set of values that we share as Americans. And if these values are inviolable, then they come first, no matter how messed up everything else is.

And what that means to me is that when anyone, on either end of the political spectrum, is happy to trample on those values – daily, publicly, unabashedly, and without a shred of remorse – then we, most of us, nearly all of us, should be calling them out as frauds and as un-American, no matter what else we also believe.

What am I missing?