I talked to a long-time friend yesterday. It was truly wonderful to be able discuss all the topics that confound me about today’s world without either of us once raising our voices. (Though I’m ashamed to admit, I did interrupt her more than a time or two.) We didn’t always agree, but we didn’t need to agree to disagree, either. That went with the respect and intelligence we both brought to the discussion.
One thing we both find shocking and appalling is that many of the issues concerning people today, such as the whole systematic racist thing, we thought had been settled long ago. And it had been. In our laws (though perhaps not always in individual cases), all people have equal rights, except when they don’t. Any equality in law (again, not always in action), tends to favor minorities with the various programs aimed at giving people equal representation in government and business.
And yet, here we are — decades after the war on poverty, decades after affirmative action, decades after billions of dollars have been spent to mend some of the discrepancies in our society — and the grandchildren and great-grandchildren who should have inherited the benefits of these programs are worse off than their progenitors. Not all, of course. I’d be interested in knowing what’s the percentage of blacks who have been assimilated into the wider culture of the USA vs. those who have clung to the inner-city culture. I bet there’s a greater percentage than the rhetoric we are being fed would lead us to believe. (It must be appalling to these successful and law-abiding people to be lumped in with the rioters and law-breakers, to be constantly reminded of their victimhood when in fact they don’t believe they are victims of oppression.)
My friend and I didn’t just stick to this topic, of course. We swept through the whole gamut of issues. From MeToo (and the problems of both supporting the movement and yet worrying about how all this hatred toward men will affect boys today and the men they will grow into), the upcoming election, The Bob, and all sorts of other concerns.
But the main topic (at least for me) seemed to be the protests, the riots, and the destruction of lives. (If you destroy someone’s livelihood, if you burn down everything they hold dear, you destroy their life.)
I left the conversation wondering if any of the local rioters ask themselves what they are gaining. (I say local rioters because those coming into various cities to do damage know exactly what they are doing.) Do the local rioters truly want anarchy? Do they really want a city without a police force? Do they really want to bring down this country? Do they really think that destroying small businesses is advancing the cause of minority individuals rather than serving corporate interests? (People are starting to ask who is funding the riots, but that’s no big secret. All you have to do is run a quick search to find out what corporations are contributing to what cause.)
I also realized why all this confuses me — I don’t have all the pieces of the puzzle. For example, last night I read an article mentioning that a Duke University professor had been fired because (among other reasons), some students had complained about his handling of a discussion on race. The complaint? The professor had presented various points of view, which distressed those students who thought there was only one way to think about things.
How was I supposed to know problems such as this exist? I did know most people cling to their opinions without giving credence to anyone else’s. I did know there are those who try to manipulate people into believing that their side is the right side. What I didn’t know is that a certain segment of society simply cannot believe there is another side.
Which is why it was nice talking to my friend. We are both lifelong readers, so we have both lived myriad lives, experienced myriad points of view, cried over injustices. We see sides that others ignore, try to see through other people’s eyes (because that’s what reading does, shows us a different way of seeing). Unfortunately, neither one of us can see a peaceful resolution of this current mess.
But we were able to discuss, to question, to see perhaps a bit of order to the chaos. And that is a rare joy, indeed.
Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.