12 Decaf Americano
Veggie... thingy (I assure you, it was yummy)
Considering the shitty week, I'll start with a humorous anecdote from one of my brothers (if I recall it correctly) from his much younger days, whilst he was getting high with friends...
One friend pointed to another and said, "Dude! There's a bubble around your head!"
Dude replied, only slightly concerned, "No, there's not."
Friend said again, but a little quieter, "Dude! There's a bubble around your head!"
Dude replied, more concerned and his own voice dropping, "No, there's not!"
Friend repeated this over and over, until he emitted no sound as he mouthed the words: Dude! There's a bubble around your head!
Dude shouted in fear, "THERE IS NOT A BUBBLE AROUND MY HEAD!"
Friend turned to my brother and pointed. "There's a bubble around your head!"
My brother giggled. "Pokin' a hole through it."
This same brother and I got into a conversation the other day, and the subject of bubbles came up again. These were not tangible bubbles, either, but the metaphorical bubbles that exist that keep people from understanding each other. Information bubbles. We had strayed into a political discussion. It did not go as I had expected.
I've said before that basically everyone I know is a Bernie Sanders supporter. Now that he is, presumptively, shut out from the Democratic nomination, many of my friends are fractured over what to do next, who to support. Some are fine voting for Hillary. Some are unenthusiastically resigned to voting for Hillary, believing that it is too important to never allow Trump to become president. Some are set on voting for Bernie, even if they have to go write-in. Some are preparing to vote for Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate. Some are thinking of sitting it out, altogether. Some, however, despise Hillary Clinton so much, and are so committed to seeing her not become president, that they will vote for someone they, themselves, describe as racist, vile, narcissistic, incompetent, and all-around hateful.
More than one of my Bernie-supporting loved-ones are considering, or planning on, voting for Trump. Including my brother.
As we finished our conversation, he referred to her as "the antichrist." All this was pretty surprising to me, since I thought we were much closer, politically. But as we talked, I found as he was bringing things up, the way he was phrasing things started sounding more and more like it was coming from a particular sphere of information. And I said as much. We were trying not to delve into the topic, at all, but I tried to end with a diplomatic assessment that there were many particular charges I couldn't speak to, specifically because I hadn't heard about them, and couldn't evaluate their validity or importance. We were coming from different info bubbles.
And that's something important to keep in mind before you start getting too judgey about other peoples' beliefs and opinions. You don't know where they are in their information journey, so to speak. There's certainly a mainstream information bubble, wherein Hillary Clinton is the most qualified presidential nominee, maybe ever, though there's some amount of dislike and controversy. And then things start breaking down into the mainstream Democratic info bubble and the mainstream Republican info bubble, and then into more "fringe-y" bubbles, for lack of a better term. And in each bubble, Ms. Clinton becomes a slightly to extremely different person, hell-bent on destroying America as we know it.
But if you are immersed in one bubble exclusively, you end up committing yourself to a certain amount of ignorance. It's not even so much that you are ignorant of the True information, though you are bound to be missing details that keeps you from a truer version of reality. Mostly, it's that you are keeping yourself ignorant of what the people around you think, who they are.
And if you want to poke a hole in someone's bubble, you have to first know what it's made of.
The best you can do, for yourself and for others, is to listen. Put your ear to the other bubbles, hear what people have to say. Seek more than one information source. It can be difficult to listen to the hurtful, hateful stuff, but it's worth it to, at least, check in with what is being said elsewhere. You may find real and important information you were unaware of. At worst, you should gain a broader perspective.
...And wouldn't that be a nice short-ish blog, and shouldn't I just leave it there? Unfortunately, it's been a busy week. And this is going to be my last blog.
I've been trying to end this blog and make it all into a book for the last, oh, couple years, but I can't shut up. So I kept writing and revising and adding more. The file stands at more than 150,000 words, and my trial version of Word is about to expire. But as I was reading through my edit-copy, I realized that much of what I wanted to say about the last few days is already written somewhere in another blog. Not in just one, but throughout.
This blog started right after the contentious 2012 election, right before the Newtown massacre. Both political contention and violence have scaled up since then. I wrote about the mental health aspect of the gun debate after that. I did not anticipate that there would be nothing done. We had crossed the Rubicon. How could there be nothing done? Not even the easy, common-sense stuff that most gun-owners agree with, like universal background checks. Not even that. And basically nothing changed on the mental health front, either, which was the only thing the resistance wanted to discuss, if they had to discuss anything.
Many people have said that even this newest massacre will not be enough to inspire action. The have conceded defeat. There is no act horrifying enough, no body-count high enough, to break the thrall of gun hysteria.
I'm hoping for a different analogy.
Yes, it was Newtown. That was the bottom for us. We are the junkie who ODed and woke up in the ER. We knew, then, exactly how bad things had become. And still we kept shooting up. Not only did we hit bottom, we kept on cracking our head against the concrete. My hope is that this is our rehab hangover. That is the story for some. I hope it's ours.
If I have to be explicit: No, having more gun regulations doesn't ban guns. Even under your most paranoid scenarios, we're a long way from that ever happening. Also, no, this is not because of "radical Islam." Terrorism, yes. Islam, no. For one thing, there are plenty of gay Muslims in mourning today. Islam is set-dressing. Declaring allegiance to ISIL/ISIS/whatever-you-want-to-call-them was a fanboy move, trying to tie meaning to something bigger so he could validate his insane, violence-fetish. To put it glibly. We're still in the early stages of information-gathering, so there's risk in trying to assign any kind of rationale. What seems fairly obvious is that it was a hate crime against gay people.
Also, there is at least one religious figure who has publicly endorsed the actions of the Orlando terrorist. Are we going to start calling out "radical Christianity"? People of the LGBTQ community are disproportionately targeted for hate crimes, here especially, but around the world, as well. There have been something like 200 bills put forth this last year trying to strip them of their rights. People have been in a froth about where transgender people are legally able to go to the bathroom. Why not call these hateful actions, which are almost entirely put forth by Christians, radical? Is the ideology that promotes the hate only "radical" once someone takes it to the violent conclusion that these other people aren't really people?
If they're people, you treat them like people. All of the time.
One of the saddest ironies for me, is that, at the same time this tragedy was taking place, I was sharing a post on Facebook about the veteran in Oregon who was just ruled to be legally "nonbinary" gendered. This is what I had to say about the news:
I saw many comments on this article that ranged from exasperated to outright hostile. "What next?!" they said.
I think this is great.
Frankly, I don't know 'what next' because I've never had to personally deal with these biological symptoms and feelings. What is wonderful - and kind of exhausting, and confusing - is that we live in a time where people are beginning to believe that it's safe enough to have these honest and exploratory conversations openly. For so long, most people were acquainted with only binary, heterosexual orientations because they were the only acceptable situations to be acquainted with. Now, finally, people are bringing their experiences to the rest of the human conversation. There's room. We can roll with this.
If these folks have learned how to live with the truth hidden for so long, the rest of us can learn how to live with it openly from now on. Frankly, figuring out the paperwork is a way easier task than figuring out how to live your life according to someone else's fiction.
...Finally feeling safe enough...
It's remarkable to me that the same people on my social media feed who are posting about how wonderful it is that this couple decided to keep this baby with a severe genetic deformity because this child is a gift and every bit as human as anybody else, are the same people posting petitions to boycott Target because they respect transgendered humans to choose their own bathroom. Do they not see the irony? Shaming people who wouldn't see some humans as humans, no matter how they were born different, then shaming other people because of how they were born a little different. And frankly, I don't give a shit if it was a "lifestyle choice" because our choices are just another part of our human experience. So long as they don't hurt anybody.
And does being gay hurt anyone? No. Does being trans - or non - gendered hurt anyone? No. Are any of those people more likely to harm someone else? Statistically, speaking they are less likely to harm others and more likely to be the ones hurt. Would stating that trans people can or can't use a certain bathroom affect the likelihood of a sexual predator attacking someone in a bathroom? Nope.
Does singling out a group of people, either for the way they were born or the beliefs they were raised with (Christians, Muslims, Democrats, Republicans, all included), and judging them, diminishing their value, assigning stereotypes - just referring to them in sweeping terms, at all - does that cause harm?
I believe it is at the root of all harm.
Let's get over this, people. Let's get past this, let's come together. With love and compassion and room for all the people of the human spectrum... We can make it a pretty roomy bubble...
And I will commit myself to kindness, even when I feel unkind. Love beyond fear. Maybe even hope beyond reason... for change.
We are not a lost cause.
Peace, my friends. And lovingkindness...