One of the things that has stunned me most about the current political climate is what I've discovered about people I thought I knew.
People I've seen as kind, generous and courageous individuals seem to be supporting the ugly, hateful and destructive actions currently happening in our country.
I say "seem to be" because I don't know what information they are receiving. Technology is sophisticated enough today to target the emotional buttons and preferences of each individual using a computer. If someone says they support [fill in the blank: health care insurance, Native Americans, jobs, etc.] they can be bombarded with information supporting that and stories ostracizing politicians/groups/individuals who oppose that particular value.
Unless people purposely seek out opinions different than their own, they may never read different perspectives or hear different sides of an issue.
I've also seen the tendency to whip people into a frenzy of two opposing camps--for and against a particular issue. And if you don't agree with one side or another, you are ostracized, ignored or worse.
This tactic has been around probably since caveman times. If you didn't agree with the tribe, you would be thrown out. In those days, you needed other cave people to help gather food and defend against attacks by saber-toothed tigers and other beasts. Going against the tribe meant certain death.
This mindset has endured for eons. I grew up in a household with the attitude of sit down, shut up, do what you're told, or else... For the most part, I was a "good" kid who sat down, shut up and did what I was told, so I rarely met the consequences of "or else."
It may seem contradictory, but I do have good memories of swimming and playing baseball with my dad and being silly with the cousins who visited when times were good. I left my parents' home when I graduated from high school and haven't moved back. I did what I needed to do and bided my time until I could get away. People with different personalities probably have no clue how much my ultra-sensitive nature suffered when times weren't so good.
And perhaps that sensitive personality is why I see the correlation between my childhood and what's happening in the political scene today. Sit down, shut up, do what you're told, or else...
If you do what you're told and agree with those in power, you'll be rewarded--or at least that will be the illusion for now.
If you disagree, you will be ostracized for not supporting your family/political party, shamed, isolated--those same old tactics used clear back to caveman times to try to control you and your thoughts.
But what I've discovered in the decades since I left my parents' home is questioning can bring a better solution to issues we face. Listening to opposing perspectives and asking deeply respectful questions about why a person feels what they do can result in creative ways to solve problems that we hadn't previously thought of.
Questioning ourselves can perhaps be the most deeply enlightening process of all. I recently read a post from a fellow writer who said she was horrified at something she had said in a social situation. She always comes across as a very nice person who tries to smooth situations between others, and I wondered what she could have done that was so terrible. However, a couple days later, I found myself in a similar situation--not once, but twice. I was horrified at something I did and something I said.
My immediate reaction was to mentally start beating myself up for being such a "bad" person, and thinking of ways to punish myself.
Fortunately, I've spent over a decade releasing habits and thoughts and mindsets that no longer serve me. During that time, I've also connected with my Spirit Guides who are both otherworldly wise and down-to-Earth. Before it really revved up, they stopped my cycle of "did bad-must punish" with this reasoning: What will that accomplish? Will you change? Or will you use this as another excuse for staying stuck in the same old behaviors and mindsets? Will you forgive yourself and others who have made similar mistakes? Do you have the courage to let go of old stories and traumas to face a different way of living?
As I writer, I remember the advice that a blank page can be the most intimidating part of writing. You fear putting down the wrong words or incomplete sentences or stuff that just sounds stupid, so you don't do anything. You stay stuck in the same old, same old.
That can be a good analogy for where I am in life. I fear that blank slate after all the old stories and beliefs are erased. But having so many choices can be frightening and overwhelming.
What if I make a mistake? What if I totally screw up and land flat on my face? What if I fail and my new life is worse than the old one? What if people laugh at me and say, "I told you so"?
Then another piece of writerly advice fits: "You can't edit a blank page."
So as I draw in several deep breaths and take my first shaky steps into a new life, I may take wrong turns and find out I didn't want to do what previously seemed like a good idea.
But guess what? I'm in control of my own future. I can question old beliefs, then keep what makes sense and serves me now, then throw out the rest. I can stand up, speak out, color outside the lines--and there is no "or else."
I don't have to fear punishment or isolation or shaming, as long as I don't do those things to myself. I can find a new tribe who respects and supports my new journey. Or I can venture out by myself for awhile, knowing I will meet others who are also finding a new pathway.
I think that is the gift of the current chaos in this country and perhaps in the entire world. The discomfort pushes us to question old ways of thinking and behaving, then forge new paths to build lives that shine with hope and abundance for everyone--if you have the courage to erase those old stories and write new ones.