I’ll be perfectly frank and say that quarantine has sucked the inspiration to muse and opine right out of me. Part of my malaise is due to the fact that the extra free time once spent going to the movies, or the museum has now become occupied with a seemingly never ending supply of documentaries, true crime stories, and crap TV in general. I’ve also been spending much more time on social media than I ever have previously and I’m not sure it’s for the better.
I was late to the Twitter game and only joined in a year and a half ago, the same goes for Instagram, where I’m to this day still learning the ropes. Living in relative isolation in a small Midwest town, I was seeking a community with whom I could discuss ideas and topics that entertained me. I’ve had similar bastions throughout my life in the form of message boards, AOL chat rooms, and my small Facebook family. Twitter, however, was a whole new ball of wax, and occasionally I found myself burned as if it had just dripped from beneath the flame.
In years past, I had not only dabbled in the discussion of politics, but also at times had an obsessive need to know everything about it. I gleaned what I could from multiple sources and dove head first into topics without thinking to check the depth of the discussion waters. I thought that the facts and figures I had so painstakingly accrued would prove useful in aiding others and also myself in the navigation of the murky waters. In the early days of it I had fun. It boosted my self esteem to be listened to and boosted my knowledge as I listened. When discussing objective ideas the waters remained calm and we all bathed comfortably in the warm waters of enlightenment.
However as the moon changed position the tides turned as they’re wont to do. Subjective matters flooded in and I was left on an island alone. My swimming companions were all splashing and dunking each other based on the misconception that opinions were facts and there was a right and a wrong to them. On my own deserted island I felt no need to argue over opinions. As the saying goes, there are many roads to Rome, so what did it matter if the someone wanted to take the road that led through the mountains while another preferred the landscape of a bucolic countryside?
This wasn’t the first time I had found myself stranded on a political island. In truth it has been my whole existence since I was old enough to register to vote. Having been born from the union of a Republican and a Democrat, I always had the ability to see both sides. I could see when they were objectively correct and also when they were objectively wrong. When it came to matters of subjectivity my parents either remained silent on the topic or discussed it briefly and then agreed to disagree. An amazingly civil arrangement in light of today’s factions. One that kept them together in wedded bliss for 57 years until my Republican father left this mortal coil.
He was an amazing man. Hard working, deeply rooted in his Christian faith, charitable, and kind. He was never wealthy in financial terms, but held treasured ideas and principles that I cherish to this day. When I hear a Democrat’s ideas of what type of person a Republican is, it couldn’t be further from the image of my father.
Along the same lines, when a Republican offers up a characterization of a Democrat, my mother’s face never springs to mind either. Her visage isn’t remotely what they describe and nor are her beliefs. I am regularly baffled by how narrow a view people have of people who don’t hold the exact same thoughts as them.
And then there’s me. Having come from a two-sided world, I chose to make it three dimensional. When I turned eighteen I registered as a small “i” independent, and haven’t changed my affiliation since. A piece of that decision came because I didn’t fit under all of the major banners beneath either flag. I’m anti-death penalty, but pro-2nd amendment. I don’t think what anyone does in the privacy of their own home or bedroom is any of my business as long as they aren’t infringing on another’s rights in the process. I believe that the best defense is a strong offense as far as military matters go, but I’ll always favor diplomacy over war where innocent lives are concerned. When it comes to social programs I’m all about helping those who can’t help themselves, but unless prohibited by a severe mental or physical impairment I believe that from 18-70 you have to figure out how to care for yourself.
All of those seemingly juxtaposing ideas left me with no party to cling to, and I don’t consider that a bad thing. I’m not in the middle because I don’t want to make a decision, I’m in the middle because my decisions are firm and they don’t fit the false dichotomy of a two party system.
From my island’s vantage point I’ve seen a great shift in the political seas. The spectrum used to be occupied from one side all the way to the other, with different people and their ideas hovering back and forth closer to the center. In the past decade or two, however, the center has been demonized as wishy-washy or ineffective or even worse…too stupid to choose a side. It was at that moment that I chose to remove myself from political discussions and just be a quiet observer. Silence is a wonderful thing that allows people the freedom to say what they truly feel because you aren’t actively contradicting them or their ideas.
In my muteness I’ve discovered something that I think you may find helpful when November rolls around. I am no soothsayer nor time traveler here to forecast a winner. I have no knowledge of how these elections will go. But from my silent perch I can predict this. Regardless of who wins, a good third of you are going to be gobsmacked. You are going to get an ice cold bucket of water to your faces and after the shock and awe passes you are going to be enraged.
How can I possibly know this without knowing who will win, you ask? Because two thirds of you are living in echo chambers that are so tightly sealed that you can’t fathom an outcome other that what your own voice hollers out into the void. You’ve completely lost the ability to hear anything but validation for your own beliefs and ideas and you’ve even gone so far as to demonize anyone who doesn’t hold the same ones. You’ve cast off your family members, potential loves, and childhood friends for the sake of feeling right. It would be heart-breaking if it weren’t so karmic.
Your hatred of your fellow man who thinks differently than you has carried you to the precipice of the closest thing to civil war that I’ve witnessed in my lifetime. Allowing yourselves to be caught up in the extremist narratives put forth by the media mouthpieces of both sides has polarized you to a point where I’m regularly seeing death wished upon your opponents. Think about that for a second. As you scream your modern day Bud Light mantras of Black Lives Matters and All Lives Matters back and forth at each other, you’re actually at the same time saying Life Doesn’t Matter when you wish your political enemy harm or death.
The only light I can see that might prevent this from happening, is the light I see in each individual I speak to. The light emitted from the soul of a fellow human being who listens to you and you listen to in return, connects with you, laughs with you, and hopes with you. If we can get back to being brothers and sisters again who see that light in each other, we stand a chance.