If you spend much time with me at all, you know that I can find a Friends (yes, the sitcom) reference in just about any conversation. At least once a week, sometimes once a day, I hear myself saying, “It’s like that Friends episode where Rachel/Monica/Phoebe/Ross/Chandler/Joey goes and….” Pick a character, finish the sentence, Friends fans, you get my drift.
Right now, it’s like Phoebe in that Friends episode where Monica and Rachel get in a heated argument that becomes an all-out fight and just as they’ve landed on the floor, slapping at each other in fury, Phoebe reaches down and grabs an ear on each of them…and pulls up. “Ow! Ow! Ow!” Rachel and Monica scream at Phoebe, their reason for attacking each other forgotten in their common need to stop the pain Phoebe has caused.
Essentially Phoebe called a time out. And she was wicked efficient about it. And by doing so, she got Rachel and Monica to stop pounding on each other long enough to see how completely ridiculous they were being.
What Phoebe did? This is what I want to do to the entire United States right now. Grab an ear, pull each of us up from the muck of political fighting and Make. It. Stop. If there were ever a corporate need for a time out, this is it.
We continue our war with one another to our own detriment as a nation. I’ve seen some ugly and awful things in my life, but I still just drop my jaw in disbelief at the things we assume/speak/believe about our fellow Americans. Especially–dear lord especially–on the social medias. It’s sick how technology gives us enough of a mask to write or say whatever we want about another person or another political party or another way of thinking. And at the rate we are going, nobody wins.
Did you get that? Nobody. Wins. We are imploding, and we have only ourselves and our own collective fear and anxiety to blame.
My greatest fear is the general contempt we seem to feel for each other. Contempt is dangerous, y’all. It is devoid of any compassion, bereft of any sense of mercy or understanding. Contempt renders us incapable of empathy and unable to see past our own belief systems. Contempt negates listening or understanding of any kind, and it is the dominant MO as far as I can see when it comes to politics in this country. And it has to stop.
There’s a whole lot about our current administration that makes me angry and uncomfortable. And there’s a whole lot about our nation right now that makes me the same. But let’s not pretend that every president’s been perfect, or made all the right decisions. I mean, y’all, our healthcare debacle is terrifying–but we didn’t get here overnight. Not even in the last 100 days. No–it’s taken us a good long while to become a nation that listens more to our wallets than our hearts.
And yet, in healthcare and everything else, we continue to point our fingers and act as if it’s all a game that must be won, instead of a really serious and frightening indictment of what the land of the free and the home of the brave has become. Meanwhile, families struggle to make ends meet and young people are overdosing on heroin, and parents are wondering how to safely raise their children in the shadow of the internet, and even fulltime work doesn’t guarantee you’ll be able to afford food or healthcare or transportation. And this has all been true for decades.
Y’all, we are so much better than this. We are Alexander Hamilton and Eliza Schuyler. We are Ruby Bridges and Rosa Parks. We are Abraham Lincoln. We are Sally Ride. We are Martin Luther King, Jr. We are elementary aged girls learning code, and young men and women serving as doctors and aid workers in foreign lands. We are marathon runners helping a fellow runner to the finish line. We are the first responders to 9-11 who risked their lives to save the lives of those immediately affected. And we are those who opened their lives and communities to those who lost everything in Hurricane Katrina. We are not perfect. And we fail all the time. But at our best, we are all these people, all these situations and more.
We are a million different ways of being and yet all able to be those things because we live in these United States. I love this country and her people, and that we cannot find a way to be as a nation that lifts each of us up, without question and without fail, breaks my heart.
If we continue to act with such blatant contempt; if we continue to wage our battles with snark as our first weapon; if we continue to demonize anyone who doesn’t belong to our tribe or party or community, we will fall. And with us will come crashing down all that we hold dear, all that we’ve fought for in the first place.
It’s hard has hell out there these days. I know this. But I also believe we’re better than this. And my most fervent prayer and desperate hope these days is that we will rise to the occasion of what it truly means to be a citizen of the United States before it’s too late.
Time out, y’all. Take a breath, and let’s make some decisions about who we really want to be, both as individuals and as a nation. Because there are plays left in the game. But from where I sit, and likely from where you do, too, the clock is ticking.
We don’t have all day.