The world, these last six months, has all but spun out of control. The polarization, the violence, the tribalism, the hate, the scapegoating, and the lies have always been there, rearing their head in years and centuries past in the form of wars (civil and international), terrorism, coups, slavery, segregation, nationalism, and genocide. Now, thanks to a cocktail of ubiquitous social media and a global pandemic, we’ve yet again reverted to the worst of the human condition. I could preach love and compassion and talk about the ways I extend them in my daily life to others, including strangers, but the mistrust and suspicions run increasingly deep with each new revelation and headline of unjust brutality, vigilante violence, and populist politicking, not to mention the displays of divisive banners, flags, and other paraphernalia.
Recently, while strolling a seaside boardwalk along a very ethnically diverse stretch of the Jersey Shore, I observed a shop selling politically-charged, right-wing paraphernalia with a brown-skinned store attendant manning the front. The juxtaposition and irony weren’t lost on me and captured my attention. I then noticed another of the store’s attendants, a heavy-set White male seated on a stool, also near the front. He reciprocated my gaze and proceeded to repeatedly flash what appeared to be the “white power” hand gesture in my direction. Unfazed and curious, I continued to observe as I casually strolled by, at which point, he ceased the hand gesture and looked away. I realized then and there what a spectacle people were making of their beliefs. To project them at utter strangers so as to antagonize and divide rather than to invite and unite. But I couldn’t be bothered to muster a reaction because it just confirmed that America’s wounds and ugly truths run deep and that things are going to get worst before they hopefully get better. And in a nation that prides itself on its puritanical roots, we are merely reaping what we've sown.
Alternatively, what does give me hope is the plurality of ethnic and religious backgrounds that I saw on the boardwalk and beach that day, including Muslim, Hispanic, Black, and White. And while I can only dream of the day when an apocalyptic showdown between good and evil means that there will be no more place for ignorance and hate and that love, compassion, diversity, difference, inclusion, equity, and justice will rule the day, in the meantime, I can lean into those moments where I do see and feel the good that’s in the world. ...whether it’s familiar, smiling faces and passing banter on early morning jogs in the park; being apart of breaking negative family patterns and establishing new and healthy ones; the cool, late-summer breeze ushering in yet another change of seasons; or giving into my dog's untimely demands to play or join her while she suns on the balcony.