People are amazing. I forget that sometimes. It’s easy to do, especially during an election year. I’m so often tempted to retreat into cynicism when I read the paper or hear the news or go on social media. If they were to be believed, we all hate each other. Democrats, Republicans, black, gay, straight, rich, poor, young, old; we just can’t coexist peacefully anymore…except I have a largely diverse group of friends who somehow manage to not kill, berate, lament, or hate each other over differences of opinions. They are bigger than whatever overly-simplified label is slapped on them. So I know that outside of the 24 hour news cycle, most of us are living our lives and co-existing just fine. All of that rage and animosity toward one another is a mirage, but if we aren’t careful and vigilant that mirage can easily become reality.
My client is the sweetest woman. Growing up on a farm taught her to put a high value on work ethic and she worked right up to the day her body failed her and her life changed dramatically in an instant. And she was so young! Barely in her fifties. Her husband also has worked his fingers to the bone his entire life. They started with very little more than wishes and the willingness to work hard and save more than they spend and that hard work coupled with some luck paid off. They have a beautiful beach front house, complete with a dock and boat.
He could have sent her to a nursing home. He could have and it would have been understandable. Suddenly, their entire life was changed. But he didn’t. For eight years, he cared for her on his own. He had the bottom level of his house redesigned so that she could maneuver. When he could no longer care for her by herself, he hired in home caregivers.
Before every shift, I have to take a deep breath and leave my political opinions at the door. I know that I’m in for twelve to fourteen hours straight of conservative talk radio and quite frankly, those people scare me. They make their money by terrifying people and I have found that it is especially effective on the elderly, who tend to view the past through the lens of nostalgia. I want to tell my client that these people who you think bleed red white and blue are the very ones who want to cut funding to the programs designed to help you and others living with similar challenges. But I don’t. I smile and nod and don’t mention how I think fear and insanity are the conductors on this crazy train campaign season.
It occurred to me recently that there was a time not too long ago, that I would pass a house like that with a Trump sign on the lawn and immediately assign a label and disdain to whomever may be living within the dwelling. It’s instinctual. I would recoil from meeting such people without giving a second thought about it. Backwards thinking, greedy, selfish bible thumping bigots live in such places…except didn’t that make me every bit as guilty as them? Am I an elitist, lazy, ne’er do well who just wants money from the Government and weed? Of course not, but I am a Democrat and that’s how we are painted by the talk radio hosts I have to hear all day. That’s how they paint us and that’s how we paint them and the world crumbles around us as we yell at each other.
My client is a mother, grandmother, survivor, loves music, Little House on the Prairie and coffee and chocolate. She is delightfully funny and kind. She also happens to be a Republican. Why should her political opinion override everything else about her? The truth is it shouldn’t. We are ALL bigger than the labels slapped upon us.
Differences of opinions should not tear apart the very fabric of our humanity. Indeed, this nation was founded in order to allow such freedom. We are free to disagree and it’s ok to be passionate. God knows I am, but the moment we forget that we all have a story is the moment that the tail starts wagging the dog in our society. We start to think that the only way we can be right is if everyone else is wrong. Not only wrong, but dumb, mean, and evil. We lose our empathy and start treating those with differing ideas as if they aren’t even human. It’s a dangerous path to tread. So I refuse to drink the Kool-Aid. I would rather believe my own experience and insight than what other people, from both sides of the political aisle tell me to think. We do not all hate each other, no matter what they would have us believe. There’s a market for panic and anger, fear and vengeance because scared, angry people are much easier to manipulate. This campaign season is the proof in the pudding. I’m not buying any of it.