By Susan Kay
for the Mail Tribune
She sits on the corner at a number of places around town, surrounded by bags, smoking cigarettes. I’ve driven past her several times, giving her little notice. Years ago I would’ve condemned her. I might have said something like, “If she can sit there all day, she can get a job. It costs money to buy cigarettes.” But I’ve since departed from a life-view that gives me the right to say such things.
Two days ago I stopped at the light coming out of Fred Meyer, and there she was. I barely noticed her, but before I knew what was happening, I dug a few bucks out of my purse and handed them to her. No big deal, really, but as I drove away, I felt something inside, like a dam giving way, flooding some deserted inner place long forgotten — or maybe an inner place just discovered. I realized I had done something — without judgment — for someone I don’t understand.
Tonight I watched two shows about two people who aren’t like me. One was a tribute to Joan Rivers. I’ve never cared for her brand of humor. I’ve thought of her as coarse, raunchy and derogatory. But I decided to watch it anyway, and what I found was a woman who walked through the pain of life, doing her best. I’m not saying I came away with more appreciation for her brand of humor, but that’s not the point. And yet, that’s usually the point, isn’t it? Judgment comes so easy when we try to run from those we don’t understand.
Are we running from them or ourselves?
The second show I watched was about a highly decorated Navy Seal who is now transgender. He is now a she. Do I understand it? No. Do I need to understand it in order to accept her? I don’t think so.
There’s a lot being said lately about “living our truth.” I know what is meant by that, but I’m not sure we understand that most of our “truth” is about processing pain. And pain leads us to do one of two things: be exactly who we are, understood or not, or hide in judgment of those who are trying to find their way in the world, regardless of the consequences. Judgment comes from pain, and we’re afraid of pain.
Our culture frowns on disruption, especially when it questions our well established positions. We have become political animals, whether we’re talking about government or God. We must choose a side, so we know who we are. And I wonder if we do it so we don’t have to sit with ourselves and work through our wounds. If we can join a group, it gives us a script, and if we have a script, we don’t have to face the most basic element of humanity — our injury. We want a mindless track to run on, to alleviate our pain.
By denying our pain, we’re turning out bullies who foster vile conjecture about opposite thinkers we’d rather label as The Opposition. Lessons in kindergarten — play nice with others — are lost in the mad dash for the toy box. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of it and I’m afraid if we don’t turn the ship around, the Titanic will look like a sailboat in comparison.
While we wait for the government to solve our problems, our educational system to foster our children, the news media to paint a brighter picture, and God to rain fire on our enemies, maybe we can focus on our own responsibility to change the world we live in.
We can start by dropping the script. We are humans, and being human means we are no less or more than all other humans. Seeing ourselves as racial, religious or political warriors only compounds the problem. Leave the pundits in their pulpits to tantalize smaller minds and let’s go home to our neighborhoods, where we can learn to listen to one another.
Susan Kay lives in Douglas County and has a website at http://www.anxiety-master.com.
Please post your comments- or are you too busy…..on Facebook?