In this twilight zone week between Christmas 2016 and the upcoming year of 2017, I’m doing all kinds of self-care and holding on to hope and joy. My days are pretty good. But when night falls, I find myself waking around 3 or 4AM from some nightmare of fleeing Syria or trying to make sense of our new American reality. I grasp bits and pieces but whenever I try to put it together in a picture that makes any sense I get frustrated, anxious, and yes, angry. I again take self-calming measures, a break of one sort or another, and start over. Even when I take breaks during the day, my mind’s actions at night report my highly anxious state to me. I know I’m not alone.
This week I’ve felt stymied by the fact that for the most part as a nation we can’t get to square one in agreeing on reality.
I remember learning somewhere along the way that even though there is no real security, it’s vitally important for humans to experience a “sense of security”. I’m thinking there’s a parallel need about reality, i.e. a “sense of a commonly shared reality” being just as important as that “sense of security”. I know there are a lot of different takes on reality and that’s always true, but now, the problem seems fixed.
Is the Emperor buck naked or well-suited? Are there deal-breaking conflicts of interest or are Trump’s children ever-so-lovely? Did he actually grab pussy, rape, de-fraud, pathologically lie or why isn’t Hillary in jail?
I’m getting stumped here because… reality… facts… evidence… statistics. What has happened to the concepts of integrity, moral compass, ethical standards, kindness, intellectual endeavor, respect and care for the other? In this OtherWorld of Trumplandia, the societal standards by which we previously operated (even if unevenly and awkwardly) no longer seem to have gravitational pull. Reality? It just floats right up and out the door. As if… no gravity. Sometimes these words get used but in a very Twilight-Zone-ish hollowed-out way, which is creepier than if they weren’t used at all. From my perspective, you get one personality-disordered-egomaniacal-demagogue, and suddenly many at least grade-school-educated people can no longer add two and two. If that’s not the Twilight Zone, I don’t know what is.
Seth Grodin, a kind of entrepreneurial, spiritual guru, who’s been around for awhile but who I only recently became aware of, posts a short daily blog. His advice, which is ostensibly aimed at entrepreneurs often seems as valuable for the rest of us non-entrepreneurs. He posted this little gem on Wed. Dec. 28th, titled Shared Reality, Shared Goals.
“The best way to persuade someone of your new approach is to begin with three agreements:
We agree on the goals. We both want the same outcomes, we’re just trying different ways to get there.
We agree on reality. The world is not flat. Facts are actually in evidence. Statistics, repeatable experiments and clear evidence of causation are worth using as tools.
We agree on measurement. Because we’ve agreed on goals and reality, we agree on what success looks like as well.
All three allow us to enroll on the same journey, and to hold each other accountable for our work. Any other approach disrespects your partners and leaves you in a corner, without allies.”
I love Seth’s thinking in general and I’m sure there’s some wisdom in this post, but I can’t seem to get beyond the idea of how — given our circumstances — to approach achieving the 2nd agreement. How do we agree on reality??
A few months ago Professor Patricia Leary wore a Black Lives Matter T-shirt to teach a particular topic in her classroom at Whittier Law School. One (or more?) of her students wrote a highly critical (anonymously sent) letter to her. I was impressed with Professor Leary’s ability to respond to this letter and discuss reality on the question of Black Lives Matter. Still, she is a Law Professor and knows how to respond clearly and to the point when confronted with something which looks like a real argument, but isn’t. But will the student(s) who wrote the original letter be able to receive, perceive, adopt the reality Professor Leary offers?
We all experience subjective realities, but how do we find and agree on objective reality?
In Whitefish, Montana, (part-time home of Richard Spencer, figurehead leader of the Alt Right /white supremacist movement) the neo-Nazis were making their version of reality felt by calling for an armed demonstration this January through the town of 6,000 people in order to target the few Jews living in the area. As the story unfolded this past week, I went from epigenetically-derived feelings of terror to outrage to feelings of impotence, and the wringing of my emotional hands at what Trump has wrought in our country by inflaming men’s basest instincts and behaviors.
In the same moment all this is unfolding in the real town of Whitefish, AAA’s Via magazine ran a brief travel article on the very same Whitefish, Montana, calling it “SMALL TOWN TRANQUILLITY”. It has a “burgeoning restaurant scene”, “ski resort”, “fro-yo fun at Whitefish’s Red Caboose”. It sounded positively charming. They didn’t mention the Neo-Nazis in the neighborhood.
Talk about cognitive dissonance! I shot off an email to VIA magazine. A couple of days ago. Haven’t heard back.
Checking the latest news on Whitefish, I was gratified to see at least a smidgen of a shared sense of reality between Montanan Democrat and Republican state leaders in denouncing the planned neo-nazi demonstration. We’ll have to see what unfolds there.
There are too many cases of hate crimes in our country to keep track of every one. But it’s important that to the extent we can, we do, and that we don’t, in our efforts to stay calm, turn a blind eye to the tremendous and unnecessary suffering being created by people adding two and two and coming up with seven.
One group that does keep track of all these hate crimes and actions is the Southern Poverty Law Center. If you haven’t yet checked them out, you should. They are some of the bravest people on earth. The people who stand with the targeted against the bullies of our world.
It’s been a tough few months. But for lots of people in the world, it’s been a tough few decades or centuries. For this upcoming year, my intention is to support the SPLC and to stand up against bigotry. I’m still signing up for lots of self-care because I want to be and do my best to help turn reality right-side up again. I’d like to figure out how to do this work so completely and fully during the day that I don’t have to do it in my sleep.
Wishing you all a safe and happy New Year’s Eve, and what can I say about 2017? Let’s do this!
ps. In the DeFund DAPL campaign so far $28 million dollars in personal accounts have been removed from the major banks which invest in DAPL and fossil fuels! WE CAN DO THIS!