Middle of what - the American experiment, western civilization, human progress? How about the middle of geologic earth with billions of years yet to come?…
Oh, the stress of it all! We fret. We fume. When comes the fun?
Covid spiking locally, the highest in the nation for my own Jackson County! What slowly dwindled from 50 or so new cases a day and had gone down to about 10 has suddenly shot up to 350 cases a day, with deaths to go with it, sometimes children.
Then there are the friends and loved ones who are dead sure their paranoid suspicions are more reliable than thousands of people who have actually studied medicine and such diseases. Easier to suspect evil cabals and nefarious government/corporate magnets, chips, and deliberate diseases than to understand and guard against this one. To them, only sissies and dupes get vaccinated and wear masks. Yet, one after another, such anti-vaccine loud mouths are dying from what they had called a hoax.
All this with a backdrop of the grey-brown daily haze from the multiple fires all around us (air worse to breathe than smoking cigarettes because of the super-tiny particles that get from the blood to lungs). All summer, I could barely see our local mountain.
Let’s see, is there more I can add to these distressing paragraphs? Sure. What about the big money behind the little people whose amygdalas are deliberately riled with worry and rage?
Cognitive bias is the new way of talking about thinking you’re right. Our brains are set up to find evidence to support what we already think. Add to that an emotionalized sense of (perhaps unfounded) self-worth allied to some tribe who thinks the same way, and we get stuck there. Cognitive-behavioral Therapy helps us realize what we tend to think might not be accurate or good for us. Since we’re recently caught in a national neurosis, a society prone to and prodded by a brain imbalance, we’d best think again about how we think.
Don’t substitute believing for thinking. We might not know it all. We’re all ignorant in one way or another. I’ve nothing against ignorance. No one knows it all. But don’t wander into deliberate ignorance, anti-rationality, and stubborn stupidity.
I’ll share here (in italics) what I posted online before going on to funnier and more helpful parts.
I was responding to a commentary on yet another prominent radio host who shouted his anti-vaccination vitriol on-air before getting the disease and dying.
Ignorance is never a fault or shame.
Stubborn ignorance, defiant ignorance, and arrogant ignorance are always faulty and shameful.
What becomes of any healthy society if crazed bullies, psychopathic CEOs, moralistic zealots, and inured anti-environmentalists are elected to rule?
If America keeps electing a party built of deliberate, showy, imposed ignorance, it is voting for disintegration and suicide.
This man’s tragic but earned death is one thing. It being emblematic of our society is another.
Perhaps his death will be a warning to his cohort and our country.
Angry, stubborn opinion is all the rage. Wearing body armor, carrying weapons, and shouting spit to others isn’t protest, it’s intimidation. It’s the same sort that has been used by angry, bossy types back through the Inquisition to the Romans to who knows when?
I always thought freedom and responsibility went together. Shouting freedom spit into someone’s face isn’t socially responsible. It’s worse than rude.
White Pride and Proud Boys have become a problem.
Pride isn’t the problem; arrogance is. Whites, Blacks, Natives, women, and plumbers all have reason to be proud as long as it isn’t over and against others. The Proud Boys recently showed up in Portland all angry to “defend” anti-abortionists. Some of them think they’re some sort of Christian soldier with God on their side.
I contributed this on the subject of pride:
The Inquisition claimed to have God on its side too. They had Bible quotes for authority.
You’d think we would have learned from such a sick history. Wasn’t there an Enlightenment? Wasn’t there the emergence of a humanistic secular democracy that kept religious whackos from ruling?
Americans are being duped by the craziest of the crazies. Every time they wave the flag for their arrogant, divisive stance, they defile it.
When Pride was the deadliest of the seven sins it meant overweening arrogance, one’s ego over anyone else’s — much as the Proud Boys exemplify.
Humility is needed, but not the “I am unworthy” sort it has wrongly wandered into. Better would be as the historian of religion Houston Smith recommends: Humility is being oneself fully in such a way as to allow others to be themselves fully.
Body armor, baseball bats, and mean-eyed screaming are not needed. We need, “live and let live.”
From the Moral Majority to the Tea Party to The Insurection of January 6th, bossy, mean people think they should assume control, ridiculing, shouting down and shoving down kinder and more rational people. They shriek about Antifa, forgetting that was us in WWII fighting the fascists and nazis then.
Black Lives Matter was initially a protest against racist cops brutalizing and killing blacks. Fair enough, given the ample examples of that. But the problem is larger than that. Militarized, bossy police should not be a new norm for anyone. What ever became of Sheriff Longmeyer, or Barney Miller, or Andy of Newberry? Aren’t most police decent people dealing with indecent problems while also serving and protecting the rest of us, blacks especially?
I put a sign up in my yard that I hope rightly includes us all. I added the word “too” to a Black Lives Matter sign.
Bad though it can be here, especially for blacks, it isn’t as catastrophic as it was in Afghanistan for twenty years. True, they’ve long warded off invaders, from Genghis Khan to the British to the Russians to the Americans. But fear, arrogance, and enormous economic opportunity impelled us to invade and stay. Our motives may have been reasonable and even well-intended, but at what cost to them and us?
US soldiers, private (sometimes mercenary) contractors, and NATO and allied troops: 7,438.
Taliban and related defenders (also known as “insurgents”) 51,191.
Afghan military, 66,000, plus civilians (“collateral damage”) 47,245, for a total of 113,245.
Innocent aid workers, 444, and journalists, 72, for 516.
Our financial cost? About two trillion dollars. (That’s two thousand million million dollars.) That went to who? Largely those supplying the troops and making the guns and drones. Through them, it sort of stimulated our economy.
Just think, how much would that have been if distributed equally among our fifty states? Forty billion dollars per state! What could Oregon do with forty thousand million dollars?
At least it’s ending, sloppily perhaps for having been hurried, and with lingering fears. Perhaps the Taliban will be more modern and open to free speech and women’s rights than they used to be. It isn’t ours to demand how they do it. It is ours to help receive those who want to escape and to assist their people in repairing and rebuilding. In the long run, we’ll find cultural connections with them and the Iraqis, just as we have with the Germans, Japanese, and Vietnamese.
Too quickly we rush to war. Remember our relief and resolve after Vietnam? I did, responding to the commentator who reminded us of other wars we thought we had learned from:
Granada was the first breaking of the peace we thought we had learned after Vietnam. Then, as you succinctly put it, a march of increasingly fatal and futile wars, culminating in pathetic people clinging to the huge wheels of the fleeing bulky American promise.
Who has benefitted from all these wars? Could the arms makers and private contractors be plotting for new, bigger ones? If so, what could we do, protest again?
What would the two thousand billion dollars have done positively there or here? Instead of contrived wars on innocents, couldn’t we marshal such massive efforts in slowing global heating, restoring the soils, rescuing the oceans, and replenishing the people?
What has America been, and what could it become?. . . . .
But didn’t I promise some relief from all the fretting like in the cartoon at the top? Isn’t there some pastoral advice to get us through this dark night of the soul other than – coffee?
Besides complaining about all these huge external problems that can keep us up at night, we can tend to our own and each other’s well-being. For instance, I’ve recently begun to explore counseling and coaching as a service I could provide. Here’s what I sent to a teacher in England who uses hypnotherapy therapeutically. I offer ways to counter depression:
An occasional St. John’s Wort works fine for me, that and vigorous exercise using big muscle groups, getting my heart rate up for a while, ample sleep, some friends and fun, and not taking persistent negative self-talk too seriously. Even deliberate effort at posture and facial expression helps. Meditation and applying Positive Psychology also help.
Depression is persnickety and persistent sometimes. It takes some deliberate effort, and even though its stuck inertia makes it hard to get that effort going, any step in getting it going will help.
Personally and culturally, we need to get out of this era of disease, fire, militarism, anxiety, and depression.
We’ve missed each other’s smiles under the masks. It’s hard to smile with your eyes only, but if you look, others see it and share it back. If these years of covid have taught us anything, we need to have a healthy, friendly, fun community again. Questioning our civilization’s assumptions and habits is a good thing because whole cultures can come through challenging times better.
People are reluctant to go back to work. But, work at what? Maybe this reluctance to go back to business as usual is a good thing. How about time for our families? For nature? For art? How about time for ourselves?
Since I promised you a joke and the midnight hour is near for me to have to post this, I’ll conclude with what I see as a funny, hopeful summary: