July 31, 2021

Stars and Stripes

“Hate looks like everybody else until it smiles.

-Tahereh Mafi

Flag of United States of America flutters in the winds in mild sunset light, independence

 
Like many, I find myself staring into the black abyss of the future.
 
The past five years in America have been tumultuous to say the least. Political upheaval, social inequality, economic downfall, police brutality, gun violence, a pandemic, climate crisis, and insurrection at the nation’s capital have ravaged my homeland like a Biblical plague.
 
I’m torn between wanting to stay in the know and the urge to pull the blankets over my head, drowning out the sounds of catastrophe. I abandon news updates one minute and stay glued to the headlines the next.
 
What happened to America? Where did my country go? Stars and stripes are going up in flames and scattering in the wind like ash.
 
I haven’t lived long enough to see the arduous times in U.S. history that I studied in grade school. In spite of that fact, the fallout I’ve seen lately can only be described as apocalyptic, and there is no end in sight.
 
Maybe the delusion here is that we thought the hard times—the really heard ones in America—were behind us, and this is our wake-up call.
 
The added stress to daily life has been a monster of its own to tame. Under local stay-at-home orders, I’ve found myself having trouble concentrating, needing refuge while staying hermetically sealed off from the rest of the world. The strange irony in that is not lost on me.
 
How do we get ourselves out of this mess? I find myself asking this question routinely.
 
We can start by first taking some prudent steps toward finding a way out of the health crisis. COVID-19 vaccinations are available, they are free to U.S. residents, and they are effective. Like any vaccine, the shots are not infallible. Infection is still possible. But they work in preventing life-threatening illness.
 
If you are not yet vaccinated, take a moment to find out about COVID-19 vaccines, and remember that once you’re infected, it’s too late to be immunized. Getting your shots can save your life and the lives of those around you.
 
What else can we do?
 
Pay closer attention to the climate crisis that is destroying our world. We can take part in simple ways to foster change needed now. The fires in the west and storms in the east are only going to get worse.
 
We can also self-administer some basic anger management skills to ease tension that is running rampant. Lashing out may be a first impulse, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best way of communicating. Hateful words and deeds only breed more of the same.
 
Stop and think about what you’re saying and doing. Never say in a text message or in a social media post what you do not feel comfortable saying to someone in person. Remember that there is no substitute for discussion and face-to-face interaction.
 
We can also try to do something good in the world, even if it doesn’t seem significant enough to matter. Open a door for a stranger. Wear a mask, even if it’s not convenient. Challenge yourself to think about the other as only different, not something or someone to hate.
 
We have thrown out common courtesy like trash. This is not something that should ever be discarded.
 
It’s time to start over. It’s time to rethink how we want to live. We can define the future, but we have to be willing to make changes—in ourselves and in the everyday world around us—to get there.