The enemy

It’s been a rough year. On top of whatever personal tribulations we experience we are living in a time of tremendous conflict; tribal identities are really strong and it feels like a molten lava of human emotion could explode at any moment into a volcano of civil violence. The reasons for this sense of pending social eruption are many; race tension, poverty, financial insecurity, environmental extremes and the future does seem dark. Do we each live in our own microcosm of the larger world? I think so, I think that what happens in my village also happens in your town because humans are fundamentally similar in our behaviors and reactions to the world around us. I am concerned about my village. In my version of America I am experiencing a disturbing clannish conflict.  I am probably going to piss some people off but here goes:

We need to let go of the past and focus on the present. Think about duels in movies, the opponents fencing on the edge of a cliff or the roof of a castle, completely engrossed in their duel and yet one slip and they could be tumbling off the cliff or into the castle moat. That’s where I see the people of my village. While I want to stay away from naming names and calling any one person out in a public way I am going to relate an incident because this story is already public. Recently, at a public meeting the outgoing local politician stated to the constituents in front of him, “I hate people.” Most of us gasped, some laughed. Stunned was my first reaction but as I watched and listened I saw pain and anger. Our town had put a young man through the hell, negatively affected his business and his personal life. There is background to the story, of course, but I only know it from 3rd and 4th hand stories so I am not going to pass judgement on him for expressing his anger the way he did. I can only imagine it must have taken a lot of pent up frustration for him to say, “I hate people.” Sometimes I feel the same way.

The night before in a different meeting, in an audience of less diverse interests, people screamed at each other.  By less diverse interests I mean a room full of registered Democrats. In the other meeting the audience was a mix of political affiliation. I am angry at them. They are angry at me. And you are angry at someone. Despite my aspirations to discuss with civility, to consider with reason, to allow my mind to contemplate other opinions and new ideas I don’t always say what is thoughtfully considered. Yes, I have used unkind words. Then again there are many other times when I keep my damn mouth shut, when I backspace over a sentence, when I don’t click send and I give myself a pat on the pat for not being a bitch. It was really tempting though. There is a certain amount of satisfaction in verbally poking someone in the eye with a stick but, like the pleasure of a few glasses of wine, the sensation doesn’t last long. I go to a lot of meetings and gatherings and I participate in many group discussions, some are well run and organized others are not. The best meetings are the ones that play loosely with Robert’s Rules. Allowing people to speak without interruption and LISTENING generate the best results. Slamming down a gavel, interrupting and finger pointing at someone’s face generally does yield great outcome.

Truthfully, I have not found a place for Democrats to speak to Republicans in a civil and rational manner. Regrettably, in many places Democrats aren’t even talking civilly to each other. In my community some Democrats aren’t getting along very well. Is it the strain of the chaotic and dysfunctional White House and the lack of leadership at large? Partially, I am sure. It seems that we are all clinging to a vision of how things should be, like survivors of a plane crash in a desolate place we are desperate for a way back to safety and security, a way back home. The thing is we all have our version of home. There is a parallel to us in reality to those on the long running series, Survivor, in that, when resources and security are threatened we behave badly.

In my city some of us who used to break bread in each other’s homes are no longer speaking. And we are supposed to be on the same team. A dilemma in my mind has been, “Do I write about the animosity and struggles in our local Democratic leadership? Or do I try to keep it contained and not let the public know? Does the public already know?” I think they have an inkling because I saw a man tell his fellow townspeople that he hates them and I saw decent people scream at each other. There are cracks in the surface and we can ignore them or we can resolve to repair them. We are on a precipice in so many ways both figuratively and literally. Continuing to argue about what happened takes our focus away from where we are going. This isn’t a game- we are unmistakably making decisions that will affect both our short and long term well-being and the world of our great grandchildren.

Sometimes the rock that I was told to crawl under looks appealing to me because we waste so much time arguing and I ask myself, “Am I wasting my time?” Are your leaders in DC listening to you? In my group they aren’t listening to the people they are supposed to represent- they tell them to shut up. The name Democrat comes from the word Democracy, the very word that embodies our Constitution, yet, in my village some Democrats tell other Democrats that they don’t have to listen to them, that they alone know what’s best. How does that make sense? There have been few times when people should be setting aside small grievances and focusing on electing Democrats. Sure, the Democratic Party needs repair but have you seen the alternative?! Are Democrats being indicted and plea bargaining? Are Democrats talking about cutting social security? Are Democrats tearing up health care? Are Democrats ignoring environmental disasters? Are Democrats throwing paper towels at destitute people? We have got to set aside our differences, work on getting a balance of power back and start tackling issues. Can we not agree that we should be focused on November 6 right now? Let’s set aside the smaller issues. I am not a traitorous Dem because I disagree with you on how we should enact healthcare. I am still as much of a Democrat as you. Don’t tell me to STFU because I disagree on a candidate, I’m a Democrat- just like you. Don’t publicly yell at another Democrat over a misunderstanding of when they could speak, we are all democrats in that meeting. Don’t poke you finger in a fellow democrat’s face because you think your opinion matters more.

Right now there are good reasons to be angry, but let’s be angry at the right reasons and causes. I want to ask us, Democrats, to not be so focused on beating our perceived enemy that we fall off the castle wall. Your neighbor Democrat is not your enemy. The foe is politician who is coming after your social security and Medicare and sending your job overseas or handing it to a machine. Your opponent is the billionaire lawmaker handing your paycheck to the CEO. I am not your adversary. I am your fellow Democrat. After we cut the cancer out then we can argue about the smaller issues, right now, we need to work together and talk together. I will talk to you if you talk to me. I will listen to you if you listen to me. It is going to take every single one of us to pull this off. Let’s set aside our rapiers so that we don’t slip off the cliff.

Deborah Baron

Deborah Baron

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