By Amanda Moreno
I recently had the opportunity to spend some unexpected time with a man I’ve grown quite platonically fond of. I’ve long lamented the seeming loss of my ability to gain new male friends at this point in my life. When they come in and it seems like there’s a chance for something to grow, I tend to be enthusiastic and excited.
We met up at happy hour and then spent some time at his house playing music for each other. He tried to convince me why I should like baseball and I enjoyed watching him demonstrate batting techniques knowing that my learning about it was a lost cause but that I’d enjoy observing such a beautiful male form executing different batting styles in slow motion.
Then we decided to go to dinner. Somehow our conversation at dinner took a turn towards the political and derailed. It hugely derailed.
We’re two humans who share many values and left-leaning tendencies, and yet for the second or third time in my life I found myself giving into the mayhem of a full-on political argument. All I know was that he was ranting, and then my disagreement was seen as automatic opting into the opposite viewpoint, and that just pissed me off because in my world there are far more subtleties and gray areas.
I’m quite certain that the American political scene is dominated by football mentality, which is itself dominated by gladiatorial tendencies that did not die in ancient Rome but instead morphed and went somewhat underground, to emerge again in the more ‘civilized’ form of football. But that’s just my take.
We as a populace tend to ignore the fact that although our modern-day gladiators — known as football players — do not seek blood and gore, they are virtually guaranteed head injuries, chronic pain and an automatic gratitude for surgeons and physical therapists who can hopefully attempt to treat and correct the havoc the sport plays on their bodies.
Today we watch people’s bodies get smashed to pieces. But in a civilized manner.
It’s not so much the physical violence I refer to here, however, when I mention football mentality. It’s the black-and-white thinking: it’s your team or my team, and by god my allegiance to my team is supported by a legacy of family members who also cheered for this team, and I am going to die wearing their colors. No matter what.
This mindset is an unfortunate one to have in the political arena where things like critical thinking, which can and should lead to fluid and shifting beliefs and personal truths, is so crucial to constructive law making — and healthy societal shifts.
I realized during the conversation that my anger was stemming from feeling unheard and misunderstood as a statement like “I don’t know if I can vote for Hillary” was immediately translated into “so you’re supporting Trump.” My attempts to evenly discuss my belief that what is needed is full-fledged systemic change was met with cries of “that’s not realistic, you’re too idealistic,” and at this point in time, that argument is the one that I absolutely cannot swallow.
Especially when coupled with the notion that my generation (being the younger one — he’s a whopping 11 years older than me) is too unrealistic. The argument is that we’re not being practical when we cry out for a Bernie Sanders candidacy; or try to engage discussions about real, lasting reform of the system, which are met with accusations of being “too revolutionary.”
I have realized that for me, the real unrealistic course would be to stay on the one we’re on. It’s not realistic to refuse to deal with climate change in aggressive ways — actual science says that even if we were to stop climate change in its tracks (which we won’t), destructive changes like sea level rise are already a foregone conclusion. Our lived environment 40 years from now will be drastically different.
It’s not realistic to think that our current governmental system will or can change in ways that are drastic enough to get us out of the approximately 17,000 ways we are screwing up our ecosystem, our bodies, our communities, our relationships and economic system. Especially if we don’t see major shifts in party platforms, if not the structure of the parties themselves.
I hear arguments that Hillary deserves the presidency because she’s female or because she has been playing the game so long that she’s earned the right to be at the top, and my head feels like it’s going to explode — just to save my heart the ache of its seemingly inevitable full breaking. In some ways, for me, to see a woman candidate playing into the drama triangle of our current political system is even more soul numbing.
And then I realized that… the friend I was engaging with was in the same self-defensive place, too. So many of us are trying to work within the constructs we were raised to believe were the best in the world. The dream of the American way of life pervades so much of our global culture at this point in time, and giving up on it? That’s rough heartache right there. There is resistance. There is always resistance to grief. And defeat.
I walked away from my friend, after leaving the restaurant and standing outside my house for 15 minutes, conversation escalating. Part of me wanted to run back and hug him and apologize, but I didn’t. I realized I’d fallen under the spell of polarization myself, despite my whole being trying to call on communication skills and compassion. I was so angry and flustered. I felt so unheard and misunderstood at the same time as an awareness of how bleak the situation can seem crept over me.
I needed space. I woke up the next morning on the day of the Gemini New Moon and tried to reframe the conversation in terms of the ways it might offer me a new perspective.
Sometimes I wonder if revolution is becoming mandatory — or even a given — and I wonder what that means, what it will look like, and if we’re nearing a point where it will have to happen with a lot of discomfort for everyone involved. I’m aware that this meme is floating in the collective, be it consciously or not, and that so many are clinging onto their beliefs and ways of being with a brand of fundamentalism that can perhaps only be seen as a defense mechanism. When belief becomes defense mechanism — think shadow Sagittarius — our field of awareness narrows and we discount the ways our lived experiences tell us something different.
Of course my “we” is heavily colored towards the U.S. residents side of things. But perhaps the application of these ideas goes beyond that, to the wider world in which the American ‘Way of Life’ has become something to be sought after.
My friend and I both spend most of our lives trying to make the world a better place in our own ways. I know we share a level of heartbreak and disenchantment, but also a strong belief in hope and making that hope more active.
As I read Eric’s piece from earlier this week — aptly titled Mutable Grand Cross: Push Has Come to Shove I had to stop and take pause, and it brought me back home to something I struggle with: that although I know paying attention to the political situation is important, it also makes me feel impossibly hopeless and thoroughly impotent, especially as I try to find trustworthy sources. Digging in and trying to be the change and help others do the same is more palpable and centering. Finding the balance between the two can be difficult.
I’ll leave you with a few lines from Eric’s piece, as they deserve to be re-stated and encapsulate some of what I’ve found myself pondering, just as the whole piece deserves to be read:
Right now the world is drowning in good intentions. It’s drowning in people who want to be the best person they can be, which usually means waiting a long time before taking a chance. And the world is being consumed by rage in many forms, but one in particular stands out: a political system that is out of control, driven by a combination of blazingly ignorant and, in other quarters, well-meaning people who would seem to have little in common. I don’t think these are viable options, nor is the seeming standoff.
I suggest you not be distracted by it.