“Hello, can you hear me? I’m in California dreaming about who we used to be, when we were younger and free. I’ve forgotten how it felt before the world fell at our feet.”
These haunting lyrics from the song “Hello”, by English singer-songwriter Adele, and her producer Greg Kurstin, were originally thought to be about the nostalgia and angst of a failed relationship. But just as quickly as we, the listener, latched on to that narrative, Adele set the record straight and said, “No my friends, the song is simply about reconnecting with my family. I was missing my little boy while I’ve been away making a record across the pond, you know, “Hello from the other side!” (HuffPost 12/7/2015).”
But we didn’t like Adele’s explanation. Why? Because we were afraid! “Hello” was OUR SONG! OURS! A song that spoke directly to the core of an America that found itself crumbling under the weight of divergent opinions on everything from terrorism to gun violence, racism to immigration, religious expression, national symbols, taking a knee, gender equality, gender identity, same sex marital rights and oh yeah, we even came to internet blows that year over whether or not a dress was actually black or white.
God help the individual who was bold enough to post on his social media feed…
“Um, I think the dress is….(drum roll please)… GOLD!”
“GOLD??? GOLD??? DID YOU SAY FREAKING GOLD!!!?” I’m surprised we didn’t yell a collective, “STONE HIM. STONE HIM!”
Poor guy, I think he had to change his identity and move to Siberia. But no one likes a trouble maker, right?
“Hmmm…Bet he didn’t even know what Adele’s song was about either!!! What a Loser!”
Forgive them father for they know not what they are doing! Luke 23:34
It’s now been five years since “Hello” and “The Dress” and does it surprise you that all of those issues that permeated our divide that year are still with us in 2020? That is one thousand-eight hundred and twenty-five days and we are still drowning in a pool of our own inability to compromise on any of it and to compound things, we’ve iced the cake with a polarizing election and a global pandemic called Covid 19!
No one would believe this isn’t the fictional tale of a James Patterson novel if we weren’t living it. But then again this is the era of “fake news”…maybe it isn’t our reality after all. I mean Hallmark movies are pretty realistic, right?
Still…. fifty years after Lucy Van Pelt explained “Pantophobia” to Charlie Brown and he exclaimed “THAT’S IT!”, we have emerged an America steeped in fear, unwilling to accept that Adele wrote a song about something important in HER life, not OURS; unwilling to believe a dress can be black and white and gold; and questioning the integrity and patriotism of the M.D. in charge of the COVID 19 response, who kept us safe from AIDS, SARS, Ebola and Zika all because he’s asked us to wear a mask and social distance so we don’t have to spend Christmas with a ventilator.
Yep, Charlie Brown, America is officially now AFRAID OF EVERYTHING when we fear Dr. Fauci!
Afraid to look our neighbor in the eye. Afraid to accept others who might think differently than ourselves. Afraid of being wrong. Afraid to take risks. Afraid to trust science and data. Afraid to trust people with years of experience and degrees. Afraid to be kind, considerate, empathetic. Afraid to speak out against injustices. Afraid of the immigrant, the stranger, the cop on the beat. Afraid to tone down the rhetoric. Afraid to stand up for what is right. Afraid to lose.
Afraid of admitting we are in over our heads and need help.
God’s Help. Anyone’s help. Anyone??? Hello???
Why? Because we’ve bought into the narrative we’ve been spoon fed that it’s THOSE PEOPLE who are deplorable. THOSE PEOPLE who are snowflakes. THOSE PEOPLE who are ruining our lives, mine and yours.
THOSE PEOPLE who are plotting, plotting, PLOTTING our demise!!!
Did I mention plotting?!!!
Wow, with all of that plotting going on it’s amazing how we can still find the time to order a gourmet pizza, keep our Twitter feeds fed, watch the entire Netflix catalog, grab the last blow-up Minion from Home Depot to decorate our lawn for Christmas and order a growler from our favorite brew pub to be delivered right to our doorstep.
We are, if nothing else, an America resourceful in our fear.
But our fear is real and palatable and its’ impacting our ability to fix our brokenness because we have lost our ability to trust anyone or anything. We scream all day long, “We want proof” and yet we don’t even know what proof we need.
“I want proof, I tell you. PROOF!”
To quote Robert L. Short from “The Gospel according to Charlie Brown,” “If we require some kind of sign, or “proof” for our belief in God, then we believe, or place our trust, not in God, but in the sign of proof.”
Lucy Van Pelt had it right, We are Blockheads! Blockheads that require a sign of proof for everything and anything these days in order to not be afraid, not just not afraid of God as Short pointed out, but not afraid of each other.
“Yeah Jesus, that turning water into wine thing is pretty amazing…but…what else you got buddy?” seems to have become our defacto motto.
My God what has happened to us? What has happened to me?
You see, I’m part of the problem. I don’t push a positive narrative enough myself. If I’m honest with you, I cast stones your way much too often.
IF THOSE PEOPLE WOULD CHANGE, THEN….life would….life would what? Go back to normal?
Do I even want the normal that has been our last 5 years? Our last fifty? Oh don’t get me wrong. I love life, my life. But this fear thing that has become the normal American response to anything new and different or challenging of the norms…it’s just not working for me.
Before she died earlier this year, Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, tried to tell America that there was great value in looking at the complex issues that face us from multiple angles. She encouraged us to cultivate friendships, like the one she had with fellow Supreme Court Justice Antonine Scalia, a conservative Republican, with whom she often disagreed, but enjoyed not only a wonderful professional relationship, but her most treasured personal relationship outside of her husband and child.
“We are different, yet, we are one.”
Sweet words, from a sweet lady, but well, Ruth, here we sit, an America divided and full of fear. A fear that has kept me from fully enjoying our life together. Enjoying all that WE had together. You and me, America.
And the truth is, this being right all the time isn’t what I thought it would be. Especially now, when a pandemic prevents me from seeing your smile, from giving you a hug, from arguing while we pass the turkey and gravy, from welcoming you, the stranger into my life.
I’m hungry for my America again. I’m hungry for you.
I miss thinking of you as my friend, my neighbor, my relative, the stranger on the street without fear. I miss our connection, our arguments, our making up.
I’m so very tired of thinking of you as THOSE PEOPLE. I am ashamed of that.
I last blogged back in April. I had just survived COVID 19 and was coming off 4 years where I beat breast cancer and survived a total of 17 other surgeries. In my blog I pointed out all of the things my COVID 19 experience taught me; the things we needed to do to come together, to heal as a nation, to get through this pandemic challenge with a positive outlook. I hit send and felt proud of my words. I meant them, or so I thought. I was ready to step positively into a pandemic with you.
But one month went by, then two, three, and I found myself wallowing in my own fear, playing the nightly game of spin the dial with cable news jockey’s, and courting internet saviors whose only job it is is to peddle “division” and cater to my anxiety.
THOSE PEOPLE! THOSE PEOPLE! THOSE PEOPLE!!!
I put the blog aside. I put positivity aside and I began to swallow the Kool-Aid of those intent on making big money off my fear, your fear. Channel surfing for validation that my way is the ultimate truth. The gospel according to Anne!
For eight months, I blinded myself to the fact that division, not truth, sells advertising and advertising brings in big money. Big money funds lavish lifestyles and we humans look at this and say, “I want that too!” and we keep consuming it, over and over and over again, until we believe division is our only path forward to the riches we so rightly deserve. Mine, mine…all mine!
I tried to tell myself that what I was watching, what I was consuming had my best interest at heart. But…
Thou shall have no other God’s before ME! Exodus 20:2
Oh, how easy it is to forget dear Lord and elevate the language of hate when the riches of division are raining down on our heads. How easy it is to succumb to the f’bombs dropping on every crevice of American society, digging ourselves a tunnel into the mountainside of our pride, where sweeping generalizations, about who and what we are, rage like thunder through the vast canyons of our different so that we don’t hear anyone’s cry for help, but our own.
I am guilty of this, I admit it and it saddens me. I know better and I know you know better too. Maybe my excuse is the past four years of health issues has been a lot for me to process. I don’t like division, confrontation, and unpleasantness. I know the joy of being given a new lease on life time and again and I wanted the time to relish that. To wallow in my happy place.
But instead I sat, in my lounge chair gorging on cable fodder, sitting on the sidelines quietly waiting for “someone else” to make the first move. The humane move. The “What would Jesus Do” move.
Know this, my beloved: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. James 1:19
Still my thoughts, your thoughts, our ideas, our ability to express those ideas in a free and open society can be a hard pill to swallow and I’ve become bitter to a lot of it. Angry, resentful in fact. I have hated seeing people tear each other apart on social media, especially strangers. I’ve wanted to shout at them,
“I know what it’s like to lay naked, prostrate on a hospital bed, my living or dying at the mercy of a single human who controls my oxygen source and to know with every fiber of my being that we aren’t given an indefinite opportunity to get it right!”
Folks, we only have this merry- go-round to live in the light. To bathe in our possible and to welcome the stranger.
But I forget too. I find myself yelling at the television set, ranting and raving about things that I have no control over. Wasting time depressed in the muck of all I can’t fix and hating every moment of it. Maybe social media and cable news has made it easier to wrap ourselves in hate and fear. I don’t know. But regardless, we humans are still responsible for what we input into the machine and what we filter, myself included, and if I’ve become “woke” to anything this year, it’s that fearing my fellow citizens is not the key to my happiness and certainly isn’t good for my positivity.
For when we put our individual viewpoints into a box and say, “Only open if you agree,” we’ve ignored the very tenants of freedom and the power that the free exchange of ideas has on our ability to move the needle of change and propel our nation forward positively. Each of us forward positively.
Maybe it’s because it’s hard? Change is not easy. Freedom isn’t easy. Change is messy. Freedom is messy. And messiness can be ugly at times, very ugly.
But looking at life through different lenses is our privilege for living in a free America and one I no longer want to take for granted.
The reality of life is we don’t ride the teetertotter of this great American freedom experiment by ourselves. We share our air with each other. Thus, the importance of masks (but I digress!).
We need each other to go up and down.
That’s America. It takes two. It takes us! It takes you and me and he and she and it and they and whatever the heck pronouns you use to make it work.
It takes all of us. All 328.2 million of us working together to keep it pumping. To keep it going across 3000 miles of sea to shining sea.
So, how to fix it. Maybe it’s not that hard.
It’s time to do as Mark 12:31 says so simply:
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
I like the sound of that and the challenge in it.
To share our differences so that I open my eyes, my ears to your story, your injustice and pain and heartache, so that I may see the real you, no filter and without fear.
So, this Christmas, as I hang my box of treasured ornaments on my tree, I will think of you.
Some of you are old, wise and careworn; some of you are shiny and new and just beginning your stories. Some of you are slightly broken, bent, misshapen, but in need of the same love and appreciation that we all crave. Some merely are here, there and everywhere, all searching for their voice, their place in the crowd. But all, equally important to the beauty of my tree.
God has told me to give you a seat at my table and do not fear. I need to listen to God. There is still time in 2020 for me to do that. For even thinking about it, giving up my fear, fills my heart with love and gratitude.
Love for you and gratitude for another chance to get life right.
America, I love you. And I can’t think of a better Christmas gift to myself then to stop being afraid of you. What better way to salvage the memory of what has been a dismal 2020 then to give it a new and positive purpose!
Who’s ready to join me?