Sunday, July 31, 2011

It has been ever so

My empathy meter is working overtime these days, and I am alternately sad, outraged, depressed and frustrated by my fellow human beings.

I just read an article in the Sunday Los Angeles Times about violence against nurses and caregivers, and I am so depressed by it. I'm depressed by the reaction of the hospital administrators after incidences of violence against staff have occurred, and I'm depressed by our American society that has dismantled the mental health residential facilities for patients who can't live by themselves or with their families.

Families - not everyone is lucky enough to have a functioning or cohesive family anymore. It's become too easy to divorce our families over all manner of slights and bad behavior and not to have the familial structure of elders to hold folks accountable. Mutual responsibility and accountability are key but not so easy to inculcate when family members are struggling to make ends meet. Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying that some family members shouldn't be divorced for our own mental and emotional health, and some familial bad behavior is best left in the dust along with the perpetrators.

I've also been following stories about school districts across the country and their failure to educate our children and to compensate teachers appropriately. This downhill slide in terms of maintaining a social safety net that enhances our life together has been happening throughout my lifetime, and mostly, I've been old enough to pay attention and watch its advance. The expectations of elders that children will attend school, on time and prepared, everyday, that they will do their homework and speak to teachers with respect, that they will do their very best at their "jobs," which is going to school, certainly helped my brothers, my cousins and me to go on to college and good jobs.

It's very clear to me that all of our societal ills are interconnected, that throwing money at them alone won't solve them, and that throwing people under the bus won't solve them either. The ideas of politicians, elected leaders, citizen activists, academic and think tank experts, and you and me all have merit at some level. The disagreements and the ways in which we disagree throw roadblocks into our hopes for compromise, experimentation and just rolling up our sleeves and tackling the hard work of digging out from under.

The resetting of an economic equilibrium for most of us continues to be painful. It feels unfair to almost everyone. No one, not God or anyone else, ever promised that life would be fair, and no doubt, your idea of fair is different from my idea of fair. Americans by and large are among the most privileged people in the history of civilization, even those of us who are struggling and living in poverty by American standards. There are so many concepts and ideals that we as Americans take for granted that are largely myths. "All men are created equal." "If you work hard and keep your nose clean, you will succeed." Those and other American myths don't take into account racism, classism, and a whole lot of other -isms including alcoholism, sexism, narcissism, consumerism and drug addiction.

I suppose you could say that today, I am writing just to lament, because I don't have any bright ideas about overarching solutions. I'm watching the congressional budget scenario play out with disgust and disappointment. I have some ideas, and I'm working in my little corner of the field. Prayer certainly is warranted, and so is meditation to bring peace to individual hearts and minds. Ultimately, regardless of overarching, dramatic, big proposed solutions, we are, each of us, called to nurture the flame of hope, to be kind to those with whom we come into contact, to make a difference in the lives of those we love and hold dear, to do no harm to the earth or its inhabitants, and to make some sacrifices for the younger generations who come after us. It has been ever so. We just forgot.

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