America Needs Therapy: the importance of connecting with those different from us, fight the fear and listen to one another.

A few things need to be said before reading this: this is an analysis of the root of the behavior we are seeing right now. It’s obvious but i will make it clear just in case someone misinterpret this post: white supremacy is evil and there is absolutely zero excuse for it. Same goes for bigotry,  racism and any kind of hatred. We, however, spend so much time stating these obvious facts and hating without trying to understand how anyone actually get to this point.

Isolation is dangerous. Not being exposed to what differs from us ends up making us intolerant, ignorant and self righteous. It is a normal human tendency to want to be close to those who have similar views or tastes as us. Have you ever heard anyone say “I’d really like to find someone who believes the opposite of what I believe and hate everything I stand for.”? Ok. I made my point. Does sticking to those who are like us make us grow or teach anything though? No. It brings us comfort and happiness. It validates us. Let me repeat that. It validates us. We function better in tribes. We all, at a certain level, belong to a tribe. We thrive in it. We feel safe. Wandering outside is risky. It can be risky in two ways: it can alienate you from your peers and potentially lead to personal difficulties, depression, etc especially if you don’t quickly find a new group you identify with. It might not always be easy, however. Breaking the mold can be hard and getting another group to welcome you arms open is not easy as it sounds. 
Conservatives, white supremacists, progressives all have A definition and explanation of why they think the way they think right in their names. Conservatives like to conserve, stick to an old idea and refuse to see that life, people, and circumstances change everyday. White supremacists believe that their tribe and their tribe only is pure and supreme and that everyone else is bad and out to get them. These types of thinking are rooted in, not only fear, but also complete isolation within their own tribe and lack of exposure to the outside and other tribes. Therefore, fear and isolation are linked.

Let’s start with fear.  Comfort is everything. When you belong somewhere, you are happy, rewarded each day. Why on earth would you want to experience anything else?  A white supremacist is convinced that his race is superior. He’s been told over and over again that anyone who is not white is less than, not intelligent, dirty, trying to contaminate them to eventually exterminate them. So imagine being raised this way, being only exposed to the type of news or books that promote that ideology. You wouldn’t know any better and would never want to wander out to try to find out if it’s true or not. Of course not all white supremacists were brought up in the ideology. Certainly,  there is a group of plain angry, uneducated people who decided to blame all their problems on everyone else and declared that the only way to be free and have what they think they are entitled to is to eradicate anyone who is not pure. Those might have left a pretty good tribe for a worse one just because they couldn’t deal with the consequences of their action and inaction and were looking for a scapegoat rather than looking in the mirror.

Let’s tackle how isolation works in the particular case of bigoted people, racist or white supremacist. Those of us who live on either coast or big metropolitan cities are very much exposed to all types of people on a daily basis.  Whether people like it or not, if you live in Los Angeles or New York city,  you will be exposed to someone who looks or speaks differently. Being exposed to diversity makes us more tolerant. The more you’re around something, or someone, the more you are ok with it. It’s like food for a little kid. Research has shown that parents shouldn’t just give up if their child refused to earn a particular food and to instead reintroduce it as many times as possible, up to 15 times. So pretty much, if you don’t like something,  don’t give up, give it a chance, eventually,  you’ll forget you disliked it in the first place. 

Now, imagine being in a small town in a red state. You’re no longer in LA or NYC. Everyone is white. Everyone pretty much believes the same thing and they all take pride and comfort in those beliefs. Confederate flags on the front porch is a normal thing. Most of the people in town are or were miners. They dont have the same lifestyle or desires as me for example. But to them, this is the life they know. Anything outside of that is foreign, scary or repulsive even. So as much as we resent them,  we have to put ourselves in their shoes in order to come up with a way to fix it. It’s very difficult. It took me decades to be able to say, ok, let’s try to see where these bigots come from (not literally).

So how do we lessen their fears? How do we make them less isolated so that they are more open to listening to anyone else but fox news?

The answer is not simple but I truly believe the fighting must stop. You turn on the TV and journalists, journalists for goodness sake, or commentators from both side are arguing and ripping each other apart. All this does is temporarily make us feel better but at the end of the day, nothing has changed, peace is a million miles away and even a bit further.

What needs to happen is for the 2 sides, the 2 tribes to come together.

Remember Dance with Wolves,  how  2 sides completely foreign from one another, slowly got to know each other. Yes, ok, it ends in a massacre but, for arguments’sake, the entire movie shows 2 people trying to communicate and understand each other. I’m not saying it’s easy. Having a conversation with a racist is very difficult and it is going to be 1 step forward, 3 steps back for a long time. It’s going to take every high school in the country to welcome more international students, it’s going to take cities and communities encourage townhalls where people can freely express their fears. It’s going to take a damn good mediator. And of course, it’s going to take more history classes, better history classes, mandatory trips to museums. It’s going to take a lot out of each and everyone of us. 

Denouncing bigotry, hatred, white supremacy is always a must. Protecting lives come first and if you are physically attacked, I believe you have the right to defend yourself but generally speaking America needs therapy.  People get caught up in rhetoric and forget to look into the other person’s eyes and heart. We need to share our stories and connect. Yes, we need to connect with the enemy. As hard as it can be, the fighting has to stop, the olive branch must be extended, we must learn to agree to disagree and at least cohabitate. The truth is, the L.A. born and raised 25 years old doesn’t understand how the West Virginian son of a miner live and vice versa. Ignorance and lack of connection creates hatred. Ignorance is bliss only for those living in it. Unfortunately,  it often takes for the more educated to take the higher road and lead the way. It’s up to each and everyone of us. Like Michelle Obama says, when they go low, we go high. We no longer have diplomacy in the White House, and we can’t seem to count on our Congress to do the right thing but we can try to bring back decency in every American community.

Silver lining, a glimpse of hope in finding refuge in our community.

It has been a little over a week since an antiquated electoral college system made a madman President-elect of the most powerful nation in the world. We have gone through all but one stage of grief. There has been tears, grief, anger, protest but no acceptance. How can we accept as our leader someone who has enticed so much hatred? We have gone too far as a nation, as a people, to simply resign ourselves to four years of bigotry, racism, misogyny and intolerance or to put it bluntly, fascism.

In the last 8 days, we have heard of countless accounts of hate crime, violence towards women, people being targeted in places where they are supposed to feel safe, a French restaurant in Brooklyn, a bus, a college campus. For anyone to think that this is just a coincidence is purely delusional. These attacks are a direct consequence of months of Mr Trump directly encouraging his supporters to target certain groups of people, either by his rhetoric or by openly ordering them to do so. There hasn’t been one place where the election results was not a topic.  Medical offices had to put up signs in their waiting rooms reading “Please refrain from talking about politics as this is a place of healing”, people have randomly approached strangers and started conversations. I witnessed a man at a gas station passionately talking to drivers about a potential civil war breaking out on our beautiful land. Facebook and Instagram friends have deleted one another after decades of friendship when suddenly bigotry showed up on feeds the day after the election. To say the least, the mood of our country has been very low.

Ironically enough though, after the initial tears and shock, this outcome has brought a lot of hope and as much as it seems to have us pulled apart, it seems to have brought some of us closer together. Many have turned to social media to voice their opinion and to find comfort in the commonality. For some, it has been the only thing keeping us from depression and despair. Our desire to fight for what is just keeps us from falling apart. In a way, war has the same effect. In times of conflict, our survival mode is instinctive. We tend to work together against one common enemy. Unfortunately for us, our common enemy is our future leader and his bigoted followers. It is indeed worrisome, but we must find refuge in the fact that more people actually voted for Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump. She did win the popular vote. What we need to fight is the system, not so much each other. I personally think it is completely acceptable tjusticeo distance ourselves from those who support Trump. I tend to think that this time is too crucial to engage in arguments. People have spoken and if they have decided to support him, there is simply nothing I can say at this point that will change their mind. His supporters just had a huge victory and it is as if they were high, nothing will get through to them. They are simply too elated. We, however, cannot rest. We must prepare, organize, and create enough momentum so that our country fight the possibility of becoming an autocracy.

Thankfully, I have witnessed a lot of peaceful actions from liberals. There has been very little violence compared to what Trump supporters have done. Instead of punching, shoving, insulting people or threatening to burn someone alive because of their beliefs, faith, race or sexual orientation, we have stood up tall and marched together hand in hand to demand change. To me, the most inspiring event happening right now is the protest against the Dakota Pipeline (DAPL). Native Americans have shown us that is possible to protest peacefully and gracefully. They have proved to us, over and over that violence is not the answer and that there is strength in numbers, love, and prayers. I happen to believe that as the NO DAPL movement becomes more mainstream, it is becoming the poster child of peaceful protest. It has inspired so many and, in fact, is now even more important than ever. Our environment is at risk. People, including myself, are terrified of the consequences a Trump presidency will have on our planet.

It is clear to me that the majority of Americans believe in climate change and want a positive, healthy future for their children and generations to come.  It is in our DNA to want to succeed and be happy. Right now, we are feeling threatened by this one man and his posse who have stirred the pot of bigotry and ignorance but it has finally awakened us from our deep sleep of avoidance. We have been forced out of our comfort zone and in a way it is good. We have been energized. Every day that goes by, I feel stronger and come to appreciate things that really matter more. There is so much superficiality in our materialistic world and times like these help us center and focus on the most raw aspects of life. Happiness, peacefulness, respect,humility and integrity are all that seem to essentially matter right now. We are fighting for our rights to live without unjust rules imposed by a few.

My teenager and I often discuss reasons why we are here. Passing on knowledge and wisdom through whatever skills we have is the main one. Helping one another is obviously crucial to our survival and common happiness. There is absolutely nothing more rewarding in this world than carrying each other like Bono would sing in his 1997 U2 song entitled “One”.  Those who do not believe this are simply too distracted by all the shiny things around them! They’ve lost touch with the most basic concept there is. Our world is based on competition too much. Everywhere we turn, someone is trying to beat someone at something, or make more money, or have more than someone else. No one ever competes for less, when in reality, we should strive to have less so we can give more of what really matters, our heart.

I sincerely believe that this time, right now, is the beginning of us focusing more on the heart and less on stuff or status. I have seen so much unity in the midst of all the ugliness. What this election did is just bring everything to the surface. It has always been there. Trump is just the monster who woke it all up. But, remember, every fairy tale or myth has a hero who manages to destroy the monster. A hero usually has a pretty big posse too. I’ve seen or heard about a lot of heroes this week. Students are standing up for their immigrant, gay, black , and Muslim friends, or simply for their peers being attacked for speaking against bigotry. Strangers have taken a stand for those who were unfairly targeted. I think it’s time to shoot a new episode of that What Would You Do? show because I am pretty sure the results would be different. People are awake. They will stand for what is right. No more hiding. No more fear. And at night, or on our lunch break, we can turn to social media and see that we are not alone in this fight. We are ONE and we carry each other. Against HATE.

 

Petraeus Scandal

Last night, i was having a conversation with my husband about the whole Petraeus affair story. We were watching CNN Anderson Cooper 360 which I used to be addicted to. Now, because of my busy schedule, I am lucky if I get to catch it once a week.

News networks just thrive on these sex sandals. I think they truly find sex scandals even more appealing than disasters ( earthquakes, hurricanes, storms like Sandy). I think the main reason is that people are secretely obsessed with sex. Most men probably wish they could have an affair. People are also nosy, gossipy and they love to be able to judge politicians because it is their way to finally get back at them. Think about all the power politicians have, all the things they probably plot behing our backs, ok maybe because it is “the way it is done in Washington”, but still, when they finally get caught doing something, we turn up the volume, grab our computers and go read more about the infamous stories.

Yes that is what I did. I am only human. I also am a news junkie in general so when a story breaks, I am compelled to go read about it in as many places as I can.

As I was watching Anderson Cooper talk about the story and do a fabulous job (as always) interviewing his team of political consultants, all I kept thinking was, what drives men to do such stupid things? Like my husband said, why would Petraeus throw his whole career away for this? Why risk it? I think we all know the answer to this question but still, every time, it baffles us; “Oh, he had such a bright future ahead of him” (hint: Weiner), “He has such a beautiful family/wife” (hint, countless celebrities with hot wives, for ex. Tiger Woods), “But he is the PRESIDENT!” (hint Clinton).

The other thing that came to mind was (and please excuse my harshness) what must have gone through Paula Broadwell’s mind? I read an article where they showed a picture of Broadwell with her husband. I thought, “why on earth would she go have an affair with Petraeus when she has a good looking husband waiting for her at home?”. The husband seemed loving too as I read how he took her away for her birthday, getting her flowers before dinner. Ok, maybe he is a bad husband, who knows, appearances can be deceiving, but still, Petraeus, 20 years her senior and not so good looking. Like I said to my husband jokingly, if I was having an affair, I’d would have one with Magic Mike rather than the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Then, AC 360 showed pictures of Jill Kelley. Truthfully, I was not ready for this. I was expecting her to look a bit more classy. She instead reminded me of a Real Housewife of New Jersey.

The whole story is just a plain mess. But, last night, before any of the new development about General Allen, I looked at my husband and said, ” Jill Kelley is probably more guilty than any other person involved” and look at that, I happened to be right.

The bottom line is, someone’s career is destroyed, someone who was most likely doing a great job. All because of sex. All because of bad judgment. I think all men who have power should be required to see a therapist weekly, whether they have problems or not. Just to keep them in check. Bill Clinton was a great President. Weiner probably would have run for president in 2016. If only we could have kept a shorter leash on them to avoid the mess they got themselves into.

 

PS: look at this: a good summary of Petraus story: http://petraeusaffair.tumblr.com/

🙂