Peace, Personal Growth, Personhood, Politics

POLITICS 2020

I have given a great deal of thought to linear thinking lately.  Vile posts and conversations have invaded my space.  I listened to the rant of an unfeeling Sons of the Confederacy member who believes the virus is a hoax.  I have seen posts by well-educated people who are unwilling to recognize history as a fluid experience with learning opportunities rather than as a place we inhabit mentally in perpetuity.

Both parties have people who, although not at the fringes, are incapable of expanding their world view.  Single-mindedness or linear thinking is another way of renaming lack of empathy and bigotry.  I do not believe many of these people behaving in bigoted ways are aware of their harm to others.  I also believe most would claim to be without prejudice.  Linear thinking is not given to self-examination, but is generous with the judgment of others.

I believe there is room for compromise for the sake of peace and, most importantly, for the sake of justice. 

Compromise 1:  Wear masks.  The people who want to open everything up get their way.  Those of us who want to be protected from the virus get our way.  Win.  Win. 

Compromise 2:  Relocate the monuments.  Living in Texas magnifies all symbols of personal independence.  The questions are: When the symbols of independence and freedom were erected, were they meant to only allow freedom to whites?  Were they meant to intimidate people of color?  Are these symbols of oppression more important than the living people whose souls shrink in their shadows?  Are the monuments representative of who we are today?  Do the monuments keep us stuck in the painful past?  My compromise:  Put the monuments in Confederate cemeteries or in museums.  Raise a statue of a man reading to his child in front of the local library.  Put a quote in front of the courthouse, “Justice cannot be for one side alone, but for both.  Eleanor Roosevelt.”  In front of the schools erect monuments that inspire achievement – scientists, artists, John McCain (one of my more recent political heroes).  

If we do not learn to compromise, we will lose our country.  The question for us all is whether being right is worth sacrificing our democracy.  Let’s get real and do the hard work of learning to get along.  Regardless how we may want to win all the marbles, our children may lose everything if we plant our feet in the past and refuse to move forward.

Stating the obvious: the past is behind us and the future is our gift to the next generation.  What are we creating in the now?

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Aging, Alzheimer's, Caregiving, Dementia, Memoir, Personhood

ELDER LESSONS

I read at a nursing care center every two weeks.  From the hearts of people who never remember me, I receive amazing gifts.

What is to be learned from Alzheimer’s or other dementia patients?

Sharing:  Some people enter into relationships with a requirement for memory retention.  They need verbal reflections of their own value from those who have fully-functioning memory banks and verbal fluidity.   Without empathy, the face of a person with dementia is constant frustration—the “all about me” need never satisfied.  Pure charity (love) is giving without the expectation of reciprocation.

The Existential:  In reality, all we have is the moment.  We tend to forget the present as we rehash the past and plan for the future.  Moments are lost as our busy minds run wildly.  Visiting with someone with dementia quiets our minds when we allow ourselves to be still as we hold loved ones’ hands, look into cloudy eyes, and offer kind words.  Moments become a celebrations larger than the indulgences of memory or mind-preparations for dinner or other non-monumental planning.

Recognition of Personhood:  Society, as a whole, has corrupted how we celebrate personhood.  We are asked to admire the crazies on reality TV, boorish politicians who devalue segments of our population, and advertisements defining beauty and success.  Reality TV vs. reality: people get old or have disabilities and they still have value.  Political rhetoric vs. reality: there is more value in a person who has worked for many decades, raised a loving family and done their best to be honorable than any politician who ignores the many needs of the elderly.  Advertisement vs. reality: no model is more beautiful than an elderly man or woman with a smile—with or without teeth.

What inspired this post?  I always greet and hold the hands of each resident as they come to my readings.  Again, after I finish my 20-minutes of readings and humor, I tell each person goodbye and hold their hands.

Last week, one woman pulled my hand to her lips and kissed it.  Her eyes were clear.  I bent down and kissed her white hair in need of a brush.  In that existential moment, we connected as women on a journey together.

I grieve for all those young people who are not learning from their elders.  Learning may be wisdom imparted or the acceptance of an elder who only has “in the moment” to offer.

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