A Little Perspective
It’s hard to imagine that any good could come out of the horrors of the past few days in Baton Rouge, St. Paul, and Dallas, but I’m hoping against hope these terrible events will spur at least some people to take a step back, take a deep breath, and try to keep some perspective. And please, please, could we all open up our personal pressure valves and try to bring down the anger level, at least a little bit?
It’s not that anger is intrinsically a bad thing. Anger at injustice is completely understandable and can help bring about needed change. But when justifiable anger morphs into blind rage, someone is gonna get hurt. The thing to remember about blind rage is that it is blind; it has no idea where it’s going and so it hits the innocent as well as the culpable. And it brings no progress. The killing of an innocent civilian by police should make everyone angry. But we saw what happened in Dallas when such righteous anger was turned into blind rage. Did that make anyone feel any better? It made me feel a helluva lot worse, I can tell you. And I understand that Trump supporters are angry that they feel forgotten about and left behind in the global economy. But that’s not the fault of blacks, or Hispanics, or Muslims, or a cabal of Jewish bankers (OMG, I can’t believe in 2016 I even have to write that). And please try a little perspective; things really aren’t all that bad here in the U.S.A. Unemployment is down, the Federal deficit is down, the stock market is up, and a lot more people have health insurance than was the case 10 years ago. These are all good things, so temper that anger with a little understanding that there are good things happening too.
Bernie supporters are also angry. I get it; we do need more democracy and economic justice, and these things are worth fighting for. But a little perspective please. The primary election was not stolen from Bernie, he lost to Hillary fair and square. Taxes on the wealthy are not as high as they should be, but they are higher than when Obama took office, and that’s progress that needs to be appreciated (and built on), not derided. This isn’t an all or nothing world. Does more have to be done to ensure opportunity for all? Yes, and I salute Bernie for brining such issues to the fore. But a little perspective is in order too. Things need improving, but that doesn’t mean that society is all bad and needs to be burned to the ground. There is good out there as well as bad, and if you don’t take the time to appreciate it, you are denying yourself all that is wonderful in life.
I think we can all start here with the small and personal. Appreciate what you have in life, even if it there are times when it doesn’t seem like so much. Atheists like me are sometimes asked how we find “purpose” in life. My answer is that my purpose is to make myself a better person and the world a better place, even in small increments. So smile at a stranger. Help a person with a disability across the street. Give your seat on the subway to a pregnant woman. And do your part to diffuse the anger out there, even in the smallest and most personal of ways. If you accidentally bump into someone, try “excuse me”, instead of “watch the fuck where you’re going”. If you arrive at a doorway at the same time as someone else, try “after you”, instead of just pushing your way through. And if your temper gets the better of you sometimes (especially in this heat; hey, you’re only human), once you’ve cooled off try “I’m sorry”. It’s okay, really it is. And if you’re the recipient of an “I’m sorry”, it’s also okay to forgive. As Confucius said, “before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves”. Also, remember that one thing we can all do to effectuate change is to vote. Hitting the streets is all well and good, but if you don’t register and vote, you simply are not doing all you can do. And finally, please, let’s keep some perspective. Every problem is not a crisis, and every crisis is not the end of the world.