It’s in the air. A feeling of things not proceeding the way they’re supposed to, of no longer being able to expect what we used to of people we thought we knew, and of not being able to trust that normal social discourse with just-met strangers won’t blow up in our faces.
Three men came to the rescue of two women they didn’t know – two non-white women on a Portland train who were being verbally abused by a threatening, male, white supremacist with a police record. Two of these heroes were murdered in plain sight; the third was critically wounded. The attacker was carrying a knife, and a grudge the size of the Pacific Northwest, and he took what he believed was his right to take: other people’s dignity, other humans’ right to breathe. Because the two women were not caucasian and one was wearing a hijab.
The fact that these three men selflessly came to the aid of women they did not know is reassuring. The fact that two of them paid for this selflessness with their lives is extremely disconcerting.
A journalist asked a Congressional candidate a question on a topic relevant to his voters and future constituents. The candidate body-slammed the journalist, throwing him to the ground and breaking his eyeglasses. The next day the state of Montana voted this politician with uncontrolled anger issues into office.
That’s where we’re at. The crossroads of Decency & Discombobulation.
Social norms have been flipped on their heads. Political norms have ceased to exist. This lack of predictability enshrouds us in uncertainty. It keeps us from leaving the house even if we live in what used to feel like a safe neighborhood. It isolates us from our communities, from our friends and extended family. The initial isolation breeds greater isolation. And before we know it, we are a country of dots that can no longer be connected.
Several friends have mentioned feeling different these days, unsettled, a tad more anxious. Disoriented and confused. Unsure of what they used to be sure of. At first they can’t place or name the source(s). They recognize that their emotional fuses are a little shorter, that they’re a little less extroverted than they were once comfortable being, that they glance over their shoulders more often as they meander down ill-lit streets, that they “read the room” before declaring any political opinions.
I’ve been feeling a bit of this myself. National discombobulation trickling down and affecting the personal.
Recently I experienced a major falling out with an old friend. It wasn’t over politics. It was probably not something worth blowing up our friendship over. Perhaps it was. The point is, I’m not sure any more. My ability to gauge reality is off kilter.
I suspect the intensity of my reaction had something to do with this new era of alternative facts, of obfuscation and covering up, of waiting until absolutely necessary to come forward with the truth, after having presented other versions of reality as distractions – you know, all the shenanigans our “leadership” has been up to lately. It pisses me off when my government does it; but when my so-called friends behave in this manner, I have no tolerance. I skip all the niceties, the compassion, the conversations that might lead to understanding, the forgiving. I move directly into rage.
I don’t recognize this new version of myself, and I seriously wonder if I’ve permanently lost my shit. If so, I blame it – at least partially – on being discombobulated by the new national mood of “What The Fuck?!” When up is down, when truth is a shape-shifter, when things once predictable are not, something is lost.
Every day feels like a violation. Every day the truth is forsaken and we are asked to accept as true things that don’t resemble reality. Every day less makes sense.
The one saving grace is that we, as a country, are all in this boat together. No matter what side of the divide you are on, we are all wondering, “What IS the truth? What IS reality? How DO I trust again?”
Unfortunately, we can’t stop questioning every single thing we are being told by a regime that has already shown itself, day in / day out, over and over, to be duplicitous and hypocritical. As they used to say on The X-Files, “the truth is out there.” We can’t stop looking for it or insisting on it. Discombobulation cannot be our excuse for giving up.