Many Americans are broken. Most respond with dignity and patience.
It was just the other morning that I saw and heard the anguished yet determined report of a mother whose soldier-son was killed in that ambush in Niger. The news media, which drowns us with equal parts information and hyperbole, was trying to extract a statement from her—a woman reeling from fresh grief—about whether or not the current president had phoned her. (He hadn’t.)
With painful dignity and uncommon nobility, this poor lady simply stated: “I don’t care if I hear from the White House or not. I just want my son to be remembered.” And she pronounced his name out loud, her trembling voice a slab of quiet strength and fortitude.
We absolutely do not feel personally safe in the current national environment.
Endless American deaths in interminable wars in far-off places that have little to do with the sweet comfort of a placid suburban neighborhood in Kansas City, the hard-working environs of a public school in Shaker Heights, Ohio, the gritty labor of a struggling auto-parts factory in Aurora, Colorado, and the wind-blown exertion of a family farm near Des Moines.
We working Americans, befuddled by governmental bureaucracy and incapacity, scraping for wages and the jobs themselves, gripping with the fears of pensions drying up or simply being filched, are truly losing hope. And we are cynical, almost resigned, to the entrenched ineptitude of too many elected officials. We have become accustomed to their disingenuous patterns of speech and behavior. There is no trust.
I walk among my fellow citizens of all colors, creeds, and moderate economic categories in the non-effete city of Oceanside, Ca. They are out and about, looking for affordable gasoline, buying groceries, seeking non-robotized, more personal services for their home and personal needs, stealing a few weekend moments at the public beaches and parks. There is a prevailing sense of loneliness out there—we don’t expect our streets to be paved smooth, our mail to be delivered on time, and we are burdened with mixed feelings about our police officers. There is hectoring and bile coming at us nonstop from our national leadership. Bickering among them that recalls children throwing their toys at each other. The ground is not secure under our feet.
So I think a lot about the street sweepers, the grocery clerks, the fire fighters, the schoolteachers, and the emergency room nurses. They live in simple houses and usually carry more dignity than the entire crew occupying the White House. They still raise a flag on Memorial Day across their unassuming porches and they try to pay their taxes on time for services they find hard to recognize. The harder they work, the harder life treats them in a land so afflicted with civil negligence.
We’ve gotten used to all of this and it does not avail us. Clearly, it should not be alleviated by any violence (the multiple shootings of Republican politicians at a Virginia ball yard was ghastly enough.) And it does not appear to be solvable through the democratic process for now because too many of our elected leaders are feckless. So what do we do?
We do not settle for it. We look out for each other. We actually go over and discover who our neighbors are and what they do for a living. We say hello to every person who passes us by on our walks or runs. We linger in conversations because there is nothing worse than loneliness. We let that guy into our lane as we drive along and we wave friendship in his direction. We call our kids and our friends for no reason other than find out how they are. We make a covenant to help at least one person along the way every single day.
Then, sooner than later, the negativism that pervades in our good land will at last be trumped.