I struggle with depression. Debilitating depression at times. It stops me dead in my tracks and, as a writer, it sometimes scrambles my thoughts so much I can’t put them in coherent form.
Earlier this year, I went through a long bout of depression, followed by a brain aneurysm, followed by news that my mom had cancer, and that my dad is headed into the slippery slope of Alzheimer’s disease. Those events preceded my oldest daughter’s high school graduation and subsequent leaving for college. Needless to say, it’s been an incredibly stressful year.
Yet, beneath the noise of 2017, I am still reeling from the nonsensical happenings of 2016. That’s when it felt like I began watching the de-evolution of humanity right before my eyes. Like so many people, I kept saying, “2017 will be a better year.” It’s not, and not just because of so many personal upheavals, changes, and challenges.
I grew up as an evangelical Christian. It was in my blood. I went to church every Sunday and Wednesday with my Bible-believing parents. For all of our dogma, and self-righteous ideologies, my parents were, and still are, good, loving people. They had friends who came from all walks of life. Good-natured humor was, and still is, a part of our family.
Over the years, my family and I grew up. I left the ministry after nearly 25 years, while my parents kept the course. I came out. They kept loving me. I left the Republican party. They kept loving me. I became an agnostic. They kept loving me. And when I brought home their new son-in-law, they welcomed him to the family, and they love us both.
Sadly, our family is the exception to this new “Christian” rule of hatred and division against anyone who does not follow the very specific, very legalistic view of the “Christian Reich.” And I don’t get it.
I’ve spent the last few years studying human behavior as it relates to beliefs and perception. From an evolutionary point of view, I understand xenophobia. From a sociological perspective, I get religious divisions. But when I put down my books and turn off my lectures, and I’m confronted with an angry and spiteful flesh and blood human being, I don’t get it.
Somehow we have become a division of “others.” Those blacks. Those gays. Those Republicans. Those Democrats. And our shared humanity has all but disappeared. When exactly did we stop caring? How can anyone feel good about themselves defending a non-tangible belief when faced with a very tangible human being?
Power-hungry Christian leaders who, so gradually manipulated and fleeced the flock, hijacked the faith of my childhood. They changed the message entirely. They justify their own greed and wealth, quoting Bible passages along the way, and revel in their self-aggrandizing statuses. Their followers are angry, but oddly, not at them.
I was taught to watch out for those who claimed to be open-minded. As my dad said, “Some people are so open-minded their brains fall out.” But it’s the close-minded who have me worried. It’s the close-minded who seem to be the most incapable of human emotions, sincerity, compassion, and empathy. It’s the close-minded who can’t think of a way - or don’t even try - to stop mass killings, end poverty, or even make sure kids in their own country have enough food to eat. Is this how we make America great? Turn our backs on humanity?
This new world makes no sense to me. Executive orders that take away rights, rather than give them, deny science, instead of embracing it, and pandering to irrational fears, instead of reassuring people of the facts, feels chaotic. It feels oppressive. It’s the kind of oligarchic tyranny that sinks deep into the soul.
Regardless of my donations, rally attendance, and correspondence with politicians, I feel powerless in this new world. Goliath, the rich and powerful, is winning. Many of his victims are his own supporters. Though, they don’t see it. Their rage is their blindness, and it’s been redirected toward their soulless enemies. Most don’t notice that those “enemies” are their neighbors and family members. What price will become too great for their ideological war? Is there a stopping point? What is it? How do we find it?
I’m tired. I’m mentally exhausted in this new world of violence, anger, stupidity, and lies. I’m tired of division perpetuated by money-grubbing news executives. I’m tired of the duplicity of values, stated by political leaders, but not followed by them. I’m tired of watching people feign normalcy, when we all know something is desperately wrong. This isn’t the world I grew up in, and it’s not the world I want to live in.
Americans lack education on a grand scale, and it shows. While affordable education would likely change the course of our nation for the better, it doesn’t immediately solve our biggest problem: We’ve forgotten how to be human. We’ve lost the ability my evangelical Christian parents have mastered, which is to love everyone and let God sort out the rest. That’s the only world that still makes sense to me.