So I’m down here in Trump Country. Covid Country. Florida.
I was nervous to come down here – one, because of traveling and the virus, but two, I was anticipating that the hostility and polarization about masks would be a thousand times more blatant here, in a state such as this, than in my home town.
I was totally wrong. I feel 1,000 times safer in terms of my health down here in the hotspot. Everyone just wears a mask. Period. I also feel safer emotionally here because folks are just doing their thing and not getting up in each others’ business about being sheeple or rednecks or anything in-between.
My experience so far is that folks are respectfully keeping their distance. Most businesses are mandating masks and I haven’t yet heard a single complaint – even from some of the people who I know that think the whole Covid thing is a hoax.
I’ve barely seen a set of teeth since I’ve arrived and I’ve witnessed zero hostility.
When at home, I feel angst every time I go to town because people aren’t being all that nice to each other.
So I was going to write about that tonight. But then, I got on Facebook and as I scrolled through I came across a conversation within my community regarding signage at the weekly Black Lives Matter peaceful protest. The same protest that is being protested by another group, another faction of my small town.
The conversation, on the surface, was “an open discussion” starting with sentences like, “I’m curious,” but no matter how it was framed, my takeaway was that it’s another case of white people criticizing other white people for their approach to the racial issues at hand. What I heard was, “Your sign isn’t good enough; it’s too watered down.”
And it makes me really sad.
For one, I really like the sign, I like the message, “Human. Kind. Be Both.”
To me it takes the issue to the most basic terms – be a fucking kind person – to everyone.
Criticizing the message isn’t being kind. If I was the person(s) that attended the peaceful protest with the sign, I’d be sorely tempted to not go back.
My point here is NOT to get into a debate about signs or messages or the protests or racial injustice or any of it. My point is that my community isn’t practicing kindness towards one another and that I don’t like what it’s doing to my sanity.
Here I sit in a place I dreaded to visit and I remarked to my mother today, “I’d much rather go your grocery store than mine right now.”
How sad is that?
Recently I have written a couple of posts on the subject of the self-righteous. After the last one, I sat and thought long and hard about my words and my motives. I realized that I too was being self-righteous, in an I’m-not-pointing-fingers-but actually-I-really-am sort of way.
I didn’t like what was going on in my head and what was streaming from my brain to my pen. I felt kind of gross. So I chose to write about my mother, someone who I greatly admire, instead.
I’ve taken a deep look at my motives and reactions. I’ve tried to take a look at myself and where I’m being judgmental and or hypocritical. Where I am being ugly.
I had vowed not to engage in any more social media debates, and yet, here I am, all fired up, wanting to tell everyone where they are wrong. I didn’t jump in on tonight’s conversation even though I had 42 perfect responses for every comment in the discussion.
And I’m finished with that. I don’t like what all of this has been doing to my psyche and I really don’t like what it’s doing to the collective psyche of my community.
Think about it – I am here in what I thought might feel like enemy territory, in the South, and I am relieved that I’m getting a break from my home turf. How heartbreaking is that?
So I can’t change what is happening in my world, but I can change how I deal with it.
Unfortunately, for the moment, that means creating more space, distancing myself from this place that has been my home for almost 25 years because I am grinding my teeth and constantly on edge. I am having unpleasant thoughts about my neighbors, and I don’t feel 100% safe.
I understand that tensions are high. I understand that really well-meaning people are trying to make monumental changes in the world and are all figuring this out as we go along. I understand that when people are on edge, sometimes they don’t always treat each other with respect and kindness.
But as I find myself succumbing to my negative and judgmental thoughts and feelings, I realize that it’s not healthy for me or for my community. I am going to take a step back.
I’m not really sure exactly what the will look like, but I can figure that out while I am safely and gratefully all the way across the county.