On Political Abstraction and Connection

I love talking about the weather. As the swirl of happenings in the world goes on around us, it's a small, tangible, sense-oriented space to meet. Sometimes, sitting at a four-way stop in my small town I look at the other vehicles and wonder what they think about the news, which stories catch them and make their blood boil or their stomachs turn or their passionate voice come forth. But what I find myself feeling is that maybe we're together somehow in the exhaustion of it. It strikes me with a kind of intimacy that the stranger in another car is amid the same swirl of far away stories as I am, and yet here we are, making quiet eye contact through a windshield to see who goes first.

I see an old woman with a partially rubbed off bumper sticker that reads, "impeach Obama," her hands tight around the steering wheel. I wonder what news filters to her, what events have occurred in her own life (is there a husband? Has she been heard?), and the ways she may feel those events relate to the world of politics. Maybe they do, maybe they don't. But at the four-way, it can feel like the political world operates on a layer above our wondering what to buy at the grocery store, when the grandchildren will visit, what to do about the "check engine" light. It's difficult to find connection between the two worlds that doesn't either feel abstract or somehow untruthful.

When I listen to politicians, I wish we could approach problems of violence in the world collaboratively, trying to get to the root and then together (we need all perspectives to see a thing) work toward a solution. The attack-and-defense sport of political debates, or the sensationalized news that capitalizes on people's fears and emotions, feels like a poisonous approach to decisions that affect people's lives. Why must every individual have the answer rather than admitting the world's a strange place and that we need community to figure it out? How do you enter the conversation if the premise feels faulty?

That our world is in the hands of people whose sense of the world I do not trust terrifies me. When I read a good book of poetry, then I feel the world held together. In some ways, I cannot be who I want to be in the world if I think about Trump's sick hatred and the polls that show how many are on board.

During political debates, a vow of silence (as action, not resignation) feels appealing. Listening to politicians, I hear the cadence of confidence, the illusion of knowledge, more than substance. I hear fragility and insecurity covered up by shouting. I feel the desire to be silent until words regain their integrity, the need for quiet meditative prayer on "what to do" about issues presented, permission to sit in not-knowing, before action.

At the cafe where I work, a policeman came in for coffee yesterday. It's always a bit odd to see a human being wearing weaponry on the outside of his clothing, for his job. I stood on one side of the counter, he on the other. I looked at his name, Hispanic, and I wondered what his night had been like, what "serve and protect" means to him. I wondered what kinds of feelings came up in people, depending on where their stories were at in life, as his authority passed by. I wondered if he walked in protest with us around the capitol a few years ago in the snow to try to recall Scott Walker, if he has children. I didn't ask him, of course, any of these questions. I thought about how we both know the news-- we know about Donald Trump's hatred, ISIS, domestic shootings, threats toward immigrants, racism, and police shootings. But we didn't talk about the wall Trump wants to build so that generations later some revolution can happen to break it apart-- imagine how else we could spend our time--; we talked about the gray day, how it's hard to tell time when the light doesn't shift. I felt happy to ask a police officer if he wanted a light or dark roast coffee, just as I'd felt aglow making an almond milk hot chocolate for a Buddhist nun who'd come in weeks earlier. There's a moment of, "here's this warm coffee," isn't the world crazy, isn't it harmful and sad, don't you know I appreciate your kind tone of voice, your groundedness, here is this warm coffee from my hands to yours. There's a gentleness that comes over me sometimes, an immense interest and sympathy for another's story amid this world, a place where the heart bends.

We all have such tenderness that should not be capitalized on by vultures for profit but should be cultivated and called forth.

Super Tuesday was also the birthday of my grandmother who died at 90 and was a favorite person. That day, I sat online with a dear friend in West Virginia and talked about our various weathers-- here, wind blowing snow sideways, and her, grading papers by the window in the sunlight. Thinking of my grandmother, I found myself praying for loved ones in my own quiet ways.

Later, I took the dogs running in the snow and exclaimed with my sister about the chill air on our skin. I know that I was privileged to be able to do so, rather than worry about a drone bomb or how to get my children away from civil war. Ironically, the platform-style cadence of political discussion-- be it friends, myself, or candidates-- does something to my soul which does not help the care it actually feels for the very issues presented. Thinking about my grandmother's love, and my want to emulate her, does.

Where do you find your inner resources to meet the world from?

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