I’ve been catching up on This American Life episodes lately, and finally got around to ’Red State Blue State’. Many TAL episodes are hard to sit through (I had to give up on the one about the Dakota Indians Massacre because it was just too horrific), and, to my surprise, so was this one. Families and friends being torn apart because of their political beliefs.
And it was interesting observing my own visceral reactions as I listened to the episode. I know- I intellectually know- that a lot of my resistance to conservative philosophy and talking points is not just because I’m sure I’m right… but also because I would hate to be wrong. It is a pride thing. Your beliefs define who you are. Asking someone to change their beliefs- to re-evaluate them- is personal. It is an attack on their being. And it keeps us all from truly growing.
One of many things I love about being close friends (and practically sharing a brain) with a devout Christian playwright intellectual is that I’m reminded over and over again to never dismiss anyone’s beliefs out of hand, just because they’re different from mine. But I also know I’m scared to delve too deeply into what my friends and family actually think and believe. It’s hard. It’s hard to accept difference, because it all feels so personal. All the time.
This morning my throat has closed up, as it tends to do, when I’m faced with something overwhelming and incomprehensibly awful. My throat is closed up from despair and anger. I am chafing at every use of the word ‘tragedy’. Tragedies are for earthquakes and cancer. Tragedies are unavoidable. Calling this a tragedy absolves us of any responsibility.
One of the great things that I love about this country- which the TAL episode illuminated- is that we do care about ideas so very much that we are willing to let them define our lives and our relationships. To paraphrase Eleanor Roosevelt- small minds discuss people, average minds discuss events, great minds discuss ideas. This is a country of ideas. And- as the TAL episode also talked about- most people absolutely approach problems from an honest place of good intentions. Is there any way to allow our good intentions to supersede our pride, our need to be right?
How can we talk to each other in a way in which we don’t dismiss each other?
This is NOT a ‘senseless tragedy’. This is not merely ‘sad’. ‘Thoughts and prayers’ don’t do shit. How do we solve our problems? How do we get better?
I saw Other Desert Cities last night. It came so close to being a wonderful play exactly about this- how do we love people who are different from us? How does a liberal child love her conservative parents? How do we live together? How do we understand that we all (most of us anyway) come from a place of truly good intentions?
And then the second act ‘twist’ shot that all to hell. So disappointed, Robbie Baitz. So disappointed. These are not easy questions, these are not answerable questions, and a ridiculous last minute deus-ex-machina that undercuts your entire premise is not the solution.
Okay. Something better. My Megan Kelly quote of the day (I’m building up a collection)- "I loved him. I was in love with him. I mean… not romantically. I wanted him to be my uncle.“