Tuesday, September 27, 2016

An elderly gentleman’s home was robbed. They took the cherished watch given to him by his father. A dear friend’s 96-year-old mother fell and broke her hip, the second one in less than three months. Random mass shootings kill innocent people who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Young kids use social media to send hate messages. Parents scramble to stay ahead of the app game. Homeless vets sleep on sidewalks, and big banks rob us blind. Presidential candidates interrupt, yell, harass and lie before our eyes. How do we stay positive and optimistic in such a world? 

I have lived through the prosperous years of the fifties when vets came home and counted their blessings. They watched their children play kick the can in the streets and hide and seek in the backyard. They saved money and gave their kids savings bonds for Christmas. They dressed up as Santa Claus and hid Easter eggs to provide magic and joy for their families. “I Love Lucy” and “The Honeymooners” made us laugh. I was never afraid.

I got married in the sixties when racial tension was growing and pot was no longer something to cook in. I watched great men dare to lead and risk their lives for the good of their people. I saw them gunned down: Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy. I drank Cold Duck and decorated with candles stuck in empty wine bottles. I traveled to Europe and learned to taste food from gardens and savor history and culture. I hitch-hiked in Switzerland and walked the streets of Paris late at night with new friends whose lives were very different than mine. I was never afraid.

In the seventies, I was raising children and working on my Masters degree. I taught part-time at a university in downtown Detroit where I walked to my car alone and drove home in the dark. We gave dinner parties where we talked about kids and music, our golf scores and Watergate. Women who worked had to juggle work and family. There were no medals for those who succeeded. Married life was juggling and trying to balance the fun and work. I was not afraid.

In the eighties, I divorced and found myself alone for the first time in my adult life. My support system was minuscule, and I had to learn to do many things I never imagined. I had to work four jobs to make ends meet, and I was faced with the fact that I could very well spend the rest of my life alone. I juggled jobs, children visits, dating and moving numerous times. I was finally forced to grow up. I learned how to get from one crisis to another, and I figured out what a real crisis was. I struggled, I cried, but I was not afraid.

In the nineties and early 2000s, I remarried and witnessed the college graduations of my two beautiful daughters. I celebrated their marriages and the births of their children. I traveled to Europe several more times, sometimes with students, sometimes with Mr. Wonderful and sometimes alone. I lost my mother and gained a step-mother. I held my daughter’s babies in my arms and marveled at the miracle of birth and innocence. I watched the housing market collapse, our portfolio shrink, our country attacked on our own soil. I was afraid for the first time.

In the past several years, I have grown increasingly fearful as mass shootings become the norm, greed continues to thrive, racism has resurfaced, and globalism informs us of all kinds of terror and horror throughout the world. I lost my beloved father to Alzheimers. Maybe we know too much. Maybe I should have been afraid all these years, and I was just too busy focusing on what was in front of me. 

Last night’s debate made me very afraid. I am afraid that anti-establishment anger has brought us to a point where some feel so powerless that we have to give up decency, decorum, pride and common sense to achieve the change necessary. When a potential role model personifies everything I taught my children never to do or say, I become very afraid. When interrupting and yelling and posturing in front of millions of people turns “cool,” I am very afraid. 

I know that fear will not solve problems or motivate positive action. I know that I must do something, but I’m not sure what, other than vote. The powerlessness is what breeds fear. I must take the fear, turn it into positive energy and focus on action. Where do I start? The only answer I have is:  the mirror.