Thursday, August 13, 2009

Things that keep me up at night

1) The end of political discourse in the United States. The health care reform town hall meetings where people are just shouting each other down without listening to their opponents is a symptom of this trend that is greatly disturbing to me. Reasonable people can have reasonable views that are different from your own. It upsets me that people can't just sit still for two minutes and listen to what those views might be. Sure, you may be able to refute each and every point the other people are making, but you have to be able to wait your damn turn.

You didn't see Lincoln and Douglas acting like Keith Olbermann and Bill O'Reilly.

It's not personal, people, it's political. The end results of public policy are personal, that's for damn sure, but you don't attack people's character flaws when discussing politics - you should be listening, considering, and deciding on policy, not on character. Personally, I don't think I want to hang out with Trent Lott and have dinner with him, but he has some good policy ideas along with the bad. It's my job to sift through all his talk and figure out what is good. Not to bash him to pieces. (Or, as someone who had held my position right before I did when I worked for a non-profit in Washington, D. C. did, draw devil horns on his picture.)

2) The crumbling infrastructure of the United States. A couple of summers ago, after the deadly collapse of a bridge here in Minneapolis, NPR devoted a series to the topic of the advanced infrastructure. It really struck a chord with me.

I am convinced that our electrical grid is going to just give out one day and that a tainted water supply is how the terrorists are going to kill us all. It's an unpleasant thought. Hence, the staying awake.

3) The plight of the state of Michigan. I watch as the economy, the populace, and the hopes of cities like Detroit, Flint, and Monroe deteriorate from afar. I have snapped at my husband more times than I like to count as he makes some thoughtless comment about the disastrous American auto industry.

I don't have the solutions. American car manufacturers have made mistakes, there's no doubt about it. But it is an abhorrent idea to just let these companies fail. The companies are not just the CEOs and executives who have perhaps been guilty of mismanagement. The companies are people who work in the factories, not only the factories that make the cars, but all the feeder industries, the people who work in the dealerships, the people who work in the warehouses. People I know, people I went to high school with, people who have specialized training in some arcane trade that is only applicable to making cars. People who are just like me.

As a native of Michigan, I feel conflicted over the entire situation. It wasn't wise for the state to put all their economic chickens in one basket, but it isn't wise to let these communities waste away to nothing, either.

4) Iraq. Afghanistan. Civilians dying. Soldiers returning with PTSD. There's a guy in one of my classes who is a veteran with a purple heart because he was hit with IEDs multiple times. He can't feel his left leg and he sometimes just falls over when walking. When my head hits the pillow, sometimes I just wonder what his life would have been like if he'd never been sent overseas.

5) More personally, a friend of mine from high school is going through a really rough time with her life, her marriage, and her family right now. I have an email from her in my inbox (I initiated contact with her after I heard from a friend who heard from a friend about her troubles) in which she poured out her soul, her pain, and her longing to just get it all fixed. The email is just sitting there in my inbox, waiting for a response.

I don't know what to say. I don't know how I can help.

I lie in bed and wait for the right words to come. What can I say to offer comfort? What is my responsibility? How can I be a good friend?


  1. Yikes. If I wasn't stressed out before, I am now! Seriously, though, I am glad you are concerned about all of those things. Not enough thinking people are.

    And when did you change the name of your blog? I saw unread posts for "The Time for Change" in my feedreader, and I was all, "When did I add that one???" :-)

  2. You know what to say to your friend from high school. You sympathize, you offer support, you give hope that it will get better. You're good at that. All she really needs to here is that you're there to listen. Sometimes that's all you can do... and sometimes that's all that's needed.

  3. Sometimes the best thing you can say to a friend is that you're there for her.

    And I won't even get into the rest of your points, because (I think) we're on the same page and I can't think about it without getting amnesia myself.

  4. just be a friend to her, open your arms and listen.

  5. The reason political discourse has turned into a shouting match is precisely because America has degenerated from a republic into a democracy which is exactly what the framers of the republic feared would happen. I would also add that America is more of an empire than a republic given our foreign policy, but that's another issue altogether.

    I can understand why people are frustrated, but that doesn't mean we ought to eschew civility. During my undergrad days, I noticed that people were treated as mere political labels instead of human beings when various political issues were discussed. There were a few people on campus who didn't engage in that type of mentality, but they were the exception rather than the rule.


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