(NOTE: I officially ended this blog last May. But with recent national and global events, a lot of questions have arisen for me. And my Muse has brought to my attention some information I feel compelled to share with you, including simple actions you can take to make a difference…]
Despite my deep spiritual belief that the national and global chaos is a necessary healing and learning process for Humanity and the planet, AND my strong belief that eventually “All will be well,” I find myself sometimes descending into anger, anxiety, fear, frustration, and hopelessness.
And now with not only concerted attacks on democracy and rights like voting and reproductive choice, but also out-and-out war with heartbreaking Ukranian suffering, I find myself struggling with several questions:
- The national and global situation appears to be dire. But what can I, one person, do about it????
- How do we as a nation—as Humanity—counteract and overcome (PEACEFULLY!!) the attacks on democracy?
- How can we bridge the political partisanship and polarization when the sides are so far apart we seem to speak a different language?
- Should we work within the system to change it (like with political activism) or should we rise above the system and create an entirely New Paradigm (including taking action on the spiritual/energetic level)? (My own personal dilemma)
But recently, my Muse brought three things to my attention (no accidents?):
- A TV news segment
- An online article
- A list I made after one of my blog posts last year
And these all led me to some actionable questions:
- If it’s true that ”identifying/defining a problem is the first step to solving it,” What if attributing society’s current ills to extreme political polarization is NOT accurate, and not the place to begin to cure those ills? What if there’s a root cause that goes even deeper than political polarization?
- What if there’s a wide gamut of actions we can take to mitigate that root cause? And what if those actions are simple, everyday things we can do?
So let’s explore . . .
The TV News Segment: “Civic Virus”
I saw the tail end of a news segment with two interviewees that showed a graphic about ”Civic Virus” and a list of cures like ”Bring people together across dividing lines.” But the segment ended before I got more info. So I googled and found ”Civic Virus: Why Polarization Is a Misdiagnosis,” a report by the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation with this intriguing synopsis:
Conventional wisdom—and virtually every politician and media outlet in the country—will tell you that Americans are more polarized than ever before. Conventional wisdom is wrong. Rich Harwood explains what’s really going on in America and outlines a practical, hopeful path forward.
I urge you to read the entire report1 to get the richness I can’t go into here, including their metholdology. But the following is it in a nutshell:
Every four years since 1990, the Harwood Institute has conducted focus groups around the U.S. and across various demographics to gauge the “state of the nation.” Pulling together past findings plus those from the most recent groups (June–October 2021), the Institute now posits that our current situation has been decades in the making but has been exposed and exacerbated by COVID.
Like COVID, the report describes our current situation as a ”civic virus that has been incubating and mutating for decades—one that is dangerously pervasive, contagious, and perilous to our nation’s civic health.” Their main conclusion:
Today, rather than being “polarized,” Americans are profoundly isolated and disoriented, producing within people a fight-or-flight response.
Some of their findings from the 2021 focus groups:
- People are feeling afraid, anxious, troubled, confused, hopeless, helpless, overwhelmed, a loss of control, backed into a corner, fatigued, threatened, frustrated, uncertain, vulnerable, pervasive anger, suspicious, don’t know who to believe or who/what to trust, unable to make sense of what’s happening, destabilized, disoriented, lost, struggling to navigate life and make decisions, untethered, don’t know what to do to make a difference—and more.
- “Many leaders, news media, and social media are intentionally stoking polarization for their own self interest—producing a ceaseless ‘surround sound’ that is engulfing people.”
- Due to ”unrelenting fear and anxiety” people have formed ”tribes” or “retreat from engaging at all.”
Harwood says there was ”profound agreement” on these points across ALL demographics. So, as this blog post title says, ”It’s not just you”—a lot (most?) of us are feeling confused, disoriented, frustrated, hopeless, helpless, and are resorting to “fight” (anger and confrontation) or “flight” (isolation and non-engagement).
The Institute’s recommended actions to heal the “civic virus” center on starting in our local communities, for example, bringing people together across dividing lines and fostering a sense of community—focusing on what we have in common, and working together to create solutions to problems through group activities where we can discover our ”shared humanity.”
I then googled and watched the original TV news segment.2 One of the interviewees was Rich Harwood himself—the Institute founder; the other, a social media expert. The segment focused mostly on fear and how that fear is stoked by social media. I was struck by something Rich Harwood said about fear:
“It is true that fear motivates people. . . . And what mitigates fear is connection, a sense of belonging, a sense that I’m part of something larger than myself.”
Connection?? Yes!!! What I’ve discussed here as one of the guideposts on the Path to Oneness.3
So I was left with the question: What specifically can we do to foster Connection?
The Online News Article: Steps to Strengthen Democracy
I then happened to see an online article entitled “Ten steps everyone can take to strengthen democracy” by Jennifer Mercieca, a professor at Texas A&M University.4 It discusses authoritarianism, which is clearly on the rise globally. Mercieca says that “authoritarianism thrives on chaos and danger [thus fear], and conspiracy theories,” and she describes its strategy is ”to sow division, to exploit trust, polarization, and frustration.”
And it appears to be working in the U.S. as she notes:
- “Niche [news] programming attracts and keeps audiences by feeding them outrage that tells them their political opposition is their enemy . . .” such that an alarming percentage of people see the other as ”close-minded,” ”immoral,” and ”enemies of the American way of life—of America.”
- ”We have cocooned ourselves in our private spaces . . . ’bonded’ to people who are already like us, and more fearful and distrusting of others.”
- Citing two Tufts University professors: “We have weakened our communal ties. . . . Our failure to connect makes it difficult to trust one another.”
Her ten steps to strengthen democracy include building bridges across the divisions, supporting communal activities ”where people connect,” and to ”show up to events, hearings, etc. as a [small ”d”] “democrat” such that “pro-democracy is a thing people know about you and associate with you.”
Sounds good but I question: In these continuing days of COVID caution, and given the possibility of violence posed by some elements in our current culture, how can we safely go to local town council or school board meetings, volunteer as an election worker, or participate in community groups and organizations?
So I was still left with the question: What specifically can we do to foster Connection?
Hmmmm, so there are very similar findings between Harwood and Mercieca, and similar remediation suggestions: start at the community level, and build bridges across the divides so people can discover their shared humanity and can connect. But again, how specifically?
Then (as usual, no accidents) I happened to notice a list of actions on the bulletin board above my desk that I’d compiled after I wrote my post on doing acts of kindness and beauty. And (light bulb over head) I realized: This is a place we can start to build and/or strengthen bridges with other people. This is how we can foster Connection. It doesn’t have to be some large, organization-based endeavor (although it can be); rather it can be a zillion one-on-one, person-to-person, everyday happenings.
But even with fostering Connection, given the magnitude of our national and global challenges, is there more we can do? I was still left with my overarching question and personal dilemma: Should we work within the system to change it (like political activism), or should we rise above the system and create an entirely New Paradigm, including taking action on the spiritual/energetic level?
A lot of questions! But in answer to my overarching question of acting within the system or rising above the system, I’ve come to the following conclusion:
Do any or all of it.
Start somewhere, anywhere.
Do something, anything—large or small.
Do whatever you can, however you can, whenever you can.
So your assignment, if you choose to accept it . . .
Take actions within the system—have your voice be heard:
[NOTE: I’ve always tried to keep my blog as apolitical as possible. If you believe some of the groups mentioned here come from a particular political stance, I posit that currently there is one tribe that is clearly attacking democracy, and one tribe apparently trying to protect it. I suggest we go with the latter even if it goes against your usual political leanings or personal preferences.]
* Call and send emails, letters, and faxes to your government representatives, including saying that you’re their constituent, and then politely, succinctly stating your opinion and asking them to take action, especially on particular legislation. Include strong subject lines in emails because although entire messages may not be read, subject lines are usually summarized/tallied and submitted by staffers to the representative; opinions from phone calls are usually also tallied and submitted.
* Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper.
* Participate in a GOTV (Get Out the Vote) letter or postcard writing project like Blue Wave Postcard Movement, Postcards to Voters, Postcards to Swing States, and many others. (Data shows this works. And these groups make it very easy—even fun—to do.)
* Volunteer or make a donation to an organization that’s “fighting the good fight” like the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, the Women’s March, Black Lives Matter, and soooo many more. Maybe google an issue and find an organization that aligns with your values and interests.
* Get out there physically—participate in a (peaceful) protest (like ones being organized around the country by the Women’s March group on May 14, 2022 in support of reproductive rights5).
Create an ongoing ”practice” of fostering Connection by doing an act of kindness or beauty (post this list somewhere prominent and select and do something every day, every week, every whatever):
* pay it forward: buy coffee or pay for the groceries of the person behind you in line, or pay for someone’s meal in a restaurant
* give a favorite book to a friend
* donate toys to a homeless shelter or safe house
* make a list of someone’s best qualities (what you appreciate about them)—and give it to them
* make someone laugh
* compliment a stranger
* reconnect with an old friend
* donate books to a library
* send an email to someone you admire
* donate to charity
* send flowers to someone for no reason
* send a gift card to someone for no reason
* give someone a souvenir of where you live
* send a card or letter to a family member or friend
* make that $1, $2, or $x donation at the grocery store or other checkout
* wave to someone as you drive in your neighborhood
* smile and say Hi to a stranger
* do an action related to your “domain of interest” (a problem, issue, or cause that calls to your heart) and/or that applies a particular skill or talent
* be kind to yourself—whatever that means to you (let you inner-knowing guide you)
[NOTE: As I’ve said before, please exercise some discretion and care: be authentic and appropriate in your actions with respect to other people.]
Take action on the spiritual/energetic level:
* Send Light (or say prayers)—even if it’s really hard to do—especially to/for those who are perpetrating the attacks on democracy, Humanity, and the planet.
* Do things that bring you joy, thus increasing positive energy to counteract the negative.
I know, it seems like a lot to do. It feels overwhelming when we’re already feeling overwhelmed. And I know cynics will question a somewhat Pollyanna approach in the face of the horrific national and global chaos. But instead of overwhelm, cynicism, and fight-or-flight, I urge you to simply do something proactive and positive—anything, large or small. Start taking any of the above actions today (and repeatedly) because as I’ve said over and over again:
There’s no one person, and no political party or organization, corporate or business entity, group or non-profit, or even any ETs who are going to do this for us.
Thus, the second part of this post’s title: “It IS You”—it’s up to you. It’s up to us. Each and every one of us.
Think about it: Connection isn’t just a Path to Oneness; Connection IS Oneness. And engagement and Connection, not isolation or confrontation, is the way to ”cure” the Civic Virus and begin to usher in a New Paradigm vs. getting sucked in and mired in the fray (the fear- and anger-inducing news, the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness). We can do a lot of good and make a difference even from the comfort of our own home.
[NOTE: But I think it’s important to remember to do these acts (including participating in protests) coming from peace and Light vs. anger and hate. If you slide into the latter then you end up feeding the negative energy rather than counteracting it.]
So, there’s a reason for how you’re feeling, you’re not alone in how you’re reacting to national and global upheaval, AND there are simple actions you can take to make a difference.
As that revered philosopher (🤪) Matthew McConaughey says in a TV commercial for SalesForce—a PR firm (hey, messages from the Universe/God are all around us!):
It’s not time to escape.
It’s time to engage.
And as I always say, I have faith in Humanity. We CAN do this. We WILL do this.
P.S. The opportunities for Connection are all around us: Last week I was out walking but had to pause and just stand still to rest my still healing new hip. A woman was walking towards me with her little dog—I’d seen her before, and she’s never been very friendly. Nonetheless, she stopped to ask if I was OK, which I thought was nice of her. Then when we met up again at the mail boxes, I purposely asked about her little dog (we all love talking about our beloved fur babies), and we chatted amicably for a few minutes. When we crossed paths again another day, she was definitely a bit friendlier. I don’t know her political or religious affiliation, if any; and we probably won’t ever really socialize (of course, you never know). But to paraphrase the moon-landing quote: That’s one tiny Connection by woman, one giant leap for humankind. So “Just do it!”
P.P.S. For some inspiration or distraction from the swirl of all the upheaval, consider re-reading these blog posts and doing the “homework.” Start at the beginning OR let your inner-knowing pick what you most need to read at any given time.
1 “Civic Virus: Why Polarization Is a Misdiagnosis” a report prepared by the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation. You’ll have to download it to read the full report.
2 Rich Harwood interview on MSNBC MTP Daily
3 Connection and ”Computer Reboot”— for some reason, this has always been one of my favorites of the 40 blog posts I originally published here
4 “Ten steps everyone can take to strengthen democracy” by Jennifer Mercieca, Professor, Texas A&M University
5 Women’s March May 14 event—search for a march near you by zipcode
You’ve clearly given this a lot of thought. It’s thought provoking and helpful, good job. Check out my stories and subscribe to receive new ones at https://stevesmemoir.com/
Thanks. This post was actually months in the writing.
Thanks Nancy, a good read. I’ll keep it and set some intentions. It will help. good you’re back. A year is a long time.
Great, Jackie. Good for you! Steve and I just volunteered to help pack non-perishable food for Ukraine. Looking forward to helping out. Possibilities for acts of kindness are all around us.😁
Good Blog! Always be kind to others, you know never know what is on their plate today.
Terrific blog post!!
“The Legend of Q’ntana: The story never ends…” http://www.qntanabooks.com
Thnx. My Muse thanks you too.