A therapist I know told me last week that THE distinctive feature of stress in the United States right now, the thing she has not seen in her many years of practice, is the way the results of the 2016 election have divided families, friendships, and marriages. She said, “we have lived through tough times before. Many of them. Many equally if not more difficult than this time. What we haven’t seen before is the pain being so great that it divides relationships, even in families, across the entire country.
I’ve thought about this a lot. It hits quite close to home for me. And I think if I had to distill the sense that I feel and that others seem to lament it is a constant feeling of Betrayal.
When one sees the current administration in Washington as not just incompetent, but frighteningly vengeful, angry, and irrational. Also impulsive, and compulsive, and in the way they treat people, frankly, repulsive, it is easy to look at those who put them there and feel betrayed.
I woke up this morning to the news that the United Nations had issued a cautionary statement about the United States because of the extent of the internal conflict and violence. I felt physically sick to my stomach. I never realized how much I love this country until it started to feel threatened by forces within our borders yet beyond our control, who seem to be on a mission to destroy it.
Tonight I tried to find the United Nations story online, and oddly, the only news agency my phone would offer for me to read was Fox News, an agency I avoid for their lack of integrity. When I finally figured out a way to get to other news agencies via my Tablet, it seemed that Fox was the only one carrying the story. It added to the sense of surreal that permeates these days.
I read that the judge ordered DreamHost to release their protected Web user data from an anti-Trump website. And in the meantime, green, yellow, and especially red maps reminded me that Harvey raged close enough to see, but not yet cause the anticipated havoc for which Texas was bracing.
I sip my honey-tea and ponder. The United Nations feels betrayed by the U.S. The journalists feel betrayed by the president himself. At least half of the people in the U.S. feel betrayed by those who follow him blindly, like groupies in an eerie cult.
One of the most complicated parts of betrayal, is that often, unlike estrangement, where two parties might just walk away, there is a reason the relationship must continue to exist. A citizen to the government of their country. A journalist to those whose stories they seek. A parent to a child; a sister to a brother; a husband to a wife.
When Jesus was betrayed by Judas, not to mention the other disciples who kept a low profile during that whole Holy Week agony, no one got through it unscathed. But for Judas and Jesus in particular, the betrayal was just the beginning of the trauma that would be inflicted, and reconciliation was another life away.
I read a recent column by Leonard Pitts, Jr., a journalist I’ve been following since he first gifted me with a dictionary, the prize in a simple writing contest when I was 21. He has promised to sign my copy of his new book, Grant Park, and I am encouraged. His words gave me a sense of hope and urged me to try to find my own words to describe the experience of living through now. So I write them here.
I bought a small statue of Mevlana in Columbus last week while basking in the hope of my son’s wedding. Mevlana was a Muslim saint and Anatolian mystic known throughout the world in the 13th century. He was born in what is now Afghanistan. In the West, he is known as Rumi, the best-selling poet in the United States. The United Nations declared 2007, the year of Rumi, and celebrations were held throughout the world.
The Turkish shop owner simply told me that Mevlana represented freedom, in that he was always dancing, and his words were wise and moved people to look past differences and draw closer to one another. I liked him.
I did not know when I bought the statue of Mevlana, that he is also Rumi. One of my favorite pieces of art hangs both in my kitchen and in my office. It is a postcard from KeyWest, with these words from Rumi:
My newlywed son began teaching high school English this week, his first job after college. He is eager and alive; determined and gifted. His bride sends me photos from the wedding as they come to her and I gaze at each long enough to have them memorized. She plans cities and he teaches teens and together they have drinks after work in a movie theater in their neighborhood, and take communion on Sundays in their hip city church in the art gallery.
And the seed of my faith moves in the fertile soil of my soul, and I look to their future, and savor the hope that is love.
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