Santa Fe/October 2016
“I no longer pay attention to news about the presidential election,” my husband said the other day, “because there’s not a single thing that’s going to make me vote for Trump. Nothing.”
I can’t disagree. My mind is made up, as well and I’m weary of the headlines, the conspiracy theories, the constant stream of social media posts from friends who are really just preaching to people like themselves, people who already believe one way or another. The chances of any of these masturbatory posts changing a mind are, well, slim to none.
Balm for the soul
It’s been a relief to see other kinds of posts in my feed: the happy wedding of a lovely young woman with whom I used to work, babies being born and growing up, former students applying for jobs, friends taking off for foreign parts, books being published, nephews traveling, even the brave, life-goes-on world of a too-young widow friend. The stuff of every day life is welcome balm for a soul overloaded with, well, crap. Do I need to see Robert Deniro’s video posted 25 times in a single afternoon? I agree with him. There’s no new information there. People who agree with him will respond, “Word!” and those who don’t will say “I hate when these Hollywood types think they can tell us how to vote.”
Blah blah blah.
Over dinner we discussed the political climate with savvy friends who worked in the thick of it for decades.
“It’s all about fear,” one said. “People are afraid. They’re in dire straits–no jobs, a high cost of living — they want their lives to improve. Trump supporters think that he’ll solve all their problems and bring jobs back to the U.S. Those jobs are never coming back and if they do, people wouldn’t be able to afford the cost of goods produced here. What Trump voters don’t see is that they’ll be far worse off if he’s elected.”
Looking around the table I saw that none of us was born into families flush with privilege. One is an ethnic minority. Two of us are women. Only one hasn’t faced some kind of bias based on gender or ethnicity. All of us bootstrapped to one degree or another, falling on hard times to a greater or lesser degree, but still pulling ourselves back up. We paid for our own educations with research or teaching assistantships, clerkships and part-time jobs and each of us has at least one graduate degree.
We’ve all been around the block a time or two in jobs big and small and as a result, we’ve all developed excellent critical thinking skills. We know the difference between campaign rhetoric and actual power to help change things. Which is why we’re all voting for Hillary.
Critical thinking is what allows people to see through the empty promises on all sides, weigh the pros and cons and understand what can actually be fixed and what can’t.
Sitting outside drinking coffee at the Santa Fe Farmers Market I struck up a conversation with a man about our age. He’d lived all over the world and talked about how difficult it was to see the state of his country when he came home years ago, and how shocking what’s going on in our political realm is. His deep concern for our country was obvious in his eyes. We talked for some time before we picked up our bags of produce and went home.
Concern is all around us and that’s why so many of us are posting and reposting things we believe could make a difference. But of course, it’s unlikely. The real opponent here is fear.
Fear subsides when it’s addressed by critical thinking. We can’t make people think critically if they haven’t developed the skill.
A teacher who belongs to a group of California social studies educators trying to instill critical thinking skills in their students saw my recent post here on critical thinking and asked if she could use it in a newsletter to those teachers. I agreed instantly and am reassured to know that there are more educators than I knew out there working hard to teach young people how to think.
And so the beat goes on. The so-called political “revelations” continue to come out, that idiot Assange is still trying to get attention by wreaking havoc, That crazy Glenn Beck endorsed HRC in what has to be the strangest, back-handed compliment in politics. I still see hundreds of identical political posts from social media friends who think like I do. Even though it will mean the end of our five weeks in Santa Fe, I want Election Day to be over.
Until then, I take refuge in the stuff of every day life: cute dog photos, pretty fall colors, the courage of people recovering from hurricane damage, the strength of those fighting serious illnesses and the inspiration of those acting in loving service to the world around us.