Sing, instead

On Wednesday, one of my loveliest friends invited my boys and me for an evening of… song. Not music. Not a concert. But song. We had only a few details, but even my smallish boys didn’t balk at the idea. Maybe smallish boys also wanted to escape the ALL CAPS political discourse of angry adults? Hmmm. But the Lees were immediately down for this.

The venue was a Quaker meetinghouse. The group: strangers. The leader was a television actress my kids knew well, having recently Netflix binge-watched ten seasons of her oh-my-Gods. Her workshop is based on the truth that everyone can sing. Her workshop is magic because she can direct a room full of strangers to sing in four part harmony within minutes. Want to feel good about your fellow citizens? Hold hands and a melody with them.

We floated out of that room in an entirely different mood. Immediately I knew I needed the Olympics to begin already. I want triumph stories and personal bests and schlocky theme music that’ll make you want to buy a new pair of sneaks, or get back in the pool. I want to see strong bodies from all corners of the planet inspiring and challenging each other to do impossible things. Side by side. Together. High-five-ing. I need a good lump-in-your-throat National Anthem singing moment. I want our shouts of U-S-A to feel like a unifying chant of victory rather than a fear-mongering dirge of exclusion.

We are all suffering from Don-illary/Trump-ton fatigue. My (mostly lefty liberal) social media threads are like protests from petulant children making 11th hour arguments for a later bedtime. But why? But why? Are all of these articles—there’s, like, one every hour– kind, necessary, and true (dear friend Lisa’s criteria for gossip-spreading or reposting)? Who knows? What I do know is that we already have plenty of reasons to find Trump repellent. And everyone already knows that oodles of people who wouldn’t break bread with him, trust him in a business deal, or believe his handicap at Mar-a-Lago are voting for him anyway. And the but why? but why? protestations land on the same ears as the SAHM holding her ground and her Chardonnay.

Friday, August 5th, friends. Opening ceremonies. No Hillary. No Trump. Nothing but strong bodies from all corners of the planet. And us: staring in the same direction shouting U-S-A in spite of a media maelstrom that bombards us with angry opinions insisting we couldn’t possibly agree about anything. When, duh, we can. Even people voting for Trump agree that he might be the most odiously orange pseudo-politician in our shared history.

Olympics, people! And until then, let’s swap out the umpteenth post about why your candidate is just the worst for unlikely animal friend videos and people bumping into stuff playing Pokémon Go. We keep promising ourselves (and we promised Nancy) that we’d do better than this. We demand that our politicians engage in bipartisan discourse, we applaud leaders who encourage us to listen to each other, and then we go back to our little screens and shout into the echo chamber.

Let’s sing with each other, instead.

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(Relieved Teddy didn’t ask her why she cheated on Chandler.) 

Eye-rolling past the memes…

Some mornings, our social media sites are less “hey, look at my kid/cat/foliage/punk art show” and more a shout-y tangle of would be televangelists attempting to grow their ministries. The goal isn’t really for discussion and sharing, but for agreement and accolades. Another evening of Republicans on must-see-TV will cause another flurry of what Steve Safran called “shouting into the echo chamber.” If the end game of that anti-Obama rant, your Stand with Planned Parenthood celebrity re-posts, or your War on Christmas battle cry is conversion of readers, well, you’re going to need better memes. Alternatively, you could scrap those and just post a quickie recipe or puppy-scared-of the-Roomba. Those are always good.

Though I’m beholden and flattered that any of you read this drivel, I am embarrassed by my own contribution to a Look At Me/Think Like Me society. Admittedly, barring rants against the Pinking of October, these blurbs are really nothing more than navel-gazing. And I’ve written it before: I’m politically purple and cannot muster the level of disgust and indignation apparently necessary for launching opinions into the ether. My most controversial belief is that colored Christmas lights are an abomination. Really, quit it with those.

I am quite public about being Church-y, though, and this might be the most provocative thing about me. At a recent meeting with civic-minded volunteers for a fabulous program helping kids in public housing, I “joked” that we should open with prayer. This was received with good-natured, mock horror. And I loved that. Strong opinions shared without humility, humor, balance, or thoughtfulness sadden and worry me. And kindness is sorely lacking in those tweets and updates belittling Belief or angrily supporting a specific worldview. Is there room in your sphere for those who don’t always recycle, for those who love Church or wouldn’t darken its doors, or for someone who thinks meat is murder or that life begins at conception? Is it really so important to try to convert your social media followers? And when did we become so groupthink-y and sensitive?

When strong beliefs are assumed to be commonly held and are shouted angrily into the interspaces, I react like an eye-rolling and embarrassed-for-you teenager, “I’m so sure you, like, care enough to post that. Dork.”

Divisiveness is as unproductive as it is un-loving. None of us has a firm hold on absolute truths. No one is persuasive enough to convince you that Bernie Sanders is our savior or that Matt Walsh has a point. We have ridiculously strong opinions about the Christmassyness of our coffee cups. OUR COFFEE CUPS. So maybe let’s share more of the things that unite us and do our darndest to quiet the earnestly and easily irritated folk who would pit us against each other… by ignoring them. (Dorks.)

I love John Atkinson

I love John Atkinson…