We liberals are not the shrinks for the world. We are not to blame for everything that happens bad in the world, and we are not guilty just because we still believe in mutual good and harmony between people.
Raised on a farm in Iowa in the 1940’s, 50’s, and early 60’s, I learned that pigs don’t sweat, there’s always an odd number of rows of kernels around a corn cob, spring winds come in from the west, and few things are so beautiful as black loam turning over behind a plow as crows swoop down to feast on exposed earthworms.
I also learned that a streak of insecurity runs through the people. I can speak to this because, at base, these are my people. Never mind my life experience, when I die the visions in my head will not be of Paris or New York or Washington. They will be of fireflies under skies that never stop, whether of the blueness of the day or the stars of the night.
Yet I had to leave, and planned to do so by the time I was eight years old. By the time I was a freshman in high school my choices were to be a missionary in an exotic place or to be in a city wearing black off-the-shoulder sheath dresses in fancy restaurants. There was no room for anything in-between. Ultimately the second alternative won, more or less, combined with working for women around the globe, connecting them for peace and mutual good.
I am, by any account, both in the 1% and a far-left liberal. This makes me suspect on both accounts for most of the people in the “fly over” states. I have become the presumed stereotype of what I was told were the “snotty Easterners who think they are better than we are.”
While I have never heard an Easterner say they felt superior to the people in the heartland, I sure did hear the people of the heartland say it was what Easterners believe. I heard it over and over. I was fed it at the kitchen table nearly as regularly as I ate boiled potatoes.
The Midwestern stereotype of an Eastern elite is not a pretty thing, nor is it accurate. It is the product of insecurity that leads to a sense of humiliation and then to resentment.
Ask me what the vote was about, and I will tell you it is the product of many things, including fear of, and isolation from, diverse people. I will also add that many voted for Trump in order to shove it in the faces of what they perceive as the Eastern “elite.” This impulse was for many so strong that it blocked out the realization that Trump is not their friend in any way, shape, or form. It blocked out the understanding that it was Clinton who was set to go with the programs and policies that would help them the most. It was their response to the belief they were being ignored compared with other socio-groups. It was their feeling they were forgotten and humiliated. Vote for Trump! Let the chips fall where they may.
Does this mean I have no sympathy? Not at all. My heart hurts. These are people who overwhelmingly believe in good, who rally together for each other, who work long hard hours, and who have seen their share of the (apple) pie decline.
Still, we liberals were taken by surprise at the level of their vehemence and anger – and at our sense that they didn’t know their friends from their enemies, and our sense that they didn’t realize it has been the Republicans who have blocked what can help them.
As liberals, we tend to blame ourselves. THAT is an actual characteristic of Eastern liberals. We believe we are somehow to blame, that we didn’t do enough, that we ignored people who were hurting. We believe we have the ability to make everything well and good. We do not. We are only humans, individuals who get some things right and some things wrong.
Peace building and care-taking and changes in society are messy complex processes with no easy answers, no single answers, and we liberals are not the shrinks for the world. We are not to blame for everything that happens bad in the world, and we are not guilty because we still believe in mutual good and harmony between people.
An hour ago I held the sister of my son-in-law. She holds a high position in the agency that created and maintained the Affordable Care Act. After putting on her “big girl britches” this week for her staff, she can finally cry. “Twenty million people got insurance. We saved lives. We saved countless lives. We will always have that. They can’t take that away from us.”
I worked for the War on Poverty under President Johnson. When the Republicans came in under Nixon, they immediately set about to dismantle the agency as much as they could. They destroyed all the photographs (and negatives) of poverty and programs that I had had taken by professional photographers across the US. They wiped away the proof of need among our people.
It can feel like an upside-down world, where good intentions are lambasted, where the complexities of making change are not understood, where science and facts are not respected, where our planet and our lives are in danger because of people’s unwillingness to recognize the truth of climate change, where women are considered lesser mammals, where some people consider themselves better than others, where minorities are not safe, and where hate is considered bravery.
This is not a time for liberals to feel guilty that we didn’t do enough. It is the time to recognize that we cannot ever do enough, but that we must do what we can; and we cannot do that best if we are weakened by feelings of guilt. We must strategize and move forward, keeping the faith, and acting in the service of justice, equality, integrity, and inclusiveness. We must put on our “big girl britches” and do the work ahead.