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Five Questions

In the weeks leading up to the 2020 presidential election, I noticed a trend on Facebook. Trump supporters were posting false information and then complaining when the Facebook administrators called them out. Apparently, some of these individuals were even getting private messages telling them about the consequences of posting false information. When discussing this, one person said, “everyone is getting that message.”

I wanted to comment, “I haven’t received that warning because I don’t share false information.” I didn’t though, because I was fairly confident I would have been called a lying libtard or told that Facebook was targeting conservatives and protecting progressives.

The irony of all of this is that the people who kept posting false information were the same individuals ranting about “fake news.” While they were definitely projecting (unconsciously taking unwanted emotions, traits, and behaviors they didn’t like about themselves and attributing them to someone else), they were also acting like spoiled children. In their delusional brains, something is only a fact if it justifies their beliefs or meets their needs. 

Before the election, I rolled my eyes at their temper tantrums and self-centered posts. After the election, I realized that this twisted thinking, encouraged by President Donald Trump, was dangerous. When Trump and his allies told his minions that the election had been stolen, they believed them. Even when every avenue was pursued to ensure the election results were accurate, including re-counts in Republican-controlled states and court cases, these Trump supporters were convinced, or pretended to be convinced, of some grand conspiracy to steal the election. In an attempt to get their way, they filled busses and airplanes during a global pandemic and went to Washington D.C. to demand that Trump remain president.

The mayhem committed at the capitol building in Washington D.C. on January 6 is unforgivable as are false assertions that members of “Antifa” disguised themselves as Trump supporters and were the actual perpetrators. 

Following the events on Wednesday, Trump followers are now complaining that actions taken by social media and technology companies to address hate speech and violence is fascism. Considering the education level of most of the people I’ve witnessed saying this, I’m fairly certain they would be unable to define fascism without being given a computer to Google it. These are, after all, the same people who call any policy with which they don’t agree socialism. The icing on their hateful cake is that many are proclaiming themselves Christians while calling people with different beliefs evil.

Don’t get me wrong.  I believe people have the right to different opinions just as they have the right to organize and participate in peaceful protests. What they don’t have the right to do is demand that our country revolve around their belief system. And for those who say that’s not what they want, I have five questions:

  1. No one disputed that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in 2016 but that Donald Trump won the electoral college. If Hillary Clinton had proclaimed the election was stolen, filed multiple lawsuits trying to get the results overturned, and tried to convince a secretary of state to find 11,000 votes, what would you have done and said?
  2. In Italy, the birthplace of fascism, people noted that the scenes at the United States Capitol on Wednesday were reminiscent of events in Italy in the 1930s under Mussolini. You call people who have taken a stand against police violence and for basic human rights as “Antifa,” which is short for Anti-fascists. Does that mean that you are pro-fascism?
  3. In America, where the economy is rooted in capitalism, the wealthier you are the more access you have to political power.  Donald Trump used his wealth and celebrity to win the 2016 presidential election but has yet to publicly share his tax returns. Since taxes are used to pay for public education, public safety, roads, and numerous other services that are equally available to all citizens, the amount he pays in taxes is one mechanism of demonstrating how he much he has or hasn’t contributed to the public good. Taxes are a contentious issue for many conservatives who constantly worry that their taxes might increase (even though they are benefiting from those public services). If the amount people pay in taxes is so important to you, why haven’t you held Donald Trump accountable to ensure he contributes his fair share?
  4. This week I saw a heartbreaking post from a young woman whose father berated her for not supporting Trump. He told her that college was giving her the wrong ideas. This isn’t unusual. I’ve witnessed numerous Trump supporters complain that colleges are turning young people into liberals. A college education is intended to expand a young person’s knowledge, expose them to different ideas, and teach them critical thinking skills.  Are you afraid that people who think for themselves or are better educated than you are a threat who will challenge your belief system or demonstrate that your way of thinking may not be for the greater good?
  5. A vast number of Evangelical Christians have continued to support President Trump even though he has never been actively engaged with the church or behaved in a Christ-like manner. Among his many behaviors, he has bragged about grabbing women by the genitalia, engaged in name-calling, endorsed policies that separate families, and lied on a daily basis. He cheated on his wives. In order to gain the support of Evangelical Christians, he chose Mike Pence as his vice president, but last week put him in danger when he didn’t “follow orders” to disrupt the electoral process. And he has supported a health care system that operates on the principles of making money rather than on ensuring all Americans have access to it.  None of these actions are in the least bit Christian. And yet so-called Christians have supported him in part because of his ability to put in place conservative judges. How do your reconcile the Golden Rule, the beatitudes, and the Ten Commandments with supporting a man who has demonstrated he worships wealth and power more than anything else? 

If any of Trump’s supporters read this, they will probably be angry. That’s fine with me. I’ve been angry for four years and during that time the most controversial political action I took was to wear a pink, knitted hat. And, for the record, I didn’t even have to purchase it thus contributing to a politician’s coffers. Someone made it and gave it to me for free because that is what genuinely nice, not evil, people do.

The Observer

In a life that requires me to fully participate on an almost constant basis, I truly appreciate days when I can simply be the observer. At those moments, I have the luxury of recognizing how total strangers are always touching my life.

the couple Generally, we pass each other unnoticed – like the drivers and passengers in the vehicles on the roads and interstates that we travel on a regular basis.

Sometimes we barely brush against each other – like the shoppers in line at the grocery store or the other patients in the waiting room at the doctor’s office.

But every once in a while, when I have the opportunity to be more observant, complete strangers can provide insight, spark curiosity or simply remind me that sometimes the world is much less random than I generally think it is.

So it was last Saturday.

My son was spending the weekend playing music at a local university, and my husband was working. Recognizing the opportunity, my daughter suggested we “do something.”

What Kendall was really suggesting was that we “go shopping.” But having spent plenty of time and money shopping during the recent holiday season, I suggested we go into the city instead.

In our case, “the city” is Washington D.C., which offers plenty of opportunities to “do something” without having to “go shopping.”

She agreed, and, after dropping my son off for his music audition and subsequent day of practice, we headed to the Metro Station.

As we parked the car and headed toward the entrance, I noticed a young couple walking in front of us. I don’t know why I noticed them as they were quite ordinary. The boy (he looked like a boy to me although my daughter insisted he was at least 20) wore khaki pants and glasses. The girl, who was slightly taller than him, wore boots and a black coat. We lost sight of them as they punched in their SmarTrip cards while we had to purchase Metro farecards.

After changing trains once, our first stop was at the National Archives. As we crossed the street toward the ornate structure, Kendall poked me in the ribs and giggled.

The couple we had first seen as we left our car and headed toward the Metro Station was once again in front of us. I don’t know if I was more surprised that our destination had been the same or that my daughter had also noticed the pair.

Kendall and I soon forgot about them. As we went through security at the Archives, she was incredibly amused by the security guard who tried to put some humor into the “no photographs can be taken” rule.

Or, as he put it, “That also means no selfies, no me-sies, no we-sies, no you-sies.”

While Kendall was amused, his words made complete sense to me. In this day of constant access to cameras, you have to be as clear as possible. Even more importantly, people really understood and heeded his words.

They were also polite as we all patiently stood in line to see the most popular documents on display: the original Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. But that peaceful order was disrupted when a group of young beauty queens (they advertised this by wearing sashes inscribed with their titles) and their mothers entered the rotunda. The girls pushed their way through the patiently waiting crowd to see the prized displays. I was reminded of the spoiled Veruca Salt in Roald Dahl’s classic novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory but kept my opinion to myself, even when one of the mothers encouraged her daughter to crowd her way to the glass cases that displayed the Constitution.

The woman behind me wasn’t as reserved and spoke up about their rudeness. “The people who try so hard to be important usually aren’t,” she said. “And the people who don’t try to be important usually are.”

She had a point, and her words made a lasting impression on me.

After getting our opportunity to see the documents (with no pushing involved), Kendall and I were debating where to go next when we noticed that the couple from the Metro were now patiently waiting in line to see our nation’s beloved documents.

Kendall gave me an amused look as we decided to head to the National Gallery of Art. Our short walk there wasn’t without incidence. As we approached the corner of Madison Drive and 7th Street, we heard yelling. The reason soon became obvious.

A man in a pink (yes pink) funnel cake truck was yelling at a security guard to let go of the handle on his truck door. “You are going to break the door!” he yelled. The guard had a bemused look on his face and a hand on holster.

“You need to move your truck” that security guard yelled back. I didn’t know how the driver could move his truck when the security guard was gripping the handle so tightly, but that was none of my business.

The yelling continued when the guard noticed all of us on the sidewalk.

“Civilians stand back!!!” he yelled.

We did. My heart was thumping as I willed the red hand on the crossing light change to white.

We had no such luck and were forced to watch the drama between the funnel cake vendor and the security guard escalate. The funnel cake man got out of his truck, and the security guard drew his gun.

And the crossing light did not change.

Then, out of nowhere, two police officers appeared and told the guard to put away his gun.

That’s when the crossing light finally changed. As we walked away, I could hear the funnel cake guy yelling, “He’s tripping! Did you see that? He’s tripping.”

“They’re all tripping,” Kendall said.

She had a point.Their anger and potential violence were totally unrelated to criminal activity and demonstrated the power struggles that so often precipitate violence.

As Kendall and I walked into the the National Art Gallery, my heart was still beating faster than normal. Fortunately, the peaceful halls soon calmed it. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time there. But then, we wouldn’t have had enough time even if we had arrived when the museum first opened. We were awed by the paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, Renoir, Monet and Manet.

We weren’t so awed by the work of Jackson Pollack.

“I just don’t get it,” I said as we stared at a painting that looked like paint dripping. I got as close as I could, staring at the paint and feeling a bit like Cameron staring at the painting in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The more I looked, the less I saw. I wasn’t the only person who didn’t “get it.”

Kendall and I were joined by two college-age women, one of whom who was questioning the artistic value. Her intellectually superior friend tried to put her straight.

“What is aesthetically pleasing isn’t the same as what is artistically lovely.”

I’m sure that meant something, I’m still not clear what. Maybe if I understood Jackson Pollock I would understand her words.

But while I didn’t get her point, I did appreciate that she sees the world in a totally different way than I do.  Besides, I was more interested in the fact that the couple from the Metro Station was now in the same room in the art museum.

We stayed in the building until a guard announced that the museum would be closing in 2,000 seconds. Apparently, humor is part of the training for  Washington D.C. museum security guards.

Kendall and I left, took the Metro to another destination for dinner then finally decided we needed to head home.  Our energy level had dropped with temperature – or so we thought. As we got off the train and were headed to our car, Kendall challenged me to a race. Because I was so cold, I was all in. We giggled as we ran to the car.

Then,  we both stopped abruptly.

There was a couple walking in front of us. The boy wore khaki pants and glasses. The girl, who was slightly taller than him, wore boots and a black coat. Kendall and I giggled and she took a picture on her phone.

That couple will forever be a part of our lives.

They serve as a reminder of all of the strangers we pass each day. Some go completely unnoticed. Some provide us with memorable quotes or life lessons. And some stay with us forever like the shadows in a photograph. Those are the ones that remind us that life’s best teachers aren’t always the most obvious. Instead, they are the ones that require us to take a backseat and observe all that life really has to offer.