Tough times don’t last...tough people...are no more immune to losing love than anyone else...
There are two major driving forces in breaking our bonds of love and compassion for one another in our world right now: the plague and political polarization.
Of course, these two have become inseparable; like a pair dancers clinging to one another on the dance floor of the Titanic in the short-term aftermath of its unfortunate brush up against that darned iceberg.
There are myriad ways these big problems manifest themselves, some of them obvious and observable and others subtle and hard to spot.
We are broken into tribes and heading, further and further in opposite directions.
One time close colleagues, much beloved and held in great affection, even those with whom we share great memories, are no longer available as they had been just a few years ago.
The plague, of course has created sharp differences in how we respond to it based on our tribal affiliations. Masks, social distancing, even the recognition and acknowledgment that the pandemic itself is much of a problem, is largely based on where an individual goes for information.
Call it the Red Bubble vs the Blue Bubble.
I doubt that during other past great plagues, one’s political affiliation determined whether or not to take precautions to avoid getting sick or to dismiss sensible conduct as irrational fear.
Most people were too busy stacking dead relatives, like cordwood or empty milk bottles, out on the porch for the death wagons to haul away.
There was no Red Bubble or Blue Bubble of information and misinformation to distract the citizenry with shiny people telling us what to think, how to feel and what to be angry, hopeless, hateful, amused or bemused by.
Everybody was too busy dying.
But our political polarization is the big love-breaker that was here well before the plague and that has gotten blasted with the steroids and meth of our crazy-assed political season. This thing has been exacerbated by the ways we deal with the pandemic.
Most everyone I know recognizes, immediately, the signs of tribal affiliation; from flag flying/waving to Anti-fascist or BLM tee shirts, or simply by hearing the language the person to whom you are talking is using to describe the world: rioters vs protestors, “libtards”/“snowflakes” vs progressives, fascists vs conservatives, systemic racism vs doesn’t exist, and on and on.
A dozen or so years ago I was buying a couple trees at a local nursery when somehow, something I said as we were completing the transaction inspired the business owner to disagree, loudly, with me. He exclaimed that no one could possibly say what I’d said unless they were, “a communist or a liberal.” He saw no difference between the two categories. And as I said, this was more than decade ago.
Things have NOT improved.
But here’s the deal, I very much miss some of the loving, fun, warm friendships I once had with people who now want nothing more to with me than I with them.
And even worse, groups of long time friendships have been split apart, first by plague and then by differences in how to handle the pandemic.
We are not, I don’t think, exactly enemies; but neither are some of us friends any longer. I miss them but there is no way for us to be together, either physically or in spirit.
Maybe when the plague is over we will reunite. Maybe when the election is done, we will find our ways back to one another — but these are more hope and speculation than what feel like are realistic likelihoods.
The plague and the political polarization and the death dance between these two existential threats to our psyches, our country, our culture and our world, have torn us asunder, broken our love.
I fear these love-breakers have made a journey back, if not impossible, at least depressingly and sadly improbable.