Ok, I was a little frustrated when I wrote my last post. I had just seen someone who I had not seen in 8-9 years, love deeply, but for valid reasons had not seen who just wanted to give me advice/websites/plans/diets etc. which was sure to make my lupus go into remission. I was a little triggered. I mean I get this sort of thing a lot, but I felt, with this person, we had other stuff to discuss. Why is it that we never talk about the tough stuff? We use platitudes and vague references to dance around the really meaningful conversations. Isn’t this the stuff we are supposed to feel safe to talk about with our closest friends and family? But, we don’t, we don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, we don’t want to be pushy, mustn’t draw attention. Then you are left with a situation where you just stop seeing someone because there is so much stuff between you unsaid or worse yet someone dies and nothing was ever discussed and then maybe if you are lucky you find a good therapist to work through it with (I was lucky, I have a great therapist).
It is 2:00 a.m. and as I lay in bed unable to sleep it was the idea of the feeling of safety that kept roiling around in my head. There are so many ways to feel safe and unsafe. Like above do I feel safe enough to tell this person how I feel, do I feel safe participating in class (is someone going to belittle or laugh at me) do I feel safe walking out to my car (because I am a woman and never really feel safe in public) or I don’t feel safe at home because my environment is making me sick (pollution, mold, endless reasons). For the most part in my life I have felt physically safe, I am 46 years old, 5’9 and large framed, and have been fairly athletic (not from any prowess but as an attempt to control weight) throughout my life. So in my adult life I have always felt safe. As a kid I was emotionally bullied, but never physically, probably because I was always bigger than everyone else. The only times in my life I can remember feeling physically unsafe was with my father, he had a temper and was unpredictable. He would beat us with a belt, and you never knew what would set him off. He was also emotionally abusive, much more frequently (like daily). We knew he loved us fiercely, but it took me a lot of years to realize my father was an asshole.
I bring up the bullying and my father because both of these situations took place because somewhere the structures which make us feel safe, i.e. rules, fell apart. I would bet that for many Americans the last time they truly felt that terror of being unsafe was in childhood, either from an abusive parent or a bully. (I am not discounting the large percentage of Americans who never feel safe because the color of their skin, because of how they were born, because they are in an abusive situation, and many other reasons). With the bullying it probably happened because no adults or figures of authority were around. With the abusive parents, they were the figures of authority. In both of these situations rules about how people treat each other were not being followed. If you can remember back to middle school, think about situations where there wasn’t a teacher or a coach around. What happened? The biggest and meanest usually did unpleasant things to the smaller and timidier. Sometimes the bully was small and squirrely, what matters is that take away the authority and some people will act out their baser emotions on the people around them. Not all, not even most, but enough to be scary.
I hear so much, from people who are smart, kind, wonderful people that we need less government intervention in our lives. They are taking away our freedoms with all of these rules and restrictions, they are destroying businesses. I can’t say this loudly enough, rules are there for a reason, because some people are bullies and abusive. It might not be in the middle school locker room in but in a corporate boardroom (although I would be willing to bet if we had a time machine the same people were bullies then too). Some people without explicit rules and the threat of dire consequence will always act out their baser instincts either because they were not taught to control their emotions and wants between ages 2-5 or because they were abused and that is the only way they know how to interact with others. That is why we have laws and rules to protect everyone else.
The biggest example which comes to mind is the housing bubble of 2008. There were virtually no regulations on the bundling and selling of home mortgages, so lenders were encouraged to give very risky loans. These loans make some people TONS of money, but they jeopardized the entire system. Well after the entire bottom fell out, after we bailed out Wall Street, new regulations were put into place to prevent this from happening again. Most of those regulations have since been lifted, because they are “stifling” business. Hmm… whose business, who ended being hurt by the housing crisis in 2008, was it the bankers, was it Wall Street, or was it the millions of people who were suddenly upside down on their mortgages or lost their homes all together as they saw home values plummet. I am not talking about people buying houses they couldn’t afford, I mean people who bought a home in good faith, that is suddenly worth half of what you owe on it.
Another example is the misuse of authority or power by the people who are supposed to protect us, kind of like my father. For an entire segment of our population, people with dark skin, they never know when they are pulled over, when they interact with police officers if they will walk away unharmed or even alive. People who respond to this with “Blue Lives Matter!” are missing or misdirecting the point, yes, of course they matter, but that is not what we were talking about. I have never felt in danger of my life when I have been pulled over by an officer or hesitated to ask an officer for help, but I am white. I didn’t really “get” it until one day in the library (when I was still a librarian) I was talking to a group of kiddos and one, who was black, said “Mrs. Babb, I don’t go anywhere without first thinking about the color of my skin.” his implication was is this a safe place for me to be while being black. That shocked me to my core. I am not stupid and I am student of history, I know about racism, Jim Crow, inequality. I had never internalized the daily impact it has on the lives of the people of color in this country. Like any normal compassionate person, when I thought about my babies, my students having to live that life it both broke my heart and enraged me. How could this be their reality, it is (at the time 2015-2016)? Aren’t we, as a society past this?
All of this is to say societies need rules, laws, but more than that they need a collective agreement that laws and rules are for everyone’s good, and not just for some people. When laws are ignored, broken, or not equally applied you are left with situations that make people unsafe. Not with a feeling of being unsafe, with a reality of unsafety. And you know those bullies back in middle school weren’t real fond of the rules either..
I didn’t even talk about what is going on at the border.