The official quote is: “Happiness is a journey not a destination”. The current national sentiments battered by an insurrection in the Nation’s Capitol and a spiking pandemic leave little room for happiness. The journey toward a better America seems endless, non-achievable.
Travel and Pandemics
Now that travel is dangerous because of the pandemic, I read about faraway destinations. Currently I’m reading about Lake Baikal. This lake in Siberia is the biggest, deepest, purest lake in the world. The Russian people believe that Lake Baikal cannot become polluted, because it can purify itself because of its unique ecological balance. Millions and millions of tiny shrimp - Epischura - that live in the lake water, absorb pollutants; pollutants people put in the water that feeds the lake. The water stays pure, but the animals up the food chain - the animals that eat the shrimp, the insects, the fish, the bigger fish that feed the seals, called nerpas- become toxic at the top of the chain. People who live near the lake eat toxic Nerpa blubber and toxic fish. World organizations recognize that Lake Baikal is in danger. The Russians don’t see the problem.
A Democracy in peril
What do Lake Baikal’s problems have to do with America’s problems?
If you think about it, you can compare the American democracy with lake Baikal. We think our democracy is pure and will stay that way. Freedom of speech is an unalienable right for Americans. But when people are saying dehumanizing things, these words become the pollutants for our democracy. The president has been polluting our democracy for 4 years and made it okay for others who harbor hateful thoughts. Words play on emotions; emotions become opinions; opinions become conspiracy theories; theories become calls to action. Unless we break this chain of words, our journey of living in a democracy will end.
What to take on the Journey
The American lands are beautiful. To experience the beauty I hike in nature. When I go on a long trek I prepare and look hard at what I take with me. I only take what I can carry up and down mountains. To see the beauty of this country I have to live simple and rely on mental acuity and physical strength, not guns, pipe bombs and offensive slogans. What I do moment by moment, my respect for the environment and my kindness toward the people I meet, mark my journey as a positive one.
It has come to this: politicians have become polluted/toxic and are defending their vote based on conspiracy theories and saying they are representing their constituents. My representative in congress is such a man. He represents a large swath of farm and ranch land where people see Ted Bundy as a hero, where carrying - and using- an automatic weapon is seen as manly and a constitutional right. This politician bases his vote on a lie.
When I sit in not-knowing, without solutions, I witness my feelings about what is happening at this time and my deeper feelings that lay buried. The pandemic has slowed my life, and I use this time for reflection and re-organization. I ask myself, “what will we take on this journey of making America great again? Humanity and good moral values, or do we continue with competition and cunning? Do we let everyone pull themselves up by their bootstraps or do we lend a helping hand? Are we willing to do with less to save the planet, or are we on Lemming run toward the cliff? The questions that arise lead me to action.
I’m just one white-skinned, privileged person. Reduce, re-use and re-cycle is my motto. My government bonus check can go to a needy neighbor. If I’m discerning I can avoid conspiracy thinking. If I listen I may find not so obvious actions for the current situation. At this point I don’t know how to de-escalate the adrenaline addicted, gun-toting, conspiracy abiding fellow citizens who drive their big powerful trucks flying the Trump nation flag. I’m encouraged by the gestures of big companies who refuse to do business with seditionists, who close on-line accounts that spout falsehoods and violence. I ask myself, is it enough? Is it too late?
The journey of being a democracy requires us to listen. Only by showing empathy and taking well-thought-out steps forward can we break the cycle of hate. Let’s slow our lives, think before we use words and interact with others. Let’s act by calling oppressive and divisive policies for what they are.
Words and Deeds
Lake Baikal attracts tourism because of its famed purity, but not for much longer. America, known as the land of the free, could follow that route of decline. The rest of the world is watching.
We can start by no longer polluting the nation with words and deeds. We can listen to the fear of fellow citizens when we have a chance. Then the democratic journey has a chance to become a happy one and the end will be a good.