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I don’t know what’s best

“So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great, good fortune.” Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that, Supreme Court Justice.

“You don’t know what’s best for you.” Rick said that, guy I once knew trying to teach me something.

Here’s me in my head: “I know what that person should do and what that person should say. I know how things should be, and shouldn’t be, and how everyone should just chill out and listen to me.” Or something happens that I’m sure is a terrible thing. “I told you this was gonna be terrible,” I can hear myself saying. And then it isn’t.

Always thinking that I know best gets in the way of stuff. Getting along with each other is a lot easier when we are humble. Innovation and creativity happen when we are humble. When I let go of my righteousness and trust my fellow humans, things tend to work out. Often, things work out better than I could have imagined.

Mad as hell AND want to talk

I am furious at President Trump. In my opinion he has done tremendous damage to our country. He urges Americans to be mean to other Americans. I think he is unpatriotic and has put our national security at risk. I’m furious that he is further compromising our national security by resisting a peaceful transfer of power.

And at the same time I am willing to talk with and show respect to a Trump supporter. I know you have your reasons for supporting him. I want to learn about that. I bet we have stuff in common. I want us to at least talk.

It’s okay to not approve of someone’s behavior yet not walk away. It’s like two people living together, mad as hell at each other, and still come to the same kitchen table. And at least try to get along.

Here’s an NBC News article: Post-election calls for unity are toxic positivity that ignores damage Trump’s done. Author Tonya Russell breaks down the Trump damage to people like her and she’s angry at people like me who want us all to get along with each other.

“You have no idea,” she basically says to a guy like me. “Me and my people are kicked and dying because of this Trump guy and his supporters. You want me to what? Don’t you dare try to get me to be nice to them.” The quotes are my paraphrases. I hope I got it right. Please read her own words and stories here. This is a great article.

I think Tonya Russell is rightfully furious. I get that people are done with talking. I get that people want to be warriors right now. And that’s all okay with me. It’s not for me to say that anyone shouldn’t follow their heart.

But those whose hearts are torn or those who have not yet enlisted in the fight; let’s talk in spite of our differences. Let’s stay at the table even if it’s hard.

Some are called to aggression and some are called to diplomacy. Some are being peacemakers and some are being warriors. And it’s okay to be both; sometimes one and sometimes the other. Both are needed, and every kind of effort in between. It’s okay to be mad as hell AND want to talk.

I just have to say one more thing and that is to check my privilege. Tonya Russell also writes, “These sentiments [like mine calling for harmony] are clearly coming from people whose ability to live comfortably in the United States doesn’t hinge on the outcome.” That’s an actual quote and I believe she’s right about that too. Things like this are easy for me to say.

History brought to life through stories

The books I love to read are historical fiction. Historical because I get to learn stuff about my ancestors, things that happened to humans long ago, historical events like wars and discoveries. Fiction because more than dates and accounts of “what actually happened,” I get pulled into “what could have actually happened.” I get to meet actual people with real life dramas. They just happen to have lived long ago.

The fiction part turns history into stories. That makes history come alive for me. The drama, the betrayal, the loyalty, the tragedy, the triumph, the secrets, the life-changing decisions that people make. This makes it really fun for me, and relatable. I can see myself in the stories. It’s hard for me to see myself in dates and facts. But I can see how a person in a story is facing the same kinds of things that I am, although in a different age.

The history part of historical fiction reminds me that humans have been through this before, and worse. Of course Americans have not gone through the same things as the Chinese or Romans or other empires, but certainly the same types of things. Always with different settings and different players, yet many societies have faced dramatic political uncertainty much like America today. Many societies have feared scarcity of resources. Many societies have endured pandemics.

As a younger man I toured the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. I stumbled out onto the sidewalk afterwards and cried uncontrollably. If you don’t know, Anne Frank was a Jewish girl hiding with her family during the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam. You think our lockdowns are bad? For 761 days Anne and her family lived in a secret part of house behind a bookcase. It’s a remarkable story that shows me how things could be. Check out her story here.

And this is just one story. One. There are millions of such stories in other times and places. And these stories are happening today. They are even happening in America right among us. People are trapped in their houses or apartments. People are prisoners in abusive relationships. People are in hiding. People are desperately hungry. People fear for their lives.

Reading such stories – even tragic stories – gives me strange comfort. I think it’s because I get to see I’m not alone. I’m not the only one who has been through stuff like this. I get to see what it means to be human. I feel a sense of belonging.

And I get to see that actually, things aren’t so different today. Or so bad. And I get to see how my ancestors handled the tragedies they were handed. I learn coping skills.

And I learn that today’s tragedies are not my fault. The historical characters in the stories before me didn’t ask for their tragedies either. History is just human nature over and over again.

I am in awe of authors who can bring me history though stories. Thank you.

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