I’ve realized over the last few weeks that I’ve secretly become an angry person – not in a physical sense – but in terms of my emotional state of mind. By nature, I have an optimistic attitude, I believe in people’s basic “goodness,” and I assume that their intentions are honorable by default. This is not out of naïveté (I have plenty of life experience to protect against that), but out of a hopeful view of what is possible. But each morning I wake up to new evidence that the world has been turned on its head and taken over by people who fundamentally don’t care about doing what is right…or whose sense of “right” is on the fringe of societal norms. I suppose some examples would help:
- The Catholic Church: As a practicing Catholic, the sexual abuse scandal in the church is beyond my comprehension. The fact that the abuse occurred over so many years and across so many communities is shocking enough. Then the institutional leaders of the church compounded the error by trying to “protect the church” (and themselves) with a heinous series of cover-ups. This started with the disclosures in Boston…and it just doesn’t seem to have an end. There is no part of any faith that could contemplate this type of behavior, and the concept of forgiveness, which is a pillar of the Catholic faith, is difficult to embrace either. When I pray, I just don’t know where to go with this…
- Elon Musk and Tesla: I come from the tech world, so I understand the idea that there are leaders who have a visionary impact on products, markets, and services. Elon Musk may be one of those people. But that hardly gives him the right to belittle analysts and investors by calling their questions “boring” and “bonehead.” Nor does it give him the right to manipulate the stock market using Twitter and an imaginary financing deal. People in the valley and in the tech community excuse the behavior as eccentric – and that is inexcusable to me.
- Brett Kavanaugh: Regardless of your political leanings or social viewpoints, the Kavanaugh hearings were a travesty on all sides. Republicans started by delaying action on Obama’s last nominee, Merrick Garland, for over nine months until the presidential election had passed. In the latest nomination process, they pursued a scorched earth strategy to get Kavanaugh’s nomination approved, deciding that due process and fair and complete investigations just didn’t matter. Democrats were only slightly better behaved, choosing to hold evidence and issues until the last moment in the hope that the whole process would get delayed beyond the mid-term election. And Kavanaugh’s angry and disrespectful final testimony was simply unfitting for any judicial candidate, much less a supreme court nominee.
- Environment: As our forests and communities burn and hurricanes and floods lambast our shores in increasing numbers, how do we account for the naysayers who believe everything is “fine?” The EPA is steadily taking steps to backtrack from even the most basic regulations to protect the environment, and leaders prefer to blame others rather than accepting that we are damaging our own planet in ways that are not easy to reverse. The shortsightedness is shocking as is the price our children and their children will pay.
- Elections: Leaving aside who “won” and who “lost,” this election cycle featured an ever-present sense of finger pointing and negative messaging. More importantly, the volume of the negativity was higher than ever, as money poured in from all sides and angles to affect the outcome. To be complete, let’s add in gerrymandering and rules to restrict the right to vote. The challenge for voters is sorting through the dirt and the muck to understand the real character of the candidates – and our process seems designed to make that as difficult as possible. That, at a time when voting is more important than ever.
While processing all this anger and negativity, I’ve reached the conclusion that I’m part of the problem. Sorting through all the gunk and clutter requires great energy, and I’ve allowed that to drain the optimism right out of my life, and that is just unacceptable. So as I approach the new year and think about “what can be different” in 2019, I’m thinking about a few changes in attitude:
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