Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Diversity is a Strength

As some of you know, I volunteer for one of the presidential campaigns.  Each Tuesday morning I go to the headquarters and I answer phones, taking calls from people all over the country who may be looking for information or who want to leave a comment or suggestion.  It has been my pleasure to speak with some very wonderful, caring people over the course of this long campaign season.  Other people have not been so wonderful.  In their anger and fear, they lash out at me--"killing the messenger" so to speak.  I do my best to keep my composure and be helpful as I listen to their rant or attempt to get a word in, hoping to answer their initial question.  I sometimes get demeaned or cursed at and that is where I draw the line.  At that point I  bring the conversation to a close, always thanking the person for taking the time to call.

The overwhelming impression that I get from all of this is that many people are angry, worried and/or scared.  Of what, I can't rightfully say.   But of something--some nebulous and unspoken force that lurks in the dark, waiting to jump out and attack.  It saddens me that people feel like this and yet I understand it to a degree.  The world is different now. There are several real problems that need to be addressed.   It's a global economy that drives the market, but still the United States that sets the tone and our economy is floundering.  Dangerous countries condemn us in our democracy.  Wars are waged throughout the world, in which two of them our troops are directly involved.  Global warming and climate change bring their own very real challenges as does the energy crisis. Add to this the constancy of the 24 hour news cycle and I can understand that people may feel overwhelmed.  The media is always looking for a story, the more sensational the better, it seems. Yes, there are some real threats.  But, pundits and commentators play up our fears and prejudices, not to our advantage, in ways that were impossible just several years ago.  While I understand the reasons for them, I don't feel that fear and anger are helpful in facing these challenges.  In truth, the world has always been a dangerous place for some. 

I think my overwhelming sentiment is a feeling of sadness regarding all of this.  I'm sad that people are so unhappy and insecure--that they have such a lack of trust in people who they believe are different from them.  I'm saddened by the angry outbursts directed at me, a stranger just volunteering some of her time.  I don't understand why we can't disagree without being disagreeable and attempt to work toward solutions without being divisive.  To me, America's strength lies in her diversity--diversity of population and diversity of ideas.  It takes all of us to make democracy work, but I don't see how this can be accomplished if our intention is to always be on the offensive.  Stirring up hate isn't productive.  In my opinion, this works directly against the American spirit that has always put us on top.   

In spite of some tense, unsettling moments, I feel honored and privileged to talk to so many people across our great country.  It is wonderful when people take time to be engaged in the electoral process--true democracy at work.  People genuinely care about our future and that, I believe, bodes very well for our nation.  People will always disagree, but when we do, let us do it without being disagreeable.  History has shown that in working together we can find solutions to the problems that face us, no matter how difficult.  If we take the time to look for similarities rather than differences, we may find that people are not really that different after all.  We share many of the same dreams, values and hopes.  Let us take time to play on our strengths rather than our weaknesses.


Lin said...

I found it interesting that you volunteer for that being that you have mentioned your distaste for politics once or twice to me--it surprised me that you do that.

I agree with the fear thing. Katz wrote about his book tour and how everyone is feeling that and how aware of it he became by being on the road. Non-stop barrage of bad news by the media is freaking everyone out. Not that it isn't bad, but the constant bantering about it isn't helping. Since he's said that, I've stopped watching the news and I have to say it has helped. I understand why people are lashing out to unknowns on the other end of the line--who else can we scream at?

Always surprising me, Diane! Hope I can come Thursday for coffee. Are you going?

Soulsearcher said...

Yes, I am planning on going. I hope you can make it. It's at 6:30at Caribou Coffee on Harlem in Tinley--over by Walt's I think.

butterfly woman said...

Hi Diane,
I find your stories quite interesting. I did not know you worked on Tuesdays for one of the Presidential campaigns. It is wonderful you have the ear to listen to all the voices in the world. We are doing an assignment in class where we take a "bad" situation and reframe it into the positive. I feel this story and so many of the others you write follow this theme. I always learn from you, feel uplifted by your words and am amazed at how you are writing almost daily now. You make me think and your writing comes from your heart. Keep working the phones and writing. The world (and myself) needs all your creative voices. It's people like you, the unsung heroes behind the lines, that help make this world a more healing place to live.