Over the past few months, I’ve noticed that I’ve become increasingly irritated at the general public as a whole. Not with everyone, as I am fortunate enough to encounter pleasant and joyful people in my daily travels and I gain happiness from them. It’s the unpleasant encounters that seem to stick out more and more as I try to figure out how we’ve turned into such a society of individualistic, self-absorbed people.
For example, about a month ago, I was driving to and from a local destination, but I decided to take the back roads so I could enjoy a little bit of scenery. Everything was in bloom and I enjoy that aspect of driving. So, I had my GPS on and was enjoying a pleasant drive, doing the speed limit. It was 30 mph, through winding back roads, with sharp curves and signs indicating the turns should be taken at 15 or 20 mph. Out of nowhere, a really huge Jeep pulled up behind me with a young couple in the front (nothing against Jeeps at all, just the facts of the event). The man driving made a great show out of revving up really close to me, hands in the air, and screaming with a mean and quite aggressive face. I didn’t change my speed, but as you can imagine, the joy of the drive was temporarily removed. I don’t use my phone while driving, but I did get it out of my purse and put it in the cup holder in case I was in danger.
Even though there were double lines, he revved very fast and sped past me, doing at least 50 mph and kicking up dust. Both the driver and passenger took the time to give me the finger and were laughing while looking at each other. Where does that come from? Do people just exist in a perpetual state of anger like that or does it rear up during a level of impatience I don’t understand? I’m not the first driver who has experienced encounters like that, nor will it be the last for me or others.
There are times when I become so bone weary, reading about robberies, shootings and stabbings near me, constant worry about my children walking around in my neighborhood, reading about car break-ins and seeing stories of people near me being assaulted, robbed while walking home from work and incidents of bullying in the schools. How does it get to be like this? What drives us to be so hateful towards each other and care so little for our fellow man?
I remember after 9/11, there was a calm that descended upon society in the way that we acted towards one another. People were nicer to each other, doors were held, people smiled more, interacted with each other. When a lane was ending on the highway, people waved you over with a smile, people helped each other. There was an acute awareness of how precious life was. The daily reminders on TV of people walking around, holding signs, begging for any information about a missing loved one, all the while those of us watching knew, deep within, that those people were most likely gone already, but along with them, we hoped they might be one of the “lucky” ones to hear about a John or Jane Doe in a hospital somewhere.
We CARED. Yes, there was violence by some deranged people who attacked those who looked a certain way or dressed in a manner they deemed a connection to the inhuman monsters who committed the atrocities on 9/11. There is no denying that it brought out the worst in some people, but on a whole, we were united. Even the juvenile bipartisan lunacy in our government temporarily came to a halt when they came together to sing God Bless America in the Capitol Building. Where has all that gone?
So today, when I read a story about the desperate human beings trapped in the Bahamas and how the Trump Administration (not the United States and certainly not the opinion of decent people who recognize humanity, not a skin color, religion or country only) is refusing temporary protected status to these desperate souls, lost, hungry, desperate for water, clean clothes, medical help and human decency, when it was granted in the past for those suffering from natural disasters (one of the reasons it exists), it reminded me of how selfish and hateful many have become. Perhaps the division, hatred and dismissal of humanity (children in cages, pictures of a dead father and baby with comments underneath in the news story stating they wouldn’t be dead if they didn’t come where they “don’t belong” and many other horrible examples of racism and bigotry) that seems to be commonplace now might not be so pervasive were it “back then” or would it?
How is it that we have departed so far from how it was then? What happened that changed us into such selfish and hateful people, so divided and angry? I sure wish I knew, but I know that I will never forget what happened that day and while we will never be able to forget, we cannot allow other generations to not know about what was done that day. Whether we remember the atrocities we inflicted upon the Native Americans, the way we treated people of Japanese descent during WWII and the internment that followed, the hatred and mass murder that befell the Jewish people during The Holocaust and the antisemitism that exists still today, the way African Americans were treated for countless decades and beyond…oh how I could go on…we need to find a way back to the way we felt as a country after 9/11.
Yes, my message today is one of dual intentions. The memories that I hold from that time, when we were so full of love and caring and the strong feeling of coming together as a society fills me with longing for those times again.
Today, I watched a episode of Mike Rowe’s “Returning the Favor”. It was such a beautiful example of what some people are still doing and lovingly capable of so many years after this tragedy. It reminded me of who we can be, if we truly have the heart for it. I will link the video here if you would like to spare about 27 minutes of your time…I assure you; it’s well worth the watch. Click to watch S3:E21 The NJ Woman Who Will Never Forget and maybe do a small act of kindness for someone today, even if it’s just a smile or maybe driving a little bit slower behind that car that’s enjoying the scenery.