Monday, February 20, 2012

Group Hug

I used to hold my breath until I turned blue. If life presented an injustice of any sort, I would hold firm and take my stand. Granted, that stand was often to my own detriment but I would take it nonetheless. I was reminded of this the other day as I sat lunching in my favorite neighborhood cafĂ©. A mom and her little guy walked by my table hand in hand, all smiles and giggles and oh happy day. The little guy soon met with an injustice in his own world. I know this because instantly he dropped to his knees leaving Mom doing the one-armed drag on him out the door. If you’re a parent, you know this move well. I found myself wondering at what point we lose this conviction. When do we lose this determination to stand firm in the face of opposition, to speak out against wrongdoings, to shout to the world that this isn’t the life I ordered and I’m not going to take it anymore?

We go to jobs we hate, come home to spouses we no longer love, and give to causes in which we really have no interest, and do it all, why? Because we feel we’re supposed to? We’re stuck? We have no choice?

I sometimes feel now like sinking to my knees or holding my breath until I turn blue, but at forty-eight that might be a bit strange. There are injustices in my world, and I so feel the need to drop to the ground and flail about in the most befitting rage. Instead of throwing fists to ground, however, I have decided to fling words to page. So stand back, give me a second, and don’t come in until I’m passed out blue.

I hate that two thirds of us Americans stuff ourselves fat while a quarter of the children around the world suffer the serious developmental consequences of malnutrition. Those aren’t handicapped individuals getting out of all those handicapped parking spots. Those are middle-agers who are just too heavy to walk, middle-agers resorting to motorized carts to maneuver their lives.

I am bothered by the fact that despite research showing we can prevent and even reverse many of the chronic diseases that compromise our health through following a whole foods, plant-based diet we continue to consume meat and eggs and dairy in mass quantities. I am disgusted by the culture we have built around illness--the pharmaceuticals, the hospitals, the insurance companies, those damned motorized carts. I am disgusted that we have accepted the likes of heart disease, high blood pressure, type II diabetes and high cholesterol as part of the normal aging process when in reality they are mostly the result of lifestyle choices we make every day.

I am saddened by the fact that so many of us live for retirement. We postpone our real lives, our happiness, for a day some ten, twenty, thirty years from now. We plan the supposed end of our lives as we plan a wedding, down to every little detail. It will be splendid, lovely, wonderful, perfect. Well, maybe this day never comes and, even if it does come, so many days have been lost in the process. I know a young girl who recently lost her brother. He, too, was young, very young. There will be no retirement for him. Nowhere is it written that we live until we are sixty plus. Nowhere are we promised life after retirement. And why should we live better at seventy than we do at thirty? At thirty we are young and eager and filled with energy. We are capable of great fun, great joy and great times. Yet we drag our rear ends to jobs that give us high blood pressure and headaches and ulcers, jobs we don’t enjoy, jobs we hate, jobs that are nothing more to us than a paycheck.

I don’t like that we verbally bash entire groups of people, people who aren’t like us. We bash gays, Christians, non-Christians, conservatives, liberals. We bash those with piercings, tattoos, body art of any type. We bash those who dress differently, act differently, speak differently. We hate while professing to love. We are exclusive while preaching tolerance. We tear each other down with our words. Sometimes, sadly, we go further than words.

We’re sick, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We’re sick. We’re sick, and we are destroying ourselves. We are destroying ourselves, and I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all. We need to love. We need to love ourselves, and we need to love each other. We need to help each other. We need to reach out a hand and pull the other up. We need to not be so greedy and selfish and short-sighted. One of my students suggested the other day that it would be really cool if the entire world circled up and sang Kum Bah Yah. Not sure about the song choice when we’re talking inclusion, but I have to admit a really big group hug sounds uber refreshing.

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