I’d just pulled out of the grocery store parking lot and into some mild traffic, this was early last week, when the passenger side window of the car in front of me opened and ejected what looked like a wadded up fast food bag, which came to rest on the grassy slope beyond the curb.
There was no way I could pull over to pick it up, and no way to properly express my outrage to the uncaring occupants of the vehicle in front of me.
The litter was just there, a little blot of ugliness in my both my rearview mirror and my stomach.
I found myself wondering in what sort of condition those people keep their home.
What, I wondered, was their problem?
Why not just dispose of the thing properly?
I called these folks “uncaring” a moment ago, but I don’t know that I believe that. There has to have been some thought process, some mental calculation that would compel a person to open her car window and cast her refuse into the street.
I imagined these people as horrible slobs, leaving a trail of filth in their wake wherever they go.
But maybe they just didn’t want that trash in their car, they could, I supposed, be incredibly tidy, within their own four walls.
And there, in the midst of my conjecture, I think I may have hit upon the element that I was missing.
Home, for most people, is what we own, an area bounded by fence or walls that belongs to exclusively to us. Everything beyond those walls is outside, outside of our control, outside of our responsibility.
I don’t really see things that way. Walls and fences have their uses, sure, but they are temporary things, in the grand scheme, and land ownership even more so. The land does not belong to us, we are only its caretakers.
It is, I think, far more realistic to say that we belong to the land.
And so, last Sunday when I saw garbage indiscriminately flung into the street, it felt like a blemish upon my home.
Two days later, nearly half our population flung garbage into the presidency, and for the first time in my life, I felt homeless.
In the days that have passed since that seemingly endless Tuesday night, my emotional state has shifted from anger to despondency and back again more times than I can count. I’ve listened to the speculation about the why’s and how’s, I’ve looked through the sorry demographics of who did and didn’t, I’ve listened to the explanations from those who voted for him, and I keep coming up with the same calculation that accounts for that wadded up bag on the side of the roadway.
This society is infected with a strange breed of selfishness that prevents us from truly seeing and empathizing with the world beyond that little patch that we imagine we own.
The problems and concerns of others, their very real fears about the future…, well, that’s on them, isn’t it.
And I don’t know what we can do about that attitude. I don’t know how we can broaden the perceptions of people beyond themselves, except to continue to be who WE are, to continue to live in their world, and to open their hearts, one by one.
I suppose it would be easier, if I could just shut my eyes to it, but I can’t.
I wouldn’t want to. I remember when I saw the world like they do. I remember that, although less painful, it was a pretty empty way to live.
The anger is still there, but it’s at low ebb now.
The despondency, I’ve mostly replaced that with determination.
But I worry for my friends, many of whom are likely facing hard times ahead.
I worry for those of us who practice alternative religions, now that the evangelical movement has friends in high places, who have already expressed profound misunderstandings about both the Non-Establishment Clause, and simple human decency.
Mostly though, I worry about the land.
My ancestors believed that we were all a part of the land, and that the land herself was divine.
When they chose a king, he was symbolically married to the goddess of the land.
The success or the failure of that marriage could be seen in both the fruitfulness of the land and the prosperity of the people. A disrespectful king could bring blight to the land and ruin to the governed.
Although the actual rituals of this marriage have not been practiced in many centuries, and never on this continent (so far as I know), I do believe that some vestige of this relationship, however unknown to our leaders, must still remain. And the thought of it, of that man in THAT spiritual role…, frankly, it makes me nauseous.
Somehow, I don’t think a man with a reputation for using women and a well documented disdain for environmental protections will be the font of a bountiful union. And if things go too badly, the goddess of this land may very well blame the society that put him there. We may find that we are all homeless.