At the end of every soccer game last season, my son and the opposing teams of five year olds lined up and held out a hand, palm open. They passed as swiftly and evenly as they could, each player serving as a segment in twin human centipedes, to the friendly sound of cascading high fives, each miniature clap as happy as the biased parental ones coming from the sidelines at the sight of a scored goal.
I remember thinking how civil it all was, how they were more focused on the juice boxes and allergen-free snacks to follow than they were the outcome of the game, how they would at times stop playing altogether, forget the color of their shirts, and sit and play in the grass, dissecting dandelions.
These images come to mind again as I think about the past political season and how I wish at moments that we could all ‘be five’ and take a respite from it all. I wish this were all a game. It’s anything but. But I can’t help feeling like we’ve each spent time in some game, that we’ve been players and pawns for too long these past several months, that we’ve lost sight of the faces and focused on the jerseys and the sounds of the sidelines instead of our own consciences.
At every turn this past year, I felt as though I were arming myself with information. Reading for education or amusement no longer happened. We were on teams and then, after the primaries, we entered the finals, many of us disgruntled and begrudgingly adopting new colors. We wore them anyway, even if they didn’t flatter. We ran toward opposing goals, and our feet moved in the direction our coach had told us to. We ran, head on into others, swept a leg if needed.
We played dirty.
The game ended, our arms too loaded with equipment to manage a single high five. Our mouths remained full of arguments we hadn’t even gotten to yet.
I feel sure that politics has always made a mess of people, but this past year, we felt the stakes were higher, dived in willingly, and some of us threw our children in, too, even in places where it was too deep.
My hope this year is for us to take off our numbers and stop using the language of labels. My hope is that we’ll work on looking one another in the face and have more conversations in person than in online forums.
We are engaging between commercial breaks and relying on microwave media, sustaining on sound bytes. We are in such a hurry to get to hate. We’ve become our own click bait.
Many have lost friends in this election, and odds are the opinions these loved ones held had been held for some time before this past year made them transparent. With all the typing and clicking and tagging and sharing, it’s become harder and harder to insulate others from our dissent, and it’s become easier and easier to see the lines that were already, albeit more politely, traced in the ground between us.
Now we’re open 24/7 with green dots beside our names as though they were neon signs. We are always “Hot Now.” We are always open.
You’ve heard it before, but put the phone down. We’re fueling our own neuroses. Find something beautiful, and stare at it. Find someone beautiful, and be with them.
Eat something that looks like an encounter with God.
Visit libraries, read every book, and use up every last ounce of your days to teach your children all the big lessons about big love.
Have tea parties at every age. Throw your doors and arms wide open and let everyone in. Shove down for love.
Be near to what’s going on in the White House, but cling nearer to your neighbor. Be present for your families. Notice your friends without any and adopt them in. Set the table and sit down. Break bread and keep breaking bread all the days of your life because we were made for times like these.
At the end of the day, I know exactly who we are and what we’re about. We are made of much–enough even–to make it through even a season of this much division. I think we had an amalgamation of good intentions gone horribly wrong, but that, at our core, we still, collectively, hope for good in the world, and we’re willing to work for it.
I’d like to think that, deep down, maybe we’re just dehydrated from all the back and forth. Maybe we need a nap after all the late-night tweeting.
Maybe, in the words of that precious Hook child, we “need a mother very badly.”
I’ll go first. Then you.
Here, love. Have an orange slice.
Deidre Price, author and speaker, is a mama of three and lit Ph.D. Her most recent work appears in Boxcar Poetry Review, The Healing Muse, The Penwood Review, and The Mighty. Find her latest poetry chapbook, Lie/Lay/Lain: The Body in Tenses (Rogue Homilies Press, 2016) on Amazon.