There’s an old joke where a new chief of a Native American tribe who was asked by his people what they should do for the upcoming winter. Being a modern man, he called the weather service and asked what the winter would look like, so his people could prepare. He was told that it would be a bad winter and to lay in a good supply of wood and food. He told his people to prepare for a bad winter, so they did. A few weeks later, he called back to see if there were any updates, and he was told it was looking worse than before. The chief immediately ordered his people to cut more wood and store more food. A few weeks later, just before winter started, he called one more time and was told it may be the worst winter yet. At this point, the chief grew upset and asked how did he know? The weatherman said, “Have you seen how much wood the Indians are cutting?”
It’s an old joke, clearly before weather.com, and like many old jokes, slightly racist. But recently, I was reminded of this old yarn because of the state of our country for the last few months in light of the election. I’ve heard rumblings of upcoming violence, a possible civil war if Donald Trump isn’t re-elected. Many of those concerned Democrats were fearing the reaction of Republicans to the loss of their idol and leader, fed by lies that any election that doesn’t result in his win was fraudulent. On the other side of the aisle, many Republicans were concerned that if the Democrats would win, it was because of a concerted effort to take over the government and that they would soon be coming for their guns and their rights. Many of whom have decided to “stand by” to await the results.
As a result, people started taking measures to prepare for what might happen in a worst-case scenario. Searches for “How to move to Canada?” or “Moving to another country” have reached a near all-time high. This is not unusual during an election, in fact, there’s a spike every four years, which that in and of itself says something, though I happen to know Canadians don’t appreciate us thinking of them as our own side piece if things don’t work out in our own country.
Perhaps more troubling is that gun sales have broken nearly every record this year and ammunition is scarce. Many people have cited the riots caused by civil unrest, and some have expressed concerns about prisoners being released and the government going too far. All of which are right-wing conservative talking points. But it’s not just conservatives buying all of the 17 million guns sold this year, many of which went to left-wing supporters too.
With so many people looking to protect themselves from the other half of the country, talk of a new Civil War has, of course, increased as well, which has driven up gun sales as well, much like that old joke. But what we have isn’t a populace well prepared to defend itself, what we have a powder keg just waiting to ignite. People are upset, people are stressed, and mostly, people are being fed a steady stream of bad news, lies, and discontent. And while many of which come from the media and the current administration, most of it is our own fault. Many of us, on both sides, pass along false information on social media. In doing so, we pass along our fears and anger, as a result we stoke the fears and anger of others. And when we hear our President and leaders validating those fears, adding to the flames, it merely makes it worse. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
IIt falls to us to not give in to the fears and anger and hopelessness we see and feel coming from Social Media and the news. Things are not as far gone as we think, or at least as we are told they are, but if we believe they are as bad as they claim, we will make sure it comes to pass if we give in to the fear and anger. I’m an optimist, hence the blog’s title, but I’m also a realist and one thing I know is that no matter what happens on Tuesday, it will be years before things right themselves, if they ever will again. And maybe they don’t need to. One thing that Trump has definitely done for our country is shown how much ignorance and hate is out there, seething under the surface for years, and while many people want to put that genie back in the bottle, maybe it’s time to address the problem instead of hiding it.
As a whole, we seemingly have an astonishing lack of empathy for others, appreciation for knowledge, and patience for change, and for this country to heal, we need all three, but it’s up to each of us to do our part. We cannot count on those in charge to make the changes we need to happen, we cannot plan on mass and social media to suddenly grow a conscience. We must change, and while we might disagree on what changes must be made, we cannot allow those in power to tell us what those changes should be. We must say to them what we want, and if they fail to do that, we must vote them out. All too often, the public wants change, say for environmental conservation, or gun control, or justice reform, but the government, which is supposed to represent all of us, only represents their own interests, including being re-elected. We should not listen to them, they should listen to us. They represent us. But before that, we must listen to each other.