We're terrified of one another. People, that is. Scared shitless. The sad reality that humanity seems to have come to terms with (come to terms with!!!) is that we're scared of people who are different and so we come up with reasons to go to war. I saw a bumper sticker last week that said, "Nuke their ass...take their gas!" Rock on, freedom of speech. When in history did we begin to interpret freedom of speech as encouragement to print and say the most inflammatory things possible? I'm not sure that's what the old guys had in mind when they started out.
But even though war and freedom of speech and assholes with cringe-inducing bumper stickers is an interesting topic, it's not what I'd planned to write about today. Because even though a violent fear of the unknown grips our little world, we're also gripped by a paralyzing fear of those who are like us. And while most (some, certainly; most, no) of us don't become violent over this fear, it certainly causes its own little wars. Not wars in the sense of bombs and troop increases, but familial wars...wars of words and isolation and resentment and distrust.
Why are we scared of one another? Is it because that while we're all supposedly secretly hankering to be just like the Joneses, we're also all terrified of being just like the Joneses?
Maybe we fear that having their minivan means having Tom's roving eye and Judy's penchant for vodka. And so we talk about the minivan...we even let Tom and Judy take us for a test drive and tell us how much they paid and how the sales guy was a real slick rick. We'll all laugh and feel warm and fuzzy over the forged intimacy. But we'll wait until Judy goes to get the casserole out of the oven before making inferences about Tom and the ladies, and we'll quietly wonder on our way home if Judy actually had vodka in that "water" bottle.
And not to point fingers at Tom and Judy. Substitute out those little matters of infidelity and over-indulgence and fill in the blanks with some other infliction and you've got all of America wrapped around your little finger. We stick to safe subjects and leave the darker ones for hurried moments alone on the phone with Judy before Tom walks in and discovers that his wife is miserable.
Funny thing is, I'm an optimist. Maybe a sarcastic optimist, but an optimist all the same. Sure, it sounds cynical to point out that we are human, complete with human flaws and weaknesses. But I only point it out to say that it doesn't have to be that way. Screw sensitivity and discretion. How about sensitivity and communication?
I imagine a world where we just throw it all out there. Where health, fears, insecurities, hopes, dreams, losses, personal demons and struggles are not taboo subjects. I want to live in a world where we know that life with it's hazards is not a communicable disease. Where we all have enough within to give freely without the worry of depletion. I want a world without hushed corners but with wild and brash conversation.
No mom, I'm not Judy. Even if you substitute wine. Even if it's really, really, good wine.