Yesterday I delivered the “inspiration” at my Women’s Council of Realtors business meeting. As I began to think about where to draw my inspiration, my first thought was Teddy Roosevelt because I just love his persona. Then at the last hour I went to Susan B. Anthony. I found out more about Susan B. Anthony in an hour than I ever could have learned in school. I wasn’t interested in where she was born, or that she was a Quaker (and I really like Quakers) – how many pages her 6 volume book was. What was compelling was that at 17 she was an abolitionist and began working for the equality and freedom of slaves. In the 1850’s that took unimaginable courage – especially for a woman. She was inspired to begin the suffrage movement when she was not allowed to speak at a meeting organized to support the abolition of slavery. I can imagine her have a moment where she said “I coulda had a V-8!” The irony wouldn’t have been lost on her – she’s at a meeting to serve the great cause of equal rights and her plumbing was cause enough for her to be silenced. She would not be silenced. That moment began a crusade that was her life work, culminating in the 19th amendment called the Susan B. Anthony Amendment to the Constitution being ratified. Anthony had been dead for years by the time of its passage.
The political divide seems to grow exponentially with each passing day, administration, debt ceiling crisis, threatened shutdown of the government. Cable news pushes our emotional buttons, pokes at our bruises and broken hearts. Cable news producers have discovered the connection the “faux news” and the part of our brain that hooks our emotional center. The limbic system specifically produces/targets adrenaline flow, emotion, behavior, motivation and long-term memory. Our emotional life is largely housed in the limbic system, and it has a great deal to do with the formation of memories. Maybe this is why when we watch cable news with the will of a crack addict or listen to charged political radio in our cars or over breakfast not understanding the slow poison of this impact to our brains. It’s curious to me how perfectly rational people – people I know, highly educated and well read people turn into lemmings who only know how to parrot what they just heard. This experience feels like an infection – a virus – something that is out of our control. How frightening that our ability to be rational, to be a highly informed electorate seems to have evaporated into the coffers of Fox News. I do call out Fox news, not as a partisan jab, but because they seem the most egregious in their inaccurate sometimes outright false reporting of facts. They seem to purposely and purposefully slant facts that create waves of bigotry, false outrage, confused loyalties and finally despair and apathy. Personally – I have to fight the instinct to throw my hands up in response to our political system and the news.
Back to Susan B. Anthony. In my brief review of her accomplishments, her life, her courage, her spunk I came to the realization that as a culture, as a people, as an individual – I have much to learn about civil disobedience, about the patience needed to effect real change, to have an inspired thought and convert that into the will and energy to gather support and steer the boat in that direction. I had a moment of this inspiration and as family, the press, the incessant ratification of big and small lies is co-opted into mainstream news, 1 + 1 = 3, the earth is flat, the sky is purple, more recently, Obama is the reason for the two Ebola deaths in America, 50% of Americans are on welfare, and Benghazi really was a conspiracy of the Executive branch rather than a failure of the State Dept to communicate the issues and security of our foreign embassies and posts not being funded by congress. My first thought is that this is not the world Susan B. Anthony lived in – it’s an unexamined thought. She had nearly an entire gender who thought she didn’t have the intelligence to speak in public, to own property, to divorce, to vote. 1 + 1 =3. So either we find the spark of sanity, blow on the spark and turn that into embers and start a fire.
I hold myself accountable. I hold you accountable.
Here’ a beginning – we cannot ALL GET ALONG while we listen to the trash on the TV. Turn off the cable news, stop listening to the trash talk on the radio. Read the news – even from bias newspapers. The difference is that neuroscientists have found that the response from television centers in our limbic system (emotional) and the response from reading centers primarily in our frontal lobe which controls thought and reason. So when I read a newspaper, a blog, a magazine article I respond to that information with my frontal lobe – the center of reason, thought, logic. When I watch the TV news I question nothing, I react emotionally with my limbic system (fight or flight) and this reaction is seared into my long-term memory because that is the limbic system’s job….to remember the threat.
Once our minds have cleared, we can then tackle getting money out of politics, having 10 week election cycles, starting a third political party, term limits, reduction of the military budget (like that liberal hack Eisenhower wanted to) – taking care of our children and elderly. That’s a beginning.