A few months ago I delivered the “inspiration” at the local 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 spunk and persona. I was all set with my Teddy speech and in the hour before the presentation I changed my mind. Susan B. Anthony – it was an inspired last minute thought. Thank God for google and Wikipedia, I discovered more about Susan B. Anthony in an hour than I ever could have learned in school. I wasn’t particularly 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 committed to the work of change so all men would really be created and live as equals. In the 1850’s that took unimaginable courage – especially for a woman since women were just a notch above slaves in the equal department. Her inspiration for the suffrage movement came out of the courageous commitment to the abolition of slavery. She was at a meeting of the faithful all committed to abolition and as was typical for her, she spoke out. She was immediately silenced because women were not allowed to have a public voice. The irony would not 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 to become her life’s work, culminating in the 19th amendment to the US Constitution, appropriately titled the Susan B. Anthony Amendment. Anthony had been dead for years by the time of its ratification.
Our current political divide seems to grow exponentially with each passing day, hatred or blind faith in the current administration, the fake debt ceiling crisis, the threatened shutdown of the government. Cable news pushes our emotional buttons, pokes at our bruises and broken hearts, and cable news producers have discovered that their “faux news” format hook the viewing public in the part of our brain that houses our emotional center. The limbic system specifically produces/targets adrenaline flow, emotion, behavior, motivation and long-term memory. The limbic system 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, we do not fathom the slow poison that impacts 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 – with red faced, blood-pressure spiking passion. Observing the conversion of a bright, thinking individual into a closed minded, frothing at the mouth vehicle for propaganda feels like watching the spread of a virus – something that is completely 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 were the trail blazers of delivering purposefully slanted 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, and 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. I have more to learn about the patience and tenacity necessary to effect real change. Anthony showed us how and inspired thought is converted into the will, energy and momentum needed to gather support and steer the boat in a new direction. I had a moment of this inspiration with the 2008 election. As my family and the press, ratified big and small lies repeating them until the twisted facts became co-opted into mainstream news, facts no longer mattered. 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 and humans had nothing to do with climate change. In Anthony’s time, the mainstream media (i.e. white Protestant men) thought – actually believed in their hearts that women, therefore Susan B. Anthony – didn’t have the intelligence to speak in public, the brains to own property, the right to to divorce, and of course – the right to vote. 1 + 1 =3. Today we are called to search for the spark of sanity, blow on the spark, 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 faux news on the TV machine. 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 brain responds to television from the limbic system (emotional) and the response from reading centers primarily in our frontal lobe. The frontal lobe which controls thought and reason. 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. I question the information…I want to know more….I want to understand. When I watch the TV news I question nothing, I react emotionally with my limbic system (fight or flight), I want the emotional reaction to agree with my own fears and anxiety (created by the news from the beginning) and this reaction is seared into my long-term memory because that is the limbic system’s job….to remember the threat. Its a self fulfilling circle of hatred.
Once our minds have cleared and we have stopped throwing Buicks at each other – we can get to work on the real issues. 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…that is the hope.