The politics of caring
When you watch one of those black and white episodes of The Andy Griffith Show, you are left with a feeling that America was once a place of harmony where neighborhoods were safe, people were loving, and you could go to bed at night without too many worries.
If that place ever existed in reality, it is a place of a distant memory. Things aren’t so black and white anymore. There is a lot of gray, not only in politics and the complexities of war in peace, but also in how we view each other. And not just how we view each other as strangers, but also how we see each other as neighbors.
When we say that we care about something, what does it mean? Phrases can be overused. “I love you” has become the new period at the end of a sentence in a society where grammar isn’t valued.
And then, there’s the politics of caring. From top to bottom, our arguments are about big and small things. We used to get over the small things. Now we start with “how are you?” and end with “leave me alone.”
The big things have always been tough. They are big things because they matter so much, but now they matter in different ways. They matter one way to you and a matter another way to me. The in-between is far and wide. Meeting in the middle is a hard thing to do now. It’s easier to disagree.
We aren’t comfortable with wanting to help others. They can help themselves. When we someone is in need we look the other way. What we think, how we act, and what we disregard are not only big things, but they are now also the small things that we used to get over quickly.
Watching The Andy Griffith Show is entertaining now because as we watch, we get lost in a fantasy land. The storylines and characters are not reality, and we convince ourselves that they could never have been. Imaging the local cop as the Mr. Fix It for society’s ills is just that, an imagination.
Today, we are sure that cops are corrupt, preachers are lying thieves, and politicians are politicians.
We don’t care about each other because we are afraid to in a society where caring has become political. Refugees aren’t people. Homeless are drunks. You can’t spell or speak correctly if you live in a trailer. Lawbreakers don’t deserve second chances.
Come to think of it, some things are very black and white. We don’t want to peel the layers. We take words at face value, and those that cross us are now our enemies.
Caring in America today is not the caring of Mayberry, USA in the 1960s. That’s too bad.