“Many of us are homeless in the West today.” – Johann Hari, Author (Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions)
I was born in June 1962 and grew up with real neighbors. I left May Day baskets on their doorsteps. They bought the various school drive items I sold. They gave me permission to ride around their houses on their driveways and sidewalks. I stopped by for fresh-baked cookies. They knew which of the neighborhood pets were mine. My mom helped the ladies with their hair. People helped one another with gardening, cars and home repairs. My grandparents lived next door. I knew my great grandparents. We spent holidays and summer vacations with family and friends.
I’ve since been taught that the walls of my home and, perhaps, the nuclear family that I grew up with constitute my “tribe.” I must be ambitious and successful. I need to buy and accumulate. I need status. At various times, I’ve tried to break free. First in my thirties by finding a religious or intellectual community and curbing my spending. Again in my forties after moving home and divorcing. Later when I turned fifty and tried to revamp my life. The people around me resisted this as invalidating the choices they’d made and the way they lived.
I got tired of being careful, but remained unable to truly depend on others. I have managed to largely replace buying things with doing things. But shopping does offset feeling lonely or rootless. Usually, I buy entertainment (concerts, movies, music, books, yarn) and look for distractions. I remain guarded, but continue to love ideas, value truth and abhor injustice. Too many days, I still feel like life is just filling the time in-between being born and dying.
Johann Hari’s writing helped me believe that this isn’t a problem with my brain or body chemistry. It’s a problem with the society and culture I live in. President Trump embodies the extreme of that by giving people simple rules to live by that make them part of a tribe that doesn’t require self-analysis or any intellectual effort. That tribe knows that getting ahead requires others fall behind; that success requires the unsuccessful; and that all others are less deserving. Thankfully, the Progressive Movement is the backlash as are concepts like the social contract, the public good, equity and justice, sharing and inclusion … personal, moral and social responsibility. Rootlessness is the soil of hate and the gardeners plant lies and fertilize them with bigotry and injustice. Silence is complicity. Playing it safe and comfortable silence is betrayal. We all need to speak up and stand up and support those who are doing the same, especially when they are doing it out of necessity and the lack of alternatives.
I am part of a tribe. I have a home. Facts matter. Equity and equality matter. Justice matters. That is the tribe I want to belong to and the home I want to live in. I intend to keep trying.