Shades of Grey

I had five writing assignment choices. I chose ‘Over the past few years, there have been many polarizing events and opinions rolling around. How has that feeling of polarity influenced you?’

Wow, Valley Strong, way to get deep right away!

Feelings of polarity over the past few years. I guess that we should define few years. Here’s why:

*‘Too many men, too may people making too many problems, and not enough love going around….’

‘You hide in your mansion while the young peoples’ blood flows out of their bodies and is buried in the mud…’

‘The preacher man says it’s the end of time and the Mississippi River she’s a-goin’ dry… The interest is up and the stock market’s down and you only get mugged if you go downtown…’

To me, these words seem to adequately communicate things that I seem to be hearing on a daily basis. What is interesting, is that these words, these lyrics are not from today. They are from 1986, 1963 and 1982 respectively. I could find more lyrics speaking of war and inequality going back much further. My point is feelings like polarity are not new or just recent.

The question really is ‘how does that make me feel.’ I suppose bad and sad come to mind right away. I think unfortunate is another word, particularly because, in my opinion, it doesn’t have to be that way.

I was fairly oblivious to all things political until I was around 30. Don’t get me wrong, I saw what was happening on TV from my college dorm in the 90’s. I watched Desert Storm unfold in real time (real time out in the field was a new technology in the early 90’s.). I watched the LA Riots on TV. After graduation I was too busy working to pay much attention to anything. I’m not saying that was good or civic of me, I’m just saying that’s how I was at that time in my life. Don’t judge!

I feel that judging is part of the problem. I was a small business owner in Custer County for many years. I was so careful to not share my opinion because I found that many people would take the stance that ‘if you feel that way, then I can’t do business with you.’ I wanted as many customers as I could get! If keeping my mouth shut meant more customers, then I could deal with it. This stance afforded me an opportunity to hear many different opinions. Being on the Westcliffe Town Board for 15 years also afforded me an opportunity to hear many different opinions.

What is interesting about all of these opinions is that in many cases, the basis of the opinions are the same. People feel that they aren’t being heard. On top of that, people assume that someone that feels differently just feels that way for the very generic reasons that we see every day in the media. I don’t know about you, but a lot of my thoughts and feelings are not black and white. There are a million shades of gray in between. It might be better to quit making sweeping assumptions about people that look, sound and act different than you. Maybe don’t act like you’re better than someone else because your car is newer and your house is bigger. Maybe don’t think that you’re less because your job is more physically intensive. Now, I know that some might be saying that by just writing those last two sentences, I’m the one being judge-y.   If you are thinking that, then I’ll just tell you to stop reading right now because you are missing my whole point! My point is, it takes all of us to make this world turn. We live in a small town. I feel it is a pretty safe community. Would it be so hard to actually ask someone why they think or feel how they do? To have a conversation with someone that you might not see eye to eye with?

Personally, I just feel that as a whole, average citizens are not represented. Let’s look at the state of CO. We have two senators and 8 representatives to represent 5.77 million people. If we just add up all of that representation to ten, then that means that there is one representative for every 577,000 people. I don’t feel very represented. I don’t feel very heard. If you take into account that 4,334,000 of those folks live in the front range of CO, then it is a safe bet to say that neither you nor I, living out here in rural CO are being very represented.

Being so polarized is not OK. There are 336 million of us in the US. It’s ridiculous and not fair to expect everyone to think and feel the same. Shaming people for thinking differently than you is pretty pathetic. Things are not OK. I typically keep my opinions to myself, just to err on the side of caution. If anyone has read this far, then you have probably already decided where I stand politically. You have probably already decided that you either can or can’t like me based on your sweeping assumptions. I’ll just tell you that your assumptions are probably wrong. This community could be an example of what politics could and should be. Make it happen. Having a voice shouldn’t be scary.

*’I’ve seen a rich man beg, I’ve seen a good man sin, I’ve seen a tough many cry. I’ve seen a loser win and a sad man grin, I heard an honest man lie. I’ve seen the good side of bad and the down side of up and everything in between.’

*Genesis ‘Land of Confusion’ 1986, Bob Dylan ‘Masters of War’ 1963, Hank Williams Jr ‘A Country Boy Can Survive’ 1982, Everlast ‘What It’s Like’ 1998