I was taught you work and you go home—that work is left at work. That’s easiest to do that when you believe your work aligns with a what you hope betters the world. It’s most terrifying when you feel you are just following orders. Worst if you believe that the hope you've cast into what you do, will be cast into a future that will distort it.
Today is election day—the 2018 Midterms. People all over the country have cast their votes…People all over the country are voting for our future together.
While there are many issues galvanizing people to the polls this day, they all are casting their votes for a world they already believe has been compromised. They are voting, already, from a distorted dream.
Millennials stand a 50-50 chance as to whether they are going to fare better than their parents. (See an earlier blog post with the stats on this: here). The new tax bill limits the deductions first-time homebuyers can make in writing-off their mortgage interest rates and property taxes—which historically have been there to add a couple of extra bucks to their already squeezed budgets . While unemployment is low, wages have not caught up to inflation and the average worker has far less purchasing power than they did 40 years ago—meaning that people are working harder to get less . Do we even have to mention the dizzying, vitriolic speech that floods onto people’s phones and into their TVs by the hour?
The dystopia is here. This is why, I believe, more segments of the population are increasing their civic participation. They are seeing that the poetry of the policies and poetry from the politicians they believe in have left them in a prose of woe.
They are voting, already, from a distorted dream.
When a phenomenon occurs that is outside of our expectations, we experience minor shell shock—there’s a small tear in our country’s consciousness. If our brains could talk, they’d say we all looked like Swiss cheese.
Our collective fragmented minds are seeking a new patchwork, paradigm. We are seeking to refashion our democracy, again, toward its highest ideals. When we vote, we are trying to vote our way through to a renewed land. And, I don’t only mean by what we do at the polls—although that is a crucial and sacred place to stake our claim in the change that we want to see—we are also voting in how we are living with, Tweeting at and talking to one another.
If what’s going on in the country as a whole, at the macro level, could apply to the personal level, I’d ask this question: What does it look like to remake oneself after one’s life has been shattered? For, a country is made up of individuals like the day is made up of the minutes within it. There might be some things we can glean—in this new dystopian reality—from a more personal struggle of resurgence, of reemerging from a life torn apart.
This is what the new Netflix series “Homecoming” with Julia Roberts explores. Robert’s plays Heidi Bergman, a novice psychologist, who “works to help transition military veterans back into civilian life—at least in flashbacks,” writes Karen Han in a review for Vox.com .
The veterans with whom Roberts’ character works struggle with survivor’s guilt and what it means to piece their lives back together. Ironically, after working as a psychologist at a highly controversial veteran treatment facility, as it is later revealed, Roberts’ character finds herself working a low-wage job as a waitress just a few years later .
In the present, Roberts’ character while working the waitress job is approached by Shea Whigham, who plays a Defense Department auditor, about her time working with her former employer. During that point “her new life starts to fragment” and she embarks upon the “thorny detangling process” of coming to terms with a tragic life event that she can barely remember.
At the Homecoming treatment facility where Robert’s character worked, the executive for the Geist Group, Bobby Cannavale, played by Colin Belfast, seems to have been “more interested in extracting ‘data’ from the vets, for some unknown purpose, than helping them” . James Poniewozik in his article, “The Machinery of Corruption,” so deftly encapsulates what “Homecoming” is about, “Part of what ‘Homecoming’ asks is: How responsible do you have to be for a thing before you’re morally responsible for it? How high up in an organization” .
We solve for other people's weaknesses.
For all of what Robert’s character has seemed to learn reintegrating soldiers back into civilian life, she is having trouble herself metabolizing what it means to simply make a living after her world has been torn asunder. Slowly the reality hits her that she may have been performing a noble service for a nefarious company. This is all the while, while the Defense Department auditor who Whigham plays, at each inquiry, shakes the thin and fragile fabric she’s called her “new life.”
Her own mind seems to have been Swiss-cheesed in a way.
A fraying life is not some stigma to avoid. It is the realization that the entire world is a network of fallibility. We solve for other people's weaknesses. They solve for our own. When people say, "Have faith," what they mean is that we cannot rely on our own strengths. We work in agreement with others toward a goal.
The unfortunate aspect of this is that throughout history—when we have sought something upon which to stake our faith, our claim—humans have tended to blindly trust leaders who have mismanaged that faith; the same way Belfast’s character mismanages the psychologist’s talents and the recovery space of the veterans themselves.
Han describes "Homecoming" as having an “aura of unsolvability” . What is more unsolvable than the work we do? The more we build. The more things break. We may build a new life. Yet, as spiritual financial guru Dave Ramsey says, “Murphy and his cousins move in” .
We may rebuild our minds, set them on a course, let them alone and are later astonished at the wake of calamity they leave behind. Like our minds, we have to when we see ourselves slipping, get up, dust off the cobwebs and keep it sharp so that we wrangle this flesh of life we call a body--and get to where we planned on going.
Our minds are like our country. We have to fashion it, to check on each other and our leaders—and vote at each cycle of life in order to wrangle our actions toward the arc of justice.
Otherwise--it will slip from any iota of recognizability.