3/15/2017

On being ... revealing

By Ingrid Sapona

In the last column, I mentioned we’re in the process of downsizing my mother’s household. We’re basically clearing out the family home to sell it. I’m not exaggerating when I say the task at hand seems much larger than the house itself.

I’ve been going at it in spurts. I recently turned my attention to the dreaded basement. Over 45 years ago, Dad built a large bedroom and a living room in the basement that, combined, take up just under half of the area. The rest has the usual household stuff: laundry facilities, a hot water tank, a furnace, and storage shelves and storage nooks.

I started with the “low hanging fruit” – items more-or-less plain sight in the bedroom/living room areas. I was surprised that I recognized about 90% of the stuff. By that I mean that I had a least an idea where it came from – whether it was from, say, a Greek relative, or that it related to some craft project my mother might have done in a ladies group she belonged to for year.

There was one piece that just had me stumped. Honestly, it can only be described as a piece of metal slag. It had no discernible shape – it just looked like molten metal that had cooled into a 10-inch long blob. I think if either of my sisters had come across it, they’d have tossed it without so much as a thought. And yet, I had a strong recollection of having seen this thing laying around for so long that I figured it must have significance, though what that was, I couldn’t guess.

I took it to my mother to ask what it is. She said, “Oh – that’s a piece of copper. If you turn it over, you can see how it’s kind of green.” She was right; it had that green, tarnished copper patina. “But why was this in the basement,” I asked. “It was from my father – he worked in a copper mine, briefly,” she explained. Wow – I never knew that about my grandfather – he died when my mother was very young. No wonder she kept it. I’m sure glad I didn’t unceremoniously toss it. And I’m really glad I asked, given how little I know about my mother’s parents.

Last time I was home, I was feeling brave so I started on the catacombs – the area back by the furnace. I was dreading this because the deep shelves are piled high with dusty boxes and things that haven’t seen the light of day since I don’t know when. I started with the area that was best lit.

The top few layers were pretty easy lifting – old boat cushions and drop cloths and stuff like that. Then I got down to the underlying layer of boxes. I rolled up my sleeves and pulled on the first one. It had a few things that were easy to sort into the requisite group (“ask Mom”, donate, garbage, or recycling).

What I wasn’t prepared for was how many of the boxes contained – well – empty boxes. I had come across empty boxes elsewhere in the house, but I didn’t think much of them – or I understood why we kept them. There was a time, for example, when it was all the rage (at least in our family) to wrap only the top half of a box, so that the recipient could open the gift without ripping the beautiful wrapping paper. That way, the box could be used again. Come on – tell the truth – you used to have a few boxes like that, didn’t you?

By the time I was done with that first set of shelves, I had two big boxes filled with cardboard from empty boxes I had flattened. I had to laugh as I realized that if this pattern keeps up, going through the rest of the catacombs might not be as difficult as I fear. (Mind you, I gotta believe that I won’t be so lucky…)

As I schlepped the soon-to-be recycled cardboard to the garage, I had to smile when I remembered a funny -- if embarrassing – story about some boxes I had kept. Once upon a time – a good 20 years ago – my apartment was broken into. A couple of Toronto police officers came over to record the incident. The thieves had gone through my dresser and closets.

I was surprised when one of the officers said he would try to get fingerprints. He went into the bedroom and when he returned, he said he was sorry, but he didn’t get any good prints. He then kind of smiled and asked if I worked for a jewelry store. I said no, and asked why. He then – very politely – said, “Ma’am, it’s just that I’ve never seen so many little boxes.” After they left, I went into the bedroom and was surprised when I saw dozens of small boxes strewn across the top of the dresser and in the partly opened drawers.

So, it turns out that going through stuff in our family home is revealing in more ways than I imagined it would be. Not only am I learning things about our family’s history, I’m coming to understand the roots of some of my own quirky habits.

© 2017 Ingrid Sapona


2/28/2017

On being … not missed

By Ingrid Sapona

I was at the drive through at a Tim Horton’s the other day. The coffee I ordered cost $2.01. Without a thought, I handed the person at the window a $5. I was kind of surprised at how long it took for her to make change, but when she handed it to me, I realized why. I got $2 in bills and 99¢ in coins. Ugh – all that change.

I was expecting $3 back – but then I realized I was in the US. Here in Canada we no longer use pennies. We did away with them in 2013. To be honest, I didn’t realize it was that long ago, but I just looked it up. In 2012, when the Finance Minister announced we’d be phasing pennies out, I distinctly remember being convinced it was a bad idea.

I thought that doing away with the penny would start prices creeping up. Things that used to cost, say, $2.97 at Walmart (they’re big on prices ending in 7s) would, I figured, immediately increase to $3. Once that happened, I reckoned we’d soon see the demise of other coins and businesses rounding prices up accordingly.

But all that hasn’t happened. My Tim Horton’s coffee that costs $1.81 here in Canada is still $1.81. The only difference is that when you pay – or make change – you simply round the penny amounts up or down. So, when I handed her the $5, I expected to get $3 back – not a handful of coins and a dose of irritation.

As I drove away, I thought about the irrationality of my petty annoyance. I soon figured out that underlying my reaction was the fact that, not only have I adjusted to not using pennies, I’ve moved on to the point of definitely not missing them.

As soon as I realized that, I also understood what emotional trigger was really at play. You see, we’re just starting the process of downsizing my mom’s household. After more than five decades in the house I grew up in, the house is filled with stuff – and memories associated with many items.

Though – or perhaps, because – we’re in the nascent stage of this endeavor, I’ve tried to take a project management approach. I’ve started by breaking it down into different types of tasks. For example, upstairs I thought I’d go closet-by-closet. With the basement – the repository of things that weren’t put to regular use, not to mention a bunch of things that haven’t been touched in 40+ years – I’ve begun by separating out things that are relatively easy to donate, like clothes and books.

I’ve also begun asking friends and others for suggestions about other ways of clearing out things – short of 1-800-Got Junk. I’ve gotten some good ideas (check out The Freecycle Network, for example) and referrals to estate-type agents that will all come in handy.

But, before we get to any of those, we have a lot of sorting to do. There are a few things in the house that I – or my sisters – have a real connection to, for whatever reason. Those things I’m sure Mom will give her blessing to us to take to our own (already full) homes. Beyond those things, however, there are also a bunch of things that, though not cherished, have some sentimental value – in some cases simply because they’ve been in the family for a long time. For me, those items are much harder to deal with…

This is where my epiphany about the penny comes in. As I go through things in the house, I’m going to try to see them like pennies – objects that have value and that served us well but that will not be truly missed once they are gone.
   
© 2017 Ingrid Sapona


2/15/2017

On being … a nostalgic look back?

By Ingrid Sapona

Hard to believe the Trump presidency is less than a month old, isn’t it? From January 1 through the inauguration on the 20th, I made note of some of the terms I read or heard others use to describe him. (Even in Mexico it was impossible to escape the news of the impending inauguration.) It was an interesting exercise then and reflecting on these descriptions is perhaps even more interesting now.

So, here are some of the words. You’ll note that there are some letters missing (Y and Z, for example) – but, there are so many multiples for some letters (see C, for example), the descriptors more than cover the alphabet.

Keep in mind, these are ways others (journalists and public figures, like George Soros) used to describe him or what they thought his presidency will bring:

A is for: angry; autocrat; acrimonious
B is for: bully; bigoted
C is for: combative; contradictory; contempt; crass; circus, conflict of interest
D is for: disparagement, demonization; disorganized
E is for: erratic
F is for: fact-challenged; flippant
G is for: golden rain (if you don’t know what this is a reference to, don’t feel bad… honestly, it’s just as well …)
H is for: humiliation; hostile
I is for: inflammatory, intemperate; imposter; intimidating; insulting
L is for: lacking filters
M is for: menacing; mocking; master showman
N is for: nasty
O is for: ostentatious
P is for: petty; phoney
R is for: ridiculous
S is for: self-aggrandizing; show biz; science denialist; scorched earth
T is for: tyrant; thin-skinned; temper-tantrum
U is for: unpredictable; unhinged; unpresidential
V is for: volatile; vitriol
X is for: xenophobic

I don’t know about you, but these aren’t exactly the words I’d be looking for in the resume of – or terms I’d expect to see in a recommendation letter of – my ideal candidate for President.

Post Script: As I wrote this, I wondered if some of my readers might have found some of these descriptors harsh, or unfair, or merely sentiments of those whose opinions one might expect reported on by the “liberal media”.  Well, now that we’re just over three weeks into Trumps 208 week (first?) term, I have to say that I think these descriptors are definitely on point – and if anything, perhaps even on the polite side.

One last thing: I promise that I’ll return to a traditional essay format – I won’t be turning On being… into a column of alphabetical lists.

© 2017 Ingrid Sapona


1/15/2017

On being ... behind the wall?

By Ingrid Sapona

I’m in sunny Mexico, enjoying the surf, sand, sunshine, and the gracious hospitality of the lovely Mexican people until the end of the month. If all-knowing, all-powerful Trump has his way, the wall should be completed by then…

I’m scheduled on a direct flight back to Toronto, so I’ll only be catching a glimpse of Mr. Trump’s fortifications from the air. And, barring unforeseen circumstances, I should be back at my desk in Toronto in time for my mid-February column. Till then, take care …


© 2017 Ingrid Sapona

12/30/2016

On being … 2016 A to Z

A is for anthem – earlier this year a bill was before the Canadian Parliament to change the wording of our national anthem to make it more inclusive by making it gender neutral. The bill was literally the dying wish of a Member of Parliament who was suffering from ALS. After more debate than you might expect, the legislators approved the change from: “in all thy sons command” to “in all of us command”. But, as if that wasn’t enough of a to do for one year, at the baseball All-Star Game, one of The Canadian Tenors (well, now he’s a former member) stunned the crowd when he modified a stanza of the Canadian anthem to make a political statement that all lives matter.

B is for BACN – my tech friend Sandy introduced me to this concept – it’s e-mail spam that you signed up for.

C is for census – Canadian residents are required to fill out a census every five years and 2016 was a census year. Statistical information from the census guides policymakers. One in four households is randomly selected to fill out a so-called long-form survey. In 2011, the government of the day decided to make the long-form census optional. As a result, the 2011 census data doesn’t lend itself to comparison with previous censuses and Stats Canada ended up withholding results for over1,000 small communities because the data was considered unreliable because it was so lacking. The Trudeau government brought back the long-form this year and thousands of excited Canadians took to social media to express excitement when they got the long-form. The fact that Canadians cared was a wonderfully Canadian feel-good story!

D is for Daesh – always a bit confusing that different news organizations and politicians use different names for this group. In March, the Toronto Star explained that it adopted a policy to refer to the group as Daesh because to call it the Islamic State implies acceptance that it’s a state.  Makes sense to me – I wish others would follow the Star’s example.

E is for Easter – apparently the Archbishop of Canterbury thinks that Easter should be on a fixed Sunday every year, rather than on a Sunday determined based on the phases of the moon, as it is currently determined. The Roman Catholic and Coptic churches are on board, but the Archbishopestimates it’ll take five to 10 years for all to agree on a mechanism fordeciding what Sunday Easter will be. In yet another reason not to hold your breath on this, apparently they tried to get this agreement back in the 10th century. Guess we’ll have to wait and see if folks in the 21st century are more amenable. 

F is for fun – in a news story I found uplifting, two-time NBA MVP San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan quietly announced his retirement this July. The announcement was a low-key affair made via phone and when asked why he was retiring, he said it was because playing wasn’t fun anymore. This story resonated with me because the topic of retirement has just started making its way into conversations in my social circle. Now, none of my closest friends are looking at walking away from jobs that pay them over $5 million/year – but the idea of quitting something because it’s no longer fun seems like a pretty good rationale to me.
 
G is for governor – it so happens Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, is a Canadian who helped steer the Bank of Canada through the 2008 financial meltdown. I’m sure he thought his new job would come with a variety of challenges, but I’ll bet tending to the Bank of England as the UK exits the EU wasn’t on his radar.

H is for Hillary – I was so moved when she said in her nomination acceptance speech: “When any barrier falls in America, it clears the way for everyone. After all, when there are no ceilings, the sky’s the limit.” Sadly, her defeat is a stark reminder that the sky’s still not the limit for women.

I is for intestate – dying without a will. (See W below)

J is for journalists – my undergrad degree was journalism and I was embarrassed by the role the press played in the US election. Nearly everyone in the mainstream press was content just to follow the Trump show around and put up with his harassment and disparaging of the press corps rather than stop ceding airtime to him. What about policy issues ? I know, Trump didn’t have any – but the only way you’d show that is to continually ask him policy questions.

K is for Kellyanne Conway – according to the Wikipedia page on her, under the heading “Political views” it says she “views herself as an activist Gen X woman conservative”. Me, I see her as a smiling, obfuscating liar.

L is for locker room talk – interesting that so many professional athletes were offended at Donald Trump’s claim that his boasting to Billy Bush about what he “gets away” with with women because he’s famous was mere locker room banter. 

M is for MacGyver – a friend uses this as a description for problem solving using a creative approach (when the traditional means fail). I love it!

N is for naked – We have a “clothing optional” beach in Toronto. (Yes, we are the Great White North, but it can be warm enough for swimming!) A controversy about just what “clothing optional” means has developed – but it’s not what you might expect. Apparently “naturalists” (read: nudists) interpret “optional” differently. It seems they think people who use the beach should be required to be completely nude. As a plain language person, I disagree with their interpretation.

O is for Obama – Michelle Obama’s speech in New Hampshire on October 13, 2016 about Donald Trump was the speech of my generation – both in terms of writing and delivery. 

P is for Prince – I was terribly saddened by his sudden death. I think it hit me so hard because he was of my generation. I remember someone I went to university with who was from Minnesota and she knew him from high school. And, though I really only know his hits, I never tired of them and whenever they’d pop up on the radio, I always smiled and sang along.

Q is for the Queen – she turned 90 this year and we had proof that she’s human when she was “caught” saying that some Chinese dignitary had been “very rude” to one of Britain’s Ambassadors. Scandalous talk? Hardly – just proof that the Queen’s just like the rest of us – capable of feeling irritation at others’ behaviour!

R is for rude – it didn’t take too long for the new threshold of rudeness in the U.S. to be on display. It became clear for all the world to see in February when the NY Post’s front page showed the statue of liberty giving us the finger with a headline that read: Drop Dead, Ted. Nice…

S is for security briefings – the fact that president elect Trump has skipped some security briefings is unbelievable. I guess he never heard the old adage that information is power. Then again, with only 24 hours in a day and so many tweets to put out, something’s gotta give, right?

T is for truth – one of the most alarming lines of commentary to come out after the US election is the idea that we’re living in a post-truth era. That strikes me as just another way of saying that to many, the truth no longer matters. Frightening idea…  

U is for understatement – One of the biggest understatements of the year was uttered by Charles Kinsey, a behavioural therapist in Miami. He was attending to a 23-year-old autistic patient who was playing with a toy truck in the middle of the street when North Miami Police officers pulled their guns on the pair. Kinsey, who had both his hands up, calmly told the police that the autistic patient was playing with a toy truck and that neither of them were armed. One of the SWAT officers fired three shots, wounding Kinsey. Afterward, Kinsey was quoted as saying, “Once I’ve got my hands up they’re not going to shoot me, this is what I’m thinking, they’re not going to shoot me … Wow was I wrong.” 

V is for voters – voters in the UK and the US clearly decided to shake things up. Unfortunately, the rest of the world that didn’t have a say in those elections will, no doubt, feel the impact.

W is for will – it shocked many that Prince died without a will. So many people commented that they thought it was unbelievable he didn’t have one, given his many lawyers and advisors. I’m sure his advisors urged him to make a will, but clearly he decided not to. You know, there’s nothing wrong with deciding not to – after all – inaction is a decision too… maybe not one others would make, but a decision all the same.

X is for xtreme reactions – I realize policing is hard, dangerous work. But too many stories surfaced this year where an officer’s willingness to shoot surely was an extreme reaction.

Y is for yes – We all know that “no means no”. For the next few year’s we’re all going to find out what “yes” really means. I wonder if all those who said yes to Brexit and yes to Trump will come to regret their yeses…

Z is for zika virus – though the zika story has fallen from the headlines, I think governments and scientists should be putting a herculean effort into coming up with a vaccine. If they don’t, the old adage that says you can pay me now, or you can pay me later will surely kick in. Without a vaccine, those infected will suffer their whole life, not to mention that they’ll be a huge burden on the healthcare system their whole life.

There you have it – the words and thoughts that mark 2016 for me.

I’m not very optimistic about 2017. About the best I can muster is to say I think we’re in for a bumpy ride. So, my toast to the new year is just: “Let’s hope for the best”.

© 2016 Ingrid Sapona

12/15/2016

On being … photographed

By Ingrid Sapona

Photographs, ugh…. Have you given much thought to them? I certainly hadn’t until recently – and now the topic weighs heavy on my psyche. Hell, for the camera-happy selfie generation, it should rank right up there with religion. And yet, the wherefore and whys of photos don’t come up too often. I think it’s time for a frank discussion about photos, so here goes.

I grew up in the Kodak days – you know, when you needed to load film into a camera to take pictures. Actually, I could’ve called it the dark room days, since that’s how photos were printed. Like many teens, I had a camera and I found it interesting looking at the world through the little viewfinder. (Oh how I miss viewfinders in cameras!)

The mysterious process of exposing the negative on special paper and using chemicals to make it appear is, no doubt, part of what fascinated folks when photography was invented. Indeed, the whole idea of capturing an image is nothing short of magic. Over time, however, the mystery and magic of the process receded as photos became commonplace. But, I’m sure the cachet of photos increased when someone coined the adages: “a picture’s worth a thousand words”, and “every picture tells a story”.

I think those two sayings were transformative for baby boomers. Why bother trying to describe the sunset – just take a picture. So, we took pictures of every major event – from weddings, to birthdays, to graduations, to family get-togethers. And we made copies and sent them to friends and relatives. We framed them and put them on our walls, desks, and refrigerators. And of course, we took pictures of all our travels. If we were really ambitious, we’d organize them in photo albums and scrap books. And we showed them to others because – and here’s another adage that drives the photo culture – seeing is believing!

Oh, and for the discerning photographers of the mid-20th century (my father, for example), another popular photographic option was colour slides. Who needs photo albums when you’ve got a slide projector that holds hundreds of slides per tray? Watching slide shows of others’ vacations – what better way to spend a Friday night? Maybe not – but if you’re of a certain age, I’ll bet you had your share of such evenings!

But what happens when we run out of wall space to hang our photos? Thank heaven for old shoeboxes, not to mention the corners of bookshelves we relegate old albums to. In other words, most of them just gather dust. And if we move, what do we do? Most of the time, we just move the boxes, albums, slides, and projector to a new place.

And before anyone chimes in (I’m thinking of a couple of cousins now) – yes, I realize I can have them scanned so that instead of having a shoebox of photos, I’ll have them all in a digital format. In fact, I just purchased a Groupon for a service that does that. But then I’ll have a couple more CDs of photos. Guess what I’ll end up doing with them? I’ll add them to the shoebox of other such CDs. (I just came across a box of CDs of photos that I didn’t remember I had. I forgot that in the 90s my local film developer always included a CD of the photos along with the prints.)

Problem is, CDs are going the way of the dinosaur too. Chances are my next computer won’t even have a CD player, so then what? I know, those same cousins are mumbling: cloud storage makes so much more sense… Or does it? I’m sure that for many, the cloud’s going to become simply another place where they’re out of sight and out of mind.

I get that photos are a keepsake – something to help you remember the moment the photo was taken. Or you want to remember a person or occasion. Indeed, I find it so comforting to see a picture of my Dad smiling, or even of our old dog. And, every now and then when I am cleaning out my storage locker, if I come upon a photo album I leaf through it for a trip down memory lane.

But why is it we cling to hundreds of photos we rarely, if ever look at? Sentimentality goes a long way to answering that, for sure. But I’m betting there’s more than a soupçon of guilt there too. Is it me, or do you feel it’s almost sacrilegious to get rid of old photos? I think it’s so hard because the photos seem like our connection to something or someone – a vacation, friends, and family members – and on some level, getting rid of the photo feels like an act of disrespect, if not desecration. Crazy, right?

It’ll be interesting to see if the selfie generation feels any kind of angst over all the photos they’ll have taken by the time they’re my age. My guess is they won’t because they’re not using photos to memorialize something – they’re using them just to show what they’re up to at that moment – or at least until they post the next photo. (Whether they’re missing out on experiencing the moment because they’re wrapped up in taking the photo is another question altogether!)

What about you? What fate awaits your old photos? If you’ve got any unique coping strategies – please share them!


© 2016 Ingrid Sapona

11/30/2016

On being … an honest effort

By Ingrid Sapona

Last week I was on a culling quest. My goal wasn’t to make room for new stuff – I just wanted to feel that I have more breathing space. I decided to make it a fairly comprehensive cull. So, in addition to my office, I included my closet and my storage locker. I knew it would be a challenge, but I wasn’t prepared for some of the emotions that bubbled up.

I began with my office. I got off to such a terrific start that in short order, my shredder gave out (it was on its last legs). But – if this isn’t a sign that the fates were on my side – Staples had a fantastic shredder on sale. I was back in business in no time. My approach was straightforward: if the project is complete, I’d get rid of all the research, drafts, etc. The tougher call was for projects I think might eventually get resurrected or updated. With those, I basically got rid of things I thought I might have digital copies of.  In the end, I filled four bags with shredding. So what if a stranger looking at my office wouldn’t notice much of a difference!

Next up – my closet. Though I don’t subscribe to the rule about not keeping clothes that are more than two years old (or is it two fashion seasons?), I’m pretty good about not accumulating things I don’t wear. I’m not one of those folks who keeps clothes that are no longer the right size. If something’s too small, I’ve come to terms with the idea that I’ll likely never be that size again. And, if something’s too big (hurray!) -- since I’m doing my damnedest to make sure I won’t be that big size again, out it goes.

Really, there were only a few things that truly gave me pause. These were items that had sentimental value – things like a t-shirt featuring Banderooge, a cartoon strip one of my classmates did throughout our four years at university, and my very first ski sweater. I’ve held on to these for a long time, but I finally came up with a rationalization I could live with for letting them go. I reasoned that if there was a statute of limitations on holding on to clothing, it had to be less than the 35+ years I had these items. That satisfied the lawyer in me, so into the donate pile they went. In the end, my closet effort was more of a clean-up and reorganization than a cull, but that’s ok.

Finally, it was on to the four file boxes from my storage locker that I brought up. My goal was to try to get it down to three. Three of the boxes had receipts, business records, and financial records that relate to taxes. I was sure that I could get rid of some of them because the actual tax statute of limitations had passed. (Of course, before I shredded any, I checked on line to find out how many years of records you have to keep. I ended up being able to shed two years’ worth of records. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to bring the total number of boxes down. But, the three are considerably lighter, at least.

The last box was the one I knew would be the most challenging. It had copies of articles I’d published in different places – newspapers, magazines, journals, etc. In journalism school, we learned that it is important to keep a “clip file” of samples of your work. Of course, these days clips and samples are digital, so the only real value I could ascribe to the stuff in the box was nostalgia. But, I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of all of them. So, I came up with a compromise: I kept one copy of each and shredded the duplicates.

But there was more in that box that caught me by surprise. I came across writing samples of a different sort. There was an episode of Freaky Stories -- an animated children’s show – that I sold, a couple of plays I wrote, four sitcom scripts, and a children’s story. Yes – long before On being… I was interested in other genres. The Freaky Stories opportunity came through a comedy writing class. When the instructor told us the producer of Freaky Stories was willing to read our submissions, I jumped at the opportunity. I was thrilled when they bought my episode. (Sadly, my story was never produced.)

There were also file folders of rejection letters from people I had sent those scripts, stories, and plays to. I don’t mind admitting, I soon found myself in tears. A small part of it was feeling the sting of the rejections anew. But that wasn’t all I was feeling. Part of it was surprise at how many rejections there were. You see, all these years I’ve been hard on myself, thinking that I never really put the effort into getting stuff published; that I gave up too easy. But these folders of rejections belie that. Not only that – once I started reading the cover letters I had sent (there were copies of those too) – I began to smile. I was pretty darned creative with my pitches.

I decided to keep that box of documents. After all, its contents are proof that I’m stronger and more resilient than I realize, not to mention that there’s life after rejection. And, the contents helped me realize that, despite the failures, at least I know I’ve put forth an honest effort at getting my work published and produced. In the end, I think that’s about all we can ask of ourselves, don’t you?


© 2016 Ingrid Sapona

11/15/2016

On being … pessimistic

By Ingrid Sapona

I’d be lying if I said that the only thing I’ve been able to think about this past week has been the U.S. election. Actually, since the results came in, I’ve tried very hard to not think about it. Oddly, it’s been pretty easy to put it out of my mind.

Indeed, in conversations with friends, the topic of president elect Trump has barely come up. Other than commenting on some tidbit from a passing news story – like the fact that Trump was surprised when his meeting with Obama went longer than 10 minutes – none of my friends have had much to say. I’ve been thinking about why that is and I think the answer is not that we’re all in denial – it’s that folks outside the U.S. are simply dumbstruck. Well, dumbstruck and scared. 

The truth is, for me, the election result represents the mere tip of the iceberg of concerns I have about the U.S.’s future. Even if Hilary had won, for a couple years now I’ve been concerned that the U.S. is on a path toward self-destruction that no leader may be able to alter. I’ve found it interesting that the pundits and pollsters who were so wrong about the likely outcome of the election are now all focused on the election as an example of the peaceful transition of power. While that outcome seems likely, by making that the focus, everyone again is overlooking the real issues.

The most disturbing thing to come out of the campaign is what I think of as the normalization of hate. Whether the hatred takes the form of misogyny, or bigotry, or discrimination, or homophobia, or xenophobia, or any other name or label people put on it – it’s hatred all the same. Under the guise of overturning political correctness – or the virtue of honesty – or even just exercising free speech, it’s become perfectly acceptable in the U.S. to give voice to hatred.

I know that hatred is nothing new, but when those seeking power – or in power – incite hatred, as Donald Trump certainly did, it’s not just those who are the object of the hatred that are at risk – civil society is in jeopardy. And, when you combine the ratcheting up of open hatred with the fact that there are as many guns in the U.S. as there are people, I think the future in the U.S. looks bleak.

As you know, writing On being… helps me sort through my thoughts on topics and issues that are nagging at me. Usually, by the end I’ve uncovered a more positive perspective that I may have missed in my initial reaction. But, I’m afraid this On being… has not served that purpose. Sadly, the only shred of hope I have is that time will prove my fears for the U.S. unfounded.

© 2016 Ingrid Sapona