We were truly excited to leave Guadeloupe for many different reasons, but we were delighted to sail into Elephant Bay in St. Thomas for just one…we knew we were home. Neil Diamond’s song reverberated in my head:
We’ve been traveling far
Without a home
But not without a star …
On the boats and on the planes
They’re (We’re) coming to America
Never to look back again
They’re (We’re) coming to America
EW and I look back, and we’ll definitely visit foreign shores and islands again. But America is home, and we are proud to be American.
However, just as I have done things of which I am not proud, I am not proud to be associated with every individual American all the time. (Don't get me started about the typical "ugly American" travelers I've seen during our travels. That's another topic.)
During our travels in the Azores, Canaries, and Guadeloupe, I often tried to keep up with news from home, but more often failed. All broadcasts were in Portuguese, Spanish, or French, and our time with Wi-Fi was limited. For this reason, many of the European sailors we met were more up-to-date on the news from the US than we were. Some of them were brave enough to ask gentle questions of us, trying to determine why we (as in Americans) “hated President Obama”, as more than one person phrased it.
Now, through the generosity of friends we are on a mooring in St. Thomas with a Choice internet box; and by virtue of being in St. Thomas, have access to news on the radio. That is 90% great, but within a few days of arriving:
I got to read of incredibly racist statements made by Maine state legislator and found it almost impossible to believe that someone from my little northern state could be so publically hateful.
Conversely, I was able to feel great pride in knowing that our US Senator, Susan Collins (also from Aroostook County in Maine) was one of the few Republican senators to refuse to sign the infamous letter to the President of Iran.
Finally, eager to find out what is going on with friends and family, I spent time on Facebook, where I was surprised to find both friends from home and boating buddies posting or re-posting horribly racist and insensitive comments.
Since we now “reside” in Florida, I no longer have the option to vote for Senator Collins and have no influence on the first two bullet points.
But what is my responsibility on the final one? One of our boating friends reposted this:
I was appalled. My first thought was to “unfriend” her, but I like her. We disagree on politics, but that doesn’t mean we disagree on everything, or that I haven’t learned something valuable from her posts or those of other strong conservatives. My second thought was to comment, but I have seen those s#$t storms on Facebook and Twitter and did not want to start one. (NOTICE: Comments on this post will be welcomed from all parties, but please remain respectful.) In the end, I simply “told” Facebook I didn’t want to see any posts from the person who was my friend’s source. However, I will share my intended comment here: “I disparage hotdogs, have never worn a bikini, and my relationship with Jesus is not your business. I would say that Muslims come to America for the same freedom of speech and opportunities that enticed my ancestors and yours.”
My silence bothered me. There are many quotes from smart people--- including Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ginetta Sagan --- who all expressed that there is a time when it is not right to keep silent. Of the quotes I found, I think MLK’s is most appropriate for these times: “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.”
My friends are not bad people. (Even if I think the person who wrote the original FB post may be a bad person – and I’m pretty sure I have no use for the person who commented.) My friends have opinions they wish to share and have perhaps taken the easy way out by re-posting something that is bad. I’m not without blame. I have been vitriolic and spoken rashly and I have re-posted things better left unsaid. I hope someone holds me accountable for it. (I know that Eleanor, one of my friends, business colleagues, and office mates years ago did a great job during our conversations. We certainly rarely agreed about politics, but we were always true friends.)
I have been scornful of those elected officials and so-called journalists who cannot listen and learn and engage in conversations about various issues. I love listening to reasoned and learned “foes” who disagree. But we need to remember, we aren’t “foes”. We are supposed to be on the same side. America’s side. This morning, as all of this was spinning around in my caffeine-fueled brain, I listened to a conversation on NPR in which they were discussing that letter signed by 47 Republican Senators.
Two statements, made by two different participants resonated with me. (These quotes are not exactly accurate as I didn’t have a pen in time)
The first: “We are falling down a slippery slope of name-calling and backbiting that makes it impossible to get things done.”
And later: “If your first reaction on discussing the partisanship is to blame the other party, then you are not helping.”
I am proud to be an American. I will always be proud to be an American, even if I am not always proud of our leaders. I will not always remain silent. Friends in my timeline have posted ugly, nasty, hurtful things about individuals and groups. If you express those comments to me face-to-face, I will object – respectfully. Since I still don’t believe Facebook is the place for debate, I will not always respond openly on social media sites. But I will not remain silent. We are friends. We can disagree. I will read your jokes, rejoice at your triumphs, cry when you are hurt, and learn from our differences of opinion whether they be about politics, economics, anchorages, food, or fashion. (Or the Oxford Comma; of which, as you will note, I’m a fan.)
We are friends. We won’t always agree, and I will not always remain silent. In real life, I will object to hateful comments, and vote with my ballot and my pocketbook. In social media, I will respectfully reject and object to hate, and --- if provoked ---will vote with the unfriend button. In return, if I post or re-post hurtful, racist, or hateful comments, please call me out on it. This is not the time for silence. It is the time for conversation. It is time to remember that we purposefully friended each other and that every one of us is also proud to be an American.