Sunday, November 11, 2012

Making the World a Better Place One Bridge at a Time

I hate bridges! Imagine my delight when I discovered that there is a word for that fear--gephyrophobia--and that I am not alone with this fear, which cripples, debilitates, and makes one's world small.

One time in 1988, Gordon was driving us across the Columbia River, and I panicked. I huddled on the floor under the glove compartment, barely breathing. My young children were frightened for their mommy, but I could not be brave for them. I was terrified, pure and simple. An earlier time in 1982, I was driving from the East Bay to San Francisco, when I realized (it was my first time driving that direction) that I was on a bridge. I completely freaked out and stopped the car. Fortunately, it was during rush hour, so the traffic was quite slow. Gordon was taking a nap, woke up, and very kindly changed places with me, while I sat hyperventilating on the floor of the passenger side of the car.

After Gordon developed dementia, and I had to take over the driving, I realized that I had to conquer my terror at driving over bridges, or my world would physically be a very small place. My first bridge was the Golden Gate Bridge. It was January 2002, and I was taking the kids to Inverness. I played a Peter, Paul, and Mary CD very loudly in the car, and sang along to the songs the whole way across the bridge. I was so proud of myself, but the kids were just ho-hum. They did not realize what a HUGE thing I had just accomplished in my fifty-first year of life.

I still do not enjoy driving (or walking, for that matter) over bridges, but now I will cross them because I want to continue making my world larger.

And bridges are what we need in this country after our contentious election. We need to build  bridges and walk across them to heal our country and to make it ideologically larger and more inclusive. Building bridges may be a perilous endeavor, but it is a necessary one, and we need to build them together and cross them together--Democrats and Republicans, gays and straights, all ethnicities, military men and women and Greenpeace activists, all religious people, agnostics, and atheists, men and women, the young and the elderly, and the rich, the poor, and everyone inbetween. Our country is fractured with huge chasms between the various factions, and these chasms can only be crossed by building bridges of understanding, tolerance, and acceptance. 

We can only build these bridges when we quit looking at each other as enemies, as right or wrong, and we see, instead, our similarities, the things we have in common, and embrace them. This world of newly built bridges will make all of our worlds larger, fuller, and more harmonious.

But how do we do this? First, we have to genuinely want to build bridges. We have to leave our preconceptions and assumptions behind. We have to seek truth. A good first step might be to get rid of Fox News and MSNBC and go back to straight news. Has there ever been a finer moment than when Edward R. Murrow exposed Joseph McCarthy? I think not!

We also have to quit casting blame. We will never agree on who is responsible for any particular problem. Instead, we need to acknowledge the problem and go forward from there. Simple when you are no longer looking for blame.

And gloating? Completely forbidden. Gloating is not gracious, and bridges can only be built in a state of grace.

Building bridges is not easy work, and traveling across them is sometimes almost impossible, as I can personally attest to, but building bridges and traveling across them is what we must do in order to make our country and our world a better place to live for everyone.

So, all you people who voted, go up to that family member, co-worker, or neighbor who voted differently from you, sit down over a cup of coffee, and commiserate with the Republican voters who feels angry, lost, and scared; congratulate Democratic voters who mostly feel an immense relief that their man won; and discuss third party viability with everyone. Then, start building bridges.

Take care,

Kate

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