Feeling overwhelmed by divisiveness and life’s challenges?? Does a coping strategy of withdrawing and disengaging seem attractive and safe?
Many of us probably feel this way in today’s chaotic world. We have had to cope with a life-threatening pandemic, wars around the world, the rich getting richer, homelessness, threats of violence, and actual violence. Our human brains often react to these situations with a fight, flight or freeze response. This response is deep in the human brain as we have always been subject to nature’s forces be they small (viruses) or big (fires, floods). Life is an often-precarious gift. Our front brain (the neocortex) shuts down our rational, calm response and instead, the ancient amygdala is activated. It is a survival mechanism deeply wired into our biology.
But those reactions of fight, flight or freeze will not serve us well in the modern world. The fight reaction can devolve into violence which benefits no one. An atmosphere of potential violence means peaceful discourse inclusive of all voices is suppressed. Everyone’s quality of life is diminished. Our children/families will exhibit increased mental health issues. The community will not be a welcoming place for anyone including businesses, families, and tourists. Those who threaten violence are bullies who have abandoned the peaceful, civil options to further their viewpoints. Their only tool is threat and intimidation to gain power over others. In the end, there will always be a reaction to this tactic and the community will not be peaceful and prosperous.
The flight or freeze reactions are also not good strategies for creating a productive and well-functioning community. Hiding from problems usually makes them worse. Disengagement from our democratic discourse is damaging for our community. A democracy works best when all voices/opinions are welcomed and listened to. If you don’t speak up, others will, and your life will be determined by them. Speaking up and engagement in community discourse may be intimidating especially if you feel you are in a hostile/violent environment. But democracy will die if we do not garner our courage and engage and encourage others to engage. Although challenging, speaking up is especially important for those in less powerful positions.
A real hero/heroine is a citizen who speaks up or encourages and supports others who are struggling or in less powerful positions. This is a time for citizens of this great nation to advocate for a democracy where ALL voices are valued and heard, not just those who bully or intimidate others. The time is ripe to engage in actions that will contribute to increasing the welfare of all of us, especially those who are struggling. This is the time to spend the energy to investigate and support people of good character and integrity to represent us, no matter which political party they belong to. It’s time to engage and throw our shoulder into positive actions that will make our community/country a better place for ALL of us. To do otherwise is to be complicit in our fellow citizens’ continued struggle and powerlessness. We are in the middle of this great experiment in democracy. Democracy is an ideal that must be defended and preserved by vigilant civic engagement. To not engage in this hallowed effort is to turn our nation over to those whose only goals are their own personal power and resources. Democracy is not a spectator sport. Speak up! Get involved!
Vice Chair, Wyoming Rising