“Eyes Wide Open” by Kristin Matheny
“The Day The Line Was Drawn”
When we moved into our new house back in August, we were immediately greeted by several of our neighbors. All of them were the warmest, friendliest people we’d ever had the pleasure of living near. The woman across the street is from India, and she never fails to ask us to “help her” eat all of the delicious Northern Indian food she makes on a regular basis (like she has to twist our arms)! She brings us snacks every few days, and I try desperately to keep up by baking her gingersnaps whenever I can. Other neighbors stand outside to chat with us, have invited us over for coffee, and one recently invited us for a ride in his recently redone 1954 mint green Chevrolet Thunderbird.
We were, however, warned about our next door neighbor.
There is a middle-aged couple that lives next to us, and we were told that they almost never leave their house, and they never say hi or make any effort to socialize. “That’s okay, we used to live in a neighborhood like that,” I kept saying for days. Then, soon after moving in, I was unloading groceries (and my son) from my car one day, and I heard the crunching of grass behind me. I turned around and my reclusive next door neighbor stood a few feet away.
“Hi! It’s great to finally meet you, I’m Kristin…” I began.
“You’re the new family,” he interrupted, without even a hello. “I just wanted you to know that we never had problems with the older couple that lived here before you, and I see that you have a little one…” he said, pointing to John Holden, who waved to him from his car seat.
“Yes, and another on the way,” I said, pointing to my belly, mustering a smile.
“Well, little ones make noise. If you ever decide to have kids over or have a party or anything, let me know so we can leave for the day.” He never cracked even the slightest grin.
I was dumbfounded. “Okay,” was all I could spit out without being rude.
He turned around and trudged back to his yard, yelling “thank you” over his shoulder.
Three or four days later (and a week or two after moving in), my husband noticed that he was peeping through the backyard hedges into our yard as Eric stood on our patio with the dogs. “Can your dogs go to the bathroom anywhere else?” he said, firmly.
“Well no, this is their yard. But I assure you, we clean up their messes every night,” Eric said, confused. “Plus, you can’t really see through the bushes.”
Twenty four hours later, we got three separate notices from our Home Owners Association for various “violations” regarding the dogs…none of which broke any of the rules set forth by the HOA bylaws.
Over the last few months, we have both seen our neighbors spying on us through the hedge. Each time we let the dogs out, each time I take John Holden onto the patio, I see a pair of legs standing, facing me, face hidden behind a thick wall of leaves. I’ve even tried to sarcastically wave and ask “can I help you?” a few times, only to see the legs turn and walk back into the house.
Does this situation sound familiar? It should. Hopefully you have wonderful neighbors, neighbors who are like all the other neighbors we’ve got. It’s almost comical that the people who live, eat, work, play, watch television, and go to sleep at night just feet from where we do all of those things could maintain such a different, contrary existence to our own. Without ever saying hello, introducing themselves, or issuing any sort of a greeting, they instantly managed to forever divide us- not just in terms of the physical boundaries of our yard lines, but personally.
As conservatives, we are privy to this sort of action on a constant basis. We listen more than others, we observe more. We’ve been well-aware for years (maybe for a decade or more) that a “Great Divide” was forming, cracking and crumbling its way through the very foundation of our “Union” like a fault line. We’re aware of its gradual formation, we feel the “tremors”, even a few “earthquakes”, shaking both sides of the fault line to the very core.
November 6, 2012 was the date of the biggest earthquake of all.
On November 7, we were shaken, anxious, surveying the damage from the previous evening’s nightmares. I felt like I had walked right up to the chasm and looked down into a pit of darkness, deeper than anything I’d ever seen or experienced. I was forever on one side with “my group”, and there was an equally-large group on the other side, staring back at us with animosity.
America has somehow managed to divide itself along fault lines that are just too obscure to recognize. If only it was simple enough to say that we were “geographically divided” or divided by income, class, gender, race, background, religion…it’s not so, no matter what the “Other Side” wants you to believe. That sort of division would be convenient and easy, but it’s not the truth.
We are divided culturally, and though we’ve seen this same story repeated throughout our history, it’s the first time within my personal experience that I’ve witnessed this sort of strange phenomenon. My generation- kids who were born in the early 80’s- were born into the economic rebuilding period manifested by Ronald Reagan…but were too young to remember what any of that meant.
Most of my generation is still young, and I’d go out on a limb to say that we are incredibly, shamefully naïve. Many of my friends and the people I grew up with, went to college with, and went to law school with, are not married. They have no intention of having children. They rent apartments and live in big cities “up north”. Some have jobs, but the ones that don’t are still in school…at 30 years old. They will admit to you in a heartbeat that the only reason they decided to stay in school and keep accruing degrees was because they simply did not know what to do with their lives, and they were afraid to take the risk of finding a job and paying for…well…life.
I do have friends who are young parents, like me, who have children, are married (or engaged), pay mortgages, stay home or have decided to go back to work. Only a few of them are politically aware. Most of them live in their happy bubbles, which is okay…until you realize that most of these “bubbleheads” were the source of most of the angry complaining on Facebook and Twitter regarding all of the “constant election news” and the political posts (by friends like me, presumably). Happy…ignorant…don’t want to get involved…claim to be independent…non-committal, not taking sides, not angering anyone…
These people voted for Obama. Overwhelmingly. I know this, I’ve talked to them. The people who are 30 or 35 years old and still in graduate school, or interning, or living at home…a lot of them voted for Obama, too.
I taught high school English and Debate for six years before taking a break to be a stay-at-home mom. I taught hundreds and hundreds of teenagers, the generation directly “below” mine. These kids were technologically inundated, somewhat savvy…and lazy. They cheated their way through school with much more ease and fluidity than my generation. They had access to so much more- smartphones, cars, laptops…shoot, government money for college. Very few had jobs. They talked incessantly about reality shows- “Jersey Shore”, “Bad Girls Club”, celebrity gossip, the Kardashians.
Now, these kids are in school- or freshly graduated- and are living at home, or interning, or searching aimlessly for jobs in a market that is flooded with other college graduates with zero work experience, people just like them.
THESE people voted overwhelmingly for Obama too.
“But why?” we conservatives on our slowly-drifting “iceberg” of America asked for the last four…maybe eight…years. “THESE people, the young family people, the young people looking for work, the young women who are suffering the very worst from unemployment, the college students…THESE people should be overwhelmingly seeing what we see. They should be listening to the news, seeing what is happening in terms of inflation, taxes, home prices- these are the issues that affect them, as they affect us all!”
Were you as frustrated as I was? I lost friends and isolated myself in many circles by trying desperately to draw attention to what mattered.
THE REASON THEY VOTE THE WAY THEY DO IS BECAUSE THEY HAVE BEEN DISTRACTED. And because of that distraction, they have been duped. And because they have been duped, the rest of us were forced to swallow hard and watch helplessly as that chasm grew and grew into a Great Divide.
If you turned on the radio or tv during this election season, you probably noticed a vast difference between the commercials for conservative vs. liberal candidates. While we conservatives made this election about the economy…which is precisely WHAT this election was about…liberals made it about, well, everything else.
Democrats made this election about uteruses and a “War on Women”. They made it about free birth control. They made it about immigration amnesty. And race. They made it about free phones and “student loan forgiveness” (pardon me while I laugh hysterically). They made it about bringing multicultural issues and diversity to our schools. They made it about gay marriage and foreign policy photo ops. They made it about omitting Judeo-Christian values and proclaiming that these values were intolerant (again, I laugh). They made it about preserving park lands and adding amendments and provisions to our Constitution.
The trouble is not that these things are relevant…the trouble is that they are fun, shiny, dangling objects that all of these young, easily-distracted, overly-technological, overly-sensitized people noticed. They gobbled these up. Women were distracted by the message that the Democrats wanted them to have access to free birth control, Planned Parenthood, whatever. Students and new graduates who can’t find work (hello??) were distracted by the idea that they could keep getting “handouts” and their student loans would be forgiven. Anybody who didn’t subscribe fully to Judeo-Christian beliefs was easily distracted by this faux “all-inclusive” image the Democratic Party projected, as were gays and lesbians who fell in line lock step behind the blatantly false idea that Republicans are anti-gay and “intolerant”.
Regardless of all of the utter garbage that was being spewed, the astounding lack of truth in pretty much every superfluous claim made by the Left, every niche group found a shiny “distraction”, completely oblivious and ignorant about the fiscal cliff- the economic meltdown- that had been building under this President and his cohorts in Congress.
These “issues” never mattered, and they continue to mean nothing in light of the fact that NOTHING can be done, accomplished, or resolved without the entangled, twisted, dire mess of an economy being sorted out. Nothing. Without a stable economy and a tight budget, NO ONE will ever be able to find a job or buy a house. Without serious sanctions on how “Big Government” spends our tax dollars, there will be zero funds available for student loans, welfare, or handouts of any kind. School Districts are “drying up” financially as we speak. Who will be able to get married, adopt, have children, raise a family, or even immigrate to this country if they aren’t able to afford basic necessities like gas, electric, and groceries? How will anyone be able to receive treatment for diseases that the world has deemed “curable” if everyone has access to subpar medical care and doctors cannot afford to practice because government payout is too slow and inefficient? What capable, bright mind would ever want to become a doctor?
The solution is vague so far, but the problem is not within the Republican Party. I’ve been paying attention to every liberal news outlet over the last few days, each calling for “drastic reforms” in the Party, declaring that none of our candidates are electable. Garbage. That is complete garbage. Are we really going to listen to the same people who submarined our candidates in the first place?
The future of our Party- and of an American Comeback- is not in “reuniting”, bipartisan compromises, or simply shrugging and accepting the Great Divide and the horrifying fiscal cliff that has risen as a result. I beg to differ, at the risk of sounding controversial. The problem lies within the culture of America and how we, as conservatives, approach and address this culture of the “Other Side”.
It’s a “Jersey Shore”, “Forgive My Student Loans!”, “Leave My Uterus Alone” Culture…one that has evolved, regardless of anything we tried to accomplish. Despite our energy and keen message, this “Other America” is one that has been successfully distracted by messages and issues that appeal to selfishness. These issues affect smaller groups, have immediate impact, and are interesting to hear about.
No one wants to hear about the fiscal cliff. No one wants to listen to economists and investment specialists. They’d rather listen to professors who have no knowledge of private sector anything, continuing to walk through the “mess on the kitchen floor” without having to pick it up, so to speak. “We’ll just let someone else clean this up…”
Who? Our children? Us…in four years, or eight years, or twenty years?
They simply have not grasped that this problem is the ONLY problem that affects ALL of us, and it is the only problem that will affect us all so greatly in the future that we will have no discernible future to speak of, and certainly no whiff of liberty.
The issue is not the Party, it’s the culture of America. How do we make everyone appreciate the severity of this Great Divide, and the looming financial death on the horizon? Right now, is it even possible?
The problem is that so few of us have had to deal with what is coming our way. I admit that I’ve never had to deal with the kind of crisis that this election will inevitably spawn, but fear and an intense desire to unplug my ears and hear the (real) “inconvenient truth” of what will happen next is enough to jar me into action.
It would make things much easier if my neighbor had been a kinder, more welcoming person. But he’s not. That’s just the way it is. The lines have been drawn, and as much as I hate that, I can’t change it.
All I can continue to do is lead by example. And action. Last night, we decided to take a walk around our neighborhood in the crisp air, and my husband noticed some plastic wrappers in their yard, blown from the garbage can earlier in the day. He stooped to pick them up. I looked at him, confused, and he simply said, “eh, hopefully they saw me do that”.
The issue is not the Republican Party, or the conservative voice…and the issue is not the message. We have a solid message, it’s the only message we can deliver- one of fiscal responsibility and a strong Constitution. The issue is letting the “Other Side” SEE the message, to make it relevant and attractive to them. They’ve been tricked so well, and instead of harping on our own issues, they must understand that they’ve been tricked…for reasons they’ll never understand (and neither will we).
The Great Divide is possibly permanent, but who’s to say that we can’t help people cross the gap and join us on our side?
Our time is limited, but I propose that we start trying. Today.