Check In With Yourself

maria12.7 Maria Shriver's Sunday Paper
"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much."
Helen Keller

I've Been Thinking...

I must confess, this week I found myself thinking again and again, "What the heck is going on in our country?"

What is going on in our schools? In our families? In our Supreme Court? In our media? In our cities? In our stores? Here we are in the thick of the holiday season, a time when we're supposed to feel joy and gratitude, and yet it's hard to focus on feeling those positive vibes when everything around us seems completely upside down.

It’s maddening to think that we now live in a country where kids go to school and learn active shooter drills alongside lessons in math and science. It’s hard—impossible, actually—to understand how a 15-year-old could walk into school and start shooting his fellow students. It’s hard to understand why he would show off the gun on social media. It’s appalling that his parents bought him the gun. It's hard to comprehend that when one of his teacher's found him searching online for ammunition, the boy's mother texted him: “LOL I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.” The boy's parents have now been charged with involuntary manslaughter and one can only hope that other parents will now make more of an effort to ensure firearms are securely locked away.

It’s also hard for me to believe that the Supreme Court would take a step backwards when it comes to a woman’s right to choose how she cares for her own body. Before you scream, "Maria, you are Catholic!" I want to reiterate that being pro-choice is not the same as being pro-abortion, and I balk when people don’t take the time to understand that. I'm pro a woman’s right to make a decision regarding her own body and her own life. I’m pro senators like Sen. Chris Murphy from Connecticut who got up on the Senate floor and, in a very passionate way, talked about the sanctity of life and how it’s hypocritical to be both pro-life and pro-death penalty, yet against sensible gun reform. I mean, c'mon!

Hypocrisy is all around us. We are busy trying to outlaw things we have no business being involved in, and meanwhile we aren't working hard enough to outlaw things that must come to an end. School shootings. Flash-and-grab robberies in stores. Cold-blooded murders on our streets. Police brutality. Fights on airplanes over who will wear a mask. Political leaders who trash talk to each other and no one bats an eye. The list goes on.

President Biden ran on a platform of trying to restore the soul of our nation, and yet we criticize him at every turn. That's why as we close out this year, I believe it is us who need to take a cold, hard look in the mirror at ourselves. We each need to do a soul check on ourselves. We can and should ask ourselves what it means to be an American today. We need to ask ourselves what we are for, not just what we are against.

As Rep. Adam Kinzinger from Illinois said this week: "Politicians have been selling the false premise that strength comes from degrading others. While division may help them win elections, it’s tearing our country apart. Fighting against toxic tribalism is the true battle, things won’t get better until we save the soul of America."

What is the soul of America that we want to save? What binds us together as one these days? Are we each just doing our own thing? Or do we want to elevate the public good by talking to one another with respect, and by caring for one another as neighbors instead of strangers? Do we want to work together to make our schools better and safer, and our media less divisive? Do we want to run our country like we want to run our homes?

The other day, my daughter was telling me that so many people in her generation are debating whether they even want to have children and bring them into the mess we have handed them. Our climate is disintegrating. The cost of raising a child is astronomical. The cost of caring for an aging parent is unimaginable. And we can’t even get ourselves together to help families shoulder the burden of either one. 

Where are our hearts and souls? Where are our manners and our values? Where is the respect our parents raised us with? What will we no longer tolerate? What are we fed up with? What do we want to change?

I don't have all the answers for how to restore our greatness or how we can shore up our democracy and hold the people accountable who have sought to undermine it (but holding them accountable is a smart place to start). What I do know is that we can all do a full stop with ourselves. We can check in with ourselves. We can each commit to bringing the best version of ourselves to the table every day. What does that mean? What does that look like? 

We can stop demonizing each other, for starters. We can stop raging at each other in conversations when issues like gun reform are on the table. Can’t we agree that we can do better? Can’t we resolve to solve this issue?

Isn’t it time to prioritize care as a value and to prioritize respect, manners, civics, and listening, instead of demonizing and projecting everything onto each other? We can all do better, as can our institutions. Gun reform is needed. Police reform is needed. Education reform is needed. Health care reform is needed. But we can’t get any of it accomplished if we refuse to bend or compromise.

Compromise isn’t a dirty word, nor is it the enemy. Being so rigid that you can’t compromise is a problem in any relationship. Don't we all know that to be true?

I was raised in a political family and witnessed firsthand how individuals from different parties could get along and do big things for this country. Let’s do that again. Let’s stop fighting. Let’s stop trying to "gotcha" everyone. Let’s stop trying to cancel everyone. Let’s stop destroying our planet, our society, our families, and our neighborhoods.

This past week, a friend told me about an intervention he participated in where the dad involved said something profound. He said, "I think we each have to come to the place where we can see that this is no longer just being a young kid, or a young country. This isn’t just growing pains. We have to recognize when the behavior is the problem that needs the intervention."

We need an intervention on ourselves. We need to rediscover our purpose. Otherwise, kids will continue to get killed at schools. Political leaders will continue to think it’s okay to stall. And we as a people will be the ones left trying to explain to our kids and our grandkids why we stood by and did nothing while our country and our society perished on our watch. 

That’s what I’ve been thinking and feeling. What about you?

Love,

Maria

PRAYER OF THE WEEK                                                        

Dear God, please help us to prioritize care, respect, and manners. Help us to check in with ourselves and bring the best version of ourselves to the table everyday. It's the only way we will heal. Amen.

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