The flag can stay half-mast forever.
Let it be a symbol of our humility and need as a country of rugged individuals. As far as I’m concerned, most American flag waving is off-putting pride and tribalism. Both of these need to be dismantled before we can work together towards any sort of honorable change.
We can stay half-mast in our human interactions too. By that I mean, let’s circle up around our silly similarities, meet each other halfway, and stop obsessing over whose flag is waving the highest.
Noticing my neighbors is the way I lower my flag. Being fascinated by the people around me opens the door to our shared humanity, and suddenly it’s as if we could be sisters. Admittingly, I’ve become the annoying person who sits beside you on the airplane and doesn’t shut up until the flight lands.
Within the last week, I’ve struck up conversations with…
a lady and her son in Whole Foods with wet hair and grapes in their handbasket.
the woman beside me in the men’s clothing department at Kohl’s while both of us hunt for the perfect polo for our partner.
the guy who loaded the groceries in my trunk on Monday morning.
the principal of my kids’ school as I waited for them to come out of their classroom.
the sweetest white-haired old woman who seems to be the queen of our new neighborhood.
the grumpy turned bubbly nurse who administered booster shots to my children.
Our world is polarized, and our families the same, because we are off-limits to each other. Sadly, it’s easier to take sides and stand on our soapboxes shouting our opinions than it is to ask, “How’s your day going?” and then take a few minutes to listen.
More than ever we need to start learning how to talk, face to face, about the weather, honey crisp apples, dahlia tubers, soft cotton t-shirts, swimming lessons, the novel you finished, and the fish you caught last weekend.
These are not the conversations of the privileged. They are signs of our attempts at true connection.
Politics, religion, war, and the stock market will only serve to expand our disparities.
Our profound dependency on one another, our shared humanity, is released in the simplest of places and through the most normal conversations.
Part of the reason I don’t mind striking up a conversation with random strangers who cross my path is that I no longer associate them with their political stance or religious framework or their personality. They are simply like me.
They brush their teeth and go to the bathroom first thing in the morning.
They wear clothes.
They need food, fresh air, and water.
They have hobbies and interests they wish they had more time for.
They have children in their lives whom they adore.
They love sunshine and colorful sprinkles and cake on their birthday.
They want to read good books and sit under cozy blankets.
They want to enjoy their lives, have fun this weekend, and watch a gorgeous sunset.
This is us.
Our flags can come down.