Why take politics to a family lunch?
My heart is heavy. I have a strange foreboding that we are on the verge of a huge confrontation.
I heard somebody talk about “the tipping point.” He asked, “What is it anyway? And are we there yet?” A colleague replied: “I think we have gotten there several times. But we keep pushing it away or closing our eyes.”
In his book “How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference,” Malcolm Gladwell defines it as “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point.”
Merriam-Webster says it is “the critical point in a situation, process or system beyond which a significant and often unstoppable effect or change takes place.”
Another source describes the tipping point as “the critical moment in an evolving situation that leads to a new and irreversible development.”
The term has its origin in the field of epidemiology. When an infectious disease reaches a stage way beyond control and has the potential to extend far and wide, it is called the tipping point. It is often considered a turning point, a pivotal moment where things abruptly turn in the opposite direction.
But how bad must a situation get before it becomes the tipping point? Good question.
Politics on the menu
At lunch the other day someone asked if we knew the difference between a lawmaker and a lawbreaker. No one did.
At the next table two guests were totally absorbed in a discussion. I don’t know how it started. But people began to notice.
I couldn’t hear much. Their voices were subdued, controlled; raised only once in a while perhaps for emphasis or in exasperation. It was hard to eavesdrop.
It was obviously a political discussion and from what I gathered, they were in total disagreement about the government.
A lady at my table was uncomfortable and quietly remarked, “Why take politics to a family lunch?” And I thought, why take it anywhere at all?
Political alliances are fleeting and fickle but can get intensely emotional. No one gives an inch. Tempers are lost and soon the language hits the gutter. Whether it is about your country or not, this conversation has no place in polite circles.
A young man seated close by politely excused himself and went for more dessert. He didn’t return. Wise move.
I believe it takes admirable self-control to sit so close to an argument and say nothing. This is also true for social media. And there’s a lot in there to provoke a snippy retort or two.
But when you feel so strongly about the issues, when your emotions are raw from just watching the news, it is difficult not to speak up, or not to strike back. Your instincts tell you to jump in and get down and dirty.
Unfortunately, you would become part of that ever-growing negative culture we all criticize and detest.
Ask yourself instead: How can throwing in a few barbs change anything? Wouldn’t giving my “two bits worth” be a waste of time? Shouldn’t I invest myself in something positive?
A few days ago, I read something about Russia, North Korea and martial law and it made me very nervous. I asked my well-informed friend and he chuckled.
“Dearie, no one else seems worried. Trump is still tweeting, our Senate continues to parade on TV, the House wants immunity from traffic violations, invented bank accounts are a joke, and everyone is laughing.”
I fail to see the humor. Am I missing something?
We need to pray.
Reboot and recharge
A couple of days later I told my old buddy about how low my spirits have been; that I seem to be running on empty.
Then I saw how another senior like myself, in a letter to the editor, wrote how she feels “so hopeless, more so with the killings and vindictiveness around us.”
I’m not alone in my misery. But it offers me no comfort.
Maybe I have seen one headline too many. “Perhaps,” my buddy suggests, “you are reading the wrong stuff. Maybe you should just turn everything off and take time to recharge, to reboot.”
Peace and quiet
That evening I sought the peace and quiet of my casita and looked for something to lift my spirits.
I found “Tagubilin at Habilin,” a poem written by José F. Lacaba, as commissioned by Armida Siguion-Reyna, who also recited and recorded it with the music of Ryan Cayabyab.
Beautifully written. Exquisitely read.
Are they teaching this in schools today? They should.
“Ang sabi ng iba: Ang matapang ay walang-takot lumaban.
“Ang sabi ko naman: Ang tunay na matapang ay lumalaban kahit natatakot.”
Next I indulged in José Rizal’s “Mi Ultimo Adios,” yes, in its original Spanish.
One stanza tells of his dreams as a young man; of how he longed to see his “patria adorada” as the jewel of the orient, with her head held high, no frowns, no tears and without any stains of shame.
“Mis sueños cuando apenas muchacho adolescente,
“Mis sueños cuando joven ya lleno de vigor
“Fueron el verte un dia, joya del mar de oriente,
“Secos los negros ojos, alta la tersa frente
“Sin ceño, sin arrugas, sin manchas de rubor.”
But quickly my thoughts returned to the here and now. And it made me weep.
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