Photo by Lorna BauerWhat is this mean streak being unleashed all around us?

How do we keep a balance to stay positive and move forward?

What are we doing here?

Recently, while traveling to Vermont to visit my sister, my wife and I were stuck in traffic for nearly two hours. An empty milk truck had crashed at a construction site on I-93, dangling over an overpass.

Just as we finally approached the bridge and an inevitable bottleneck of lanes, I moved over making way for a state trooper hustling through. Two jerks then hurtled by on the trooper’s heels, cutting us and others off.

To gain maybe an extra thirty feet. As if their time, their puny orbit, was all that matters in this world.

Is expressing gratitude enough these days?

Moments later, we saw a large tow truck with a crumpled white car on its bed. There was a gaping hole in the guard rail just before a bridge where the tanker—by then extricated— had threatened to crash down an embankment.

The worst fear that someone had perished coursed through us. We were shaken at the thought, of another family, and friends being devastated by the unthinkable. Fortunately, no one was killed; the tanker spilled some gas.

And while the traffic snag was an inconvenience, we hadn’t minded it all that much, literally slowing down and listening to a book.

Yet I seethed at those two drivers, and a grim-faced man in a Lincoln who similarly cut us and others off to gain a few seconds just before the crash scene.

A few precious seconds.

Why do people have such disregard for others? Such narrowness, when a small gesture of civility or kindness opens incredible reciprocity.

Do you, too, feel malice on the rise these past few months? Or is that my misperception—even myopia?

And if I simply rail at those drivers, or judge and rant at the direction certain interests are taking this country, what good is that?

I am struggling with this.

Each morning, I try to pause and think of at least one thing I am grateful for. Naming it, and sometimes writing briefly in my gardener’s journal. Denise does this more fluently and regularly than myself. Being thankful for the positive people in our lives, and the good things happening to them—and ourselves.

Some wise person long ago must have started this practice. Helping to keep us anchored in appreciation, and perhaps seeking salvation.

When the world goes crazy, just look for the helpers, a friend of ours advised.

Yet is expressing gratitude enough these days?

”I had a career in identifying absurdity, and I know it when I see it.” – Senator Al Franken

Across the country, malice is on the rise. This is less a political statement than an observation of our national tone, and gaping flaws. I don’t wish to alienate friends or supporters of our nonprofit who may see things differently. I respect and am open to different viewpoints.

But I see meanness growing on many fronts.

Who believes a load of meat is more valuable than a man’s life?

Why are hate crimes growing, including the spiking number of white nationalist groups, anti-Semitic threats, and harassment and attacks on people perceived, “correctly or not, to be Muslim”? Has the mask finally been ripped off?

Why did the nominee for the Supreme Court side with a trucking company that felt a load of meat was more valuable than a man’s life?

Certainly Judge Neil Gorsuch deserves to be weighed on his full record, but his handling of the frozen trucker’s case, for only one, suggests Gorsuch lacks empathy and a regard for what everyday justice is about.

As Senator Al Franken, the former Saturday Night Live cast member, said during Gorsuch’s hearing, ”I had a career in identifying absurdity, and I know it when I see it. And it makes me—you know, it makes me question your judgment.”

Why has the concept of mercy has been turned on its head?

Surely, there is no “mercy,” as Rep. Joseph Kennedy III declared, in making “health care a luxury. There is no mercy in a country that turns their back on those most in need of protection: the elderly, the poor, the sick, and the suffering. There is no mercy in a cold shoulder to the mentally ill.”

Why are we heading backwards in so many areas?

Surely, there is also malice in the disdain for science—converging with an overt policy takeover by oil-gas-coal interests (read: carbon climate forcing). In perhaps another indicator of pending climate disaster, Arctic sea ice dipped to a record low for winter.

What gives here?

So how do we align ourselves with what’s nurturing and growing, rather than succumbing to what’s destructive? And avoid being washed out by absurdity.

If you find out, please let me know.