Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.
I’m independent. I always have been—socially, intellectually, politically, even emotionally. I’m a little scary to people who are followers, because leading me is like herding cats. I start fracturing into questions and arguments. My parents thought I was independent because I attended three different high schools as well as three different colleges/universities—all in separate towns. I don’t suppose that experience glued my viewpoints together more tightly, but I think I chose to be independent long before then. (If you enjoy reading my blogs, I’d guess you’re at least somewhat independent, too. We tend to be drawn to one another.)
My heroes were all independent people. The first were film characters played by James Stewart—such as George Bailey of the good ole Savings and Loan or Mr. Smith defying Washington—or women who defied convention, such as Katherine Hepburn. By high school I was impressed by Atticus Finch (especially when he was played by Gregory Peck), Antigone, and Anne Frank. As I learned more, I was astounded by the scores of people who have done loving deeds in the face of evil without ever being celebrated. I admired the people who stood up, even when standing up wasn’t prudent. I wanted to be a hero like that.
But I’m a closet crusader. I don’t act against my beliefs, but I don’t go out and champion, either. My introverted side seems to be expanding. I know what it is to be emotionally abused for speaking out. (I’d show you my scars, but they’re inside.) I used to think everyone wanted people to work together for the common good. The error of my assumption slapped me in the face long before our last presidential election.
Recently, we’ve witnessed both men and women from hugely disparate backgrounds who dared to speak for the common good and then were openly despised, mocked, and criticized instead of being cheered like George Bailey or Mr. Smith. They remind me of the corporate whistleblowers who have been threatened or murdered. When did we lose our admiration for truth or did we ever admire fact when it wasn’t what we wanted? Was our yearning for goodness always conditional—like conditional love—or a myth?
Independent thinkers who aren’t afraid to reason critically will find a way through our mess. Excellent journalists or judges or statesmen are by definition independent lovers of truth. Excellent educators know their job is to teach their charges to recognize manipulations. I celebrate them all—including me. We independents need to believe in ourselves enough to dare to speak our truths while we cling to unconditional love as our guide. The slings and arrows are survivable.