I just wanted to let folks know that after our exchange in the Empire a while back, Richard Schmitz and I met for coffee. I had fun. We discovered that we both grew up on the East Coast, we like the way people back there drink plain old coffee and are satisfied (I had a latte, he had a mocha... ), and we miss the mixed hardwood forests of that region. My point here is, he and I do not agree politically, but we had a friendly cup of coffee together and found some common ground. Just this possibility is what makes me proud to be American. Just this possibility gives me hope for us flawed and sometimes crazy humans.
So, my challenge to all of you out there, feeling depressed, oppressed, and distressed about the state of the world is to be friendly to the people you disagree with. You don't have to be best friends, just de-stress your thoughts and feelings about conservatives-liberals (whichever one gets your goat). If you feel your blood pressure rising and your eyeballs bulging because you are angry at George Bush/the French/Saddam/the Dixie Chicks, take a deep breath and let go of the insults. Try to wish them something good. Yes, even Saddam, wish him forgiveness, wish him peace. You are not undermining the U.S., just asserting your humanity, and saving your own heart.
As individuals we may not be able to do much about the state of the world right now, but we can make our own lives better by dropping our anger, hate, suspicion, knee-jerk reactions to people. The "us versus them" mentality is killing us, or at least making us feel like crap.
I challenge you to have a friendly date with someone you disagree with. Decide not to shut them out, shut them up or use any kind of insult. Don't take their opinion personally - it's not about you. Let each person have their view and bless their right as an American to speak it.