Questions I Dare Not Ask

By Susan Q Miller

 friends hugging

Maybe it’s spending hours home alone during this pandemic that has freed my mind to wander through a history of unasked and unanswered questions that haunt me. I’ve always been an insatiably curious person and one of the greatest compliments I ever received was, “She asks the best questions.” Yes, I’ve been known for asking questions all my life about everything from “What is the essence of life?” to questions about all the whys and wherefores of just about anything I can think of. And yet, there are so many questions I dare not ask. Perhaps it’s fear of the answer I’d receive. Perhaps it’s concern that a deeper, wider chasm might occur between me and the person I’m asking for an answer. 

As a psychotherapist, I was compensated very well for asking the right questions. As a curious person, it allowed me the opportunity to gain deeper insight into the inner workings of the mind and the emotional states created by various people’s mind sets. It also became clear that we don’t always have the answer as to why we think the way we do, or do the things we do or say the things we say.

In my personal life, most people don’t appreciate the invasiveness my professional life afforded me. It’s taken me years to get used to that and to hold back asking intrusive questions or exposing the raw truth about my own life as a way of getting the other to open up to me. This isn’t just about satisfying my curiosity. Exploring the more personal stuff fosters a sense of connection, belonging, of being known, a clearer understanding of the other and of myself.

There are questions I feel I have the right to ask, questions about why a relationship, that seemed to be going extremely well, suddenly ends. I’ve had a couple of those experiences with women friends. Not knowing still bothers me even 30 years later. I’d also like to know how a healthy, active, love life turns into a cool platonic relationship. What changed? Who changed? Was it me? Yet, I don’t ask.

Over the past couple of years, and especially during this lockdown, most of my unanswered questions centered around the kind of thinking that elevated an inexperienced man into the White House. I’d like to explore the thinking of Evangelistic Christians, like my closest relatives, who overlooked his immorality, lies and deception, and voted for him a second time. I want to understand their fierce opposition to the Liberal Agenda.

If I could have an unemotional, intellectual conversation with them, I would ask if they thought that England, France, Germany or Canada are Socialist or Communist countries. If they said no, then I’d ask why they think nationalized public health insurance and other social programs available in most first world countries, would make the USA a socialist/communist nation.

My relatives are generous, devoted Christians who freely tithe. Even when they inherited over a million dollars, they gave 10 percent away. So, I want to ask why they’d prefer to give money to feed the poor, but would vote against a minimum hourly wage increase, which might allow people to live a better life and perhaps feel better about themselves? Before Obamacare, they complained about the cost of medical insurance. With Obamacare, they said they saved $300 a month, but were opposed to the program.

Isabel Wilkerson, in her recently published book, Caste, stated that, compared to our counterparts in the developed world, the USA is a less benevolent society than other wealthy nations. It lags in major indicators of the quality of life. There are more public mass shootings in the US, and it has one of the highest rates of gun deaths and owns more guns per capita than any other nation. Half the privately owned guns in the world are owned by US civilians. It has the highest incarceration rate, higher than Russia or China. American women are more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth than women in other wealthy countries. Life expectancy is the lowest among the 11 highest-income countries. Infant mortality is also the highest. American students score near the bottom in industrial nations in mathematics and reading. Fifteen-year-olds scored well below students in peer nations on math literacy, below Latvia and the Slovak Republic. The USA’s first woman major-party candidate ran for president in 2016, some 60 other countries had already had a woman head of state.

How can we call ourselves an advanced civilization? How can we become one? In an interview with Brian Williams, Edward Snowden said that in our fractured world, “It has become increasingly popular for your feelings to matter more than the facts.” He added that if we want to learn to live with people we disagree with, and direct our future as a nation, we have to be willing to look at the facts of where we are. How many of us want to know the facts?

It appears there are many levels of castes in the United States—women, blacks, browns, Arabs, poor, uneducated, Muslims, just to name a few. My upbringing in a Baptist church taught me that, “Red and yellow, black and white are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.” All the little children of the world. I don’t understand why anyone would want to support any leader set on dividing people. What is their thinking? Imagine what we could learn and how it might benefit all of us if we listened to each other and found similarities that bind us together.

According to the Bible, there are two great commandments: Love your neighbor as yourself and love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind. How can we condemn people who practice those commandments, but have a different religious belief system?

Do I dare bring this information and these questions to the attention of my family? Would I be inciting a riot? deepening the divide? Can people of different leanings come together to resolve the glaring inequalities and misunderstandings so apparent in our world today? Will love and a world community ever be more sacred than one nation holding power over another? Will the US ever decide to do away with the arcane electoral college and accept the popular vote? When will political parties be banned from intentionally creating barriers in an effort to block certain segments of the population from voting? Will political parties ever serve the people, all the people and the constitution rather than themselves and the money that re-elects them?

I wonder, are we willing, as a nation, to look at the facts and work together to create a more humane society? Or, are we resigned to the status quo? Can change start here at the ground level, between family members and friends who think differently, but want to build bridges? Must we wait for the politicians? I suppose these more serious questions, the answers to which could literally change the face of humanity, are questions we all should ask. Who do we ask? Do we dare?

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