An important handshake

Derek Franz
Open Space

Another round of elections has gone by and the basic trend of human grumbling resumes — pointing fingers at different cultures, social classes and political parties.

Like anyone, I have my share of chips on the shoulders. I often blame many other people for the type of problems I face on a daily basis. I don’t think I’m alone when I make fast judgments about someone’s entire personality just by the bumper sticker on her car and the way she tailgates me in traffic.

Yup, we’re in each other’s way when it comes to our lifestyles, ideals and political desires. It’s maddening to feel so helpless in the grand scheme of things.

When I’m voting for a passionate issue, I color in the box with my pen so heavily it almost puts a hole through the ballot. It’s still not satisfying enough. What I’d really like to do is punch some elected leaders in the face every once in a while.

Ultimately, I only have control of myself, and how I respond to situations. I can daydream my revenge fantasies all week long and on Friday all I’ve done is get my emotions heated, priming me to make a mistake by lashing out at the woman in traffic when she swerves around me and cuts me off, or when a guy insults me at the bar.

How do we step back far enough to bring harmony into focus?

In this digital age, world events invade an increasing amount of our daily lives, and — for me, at least — take on a more personal edge. The information is right at my fingertips yet I can’t touch it in a tangible, direct way.

“Gahhh!!!” is all I can write on Facebook. Even that has its consequences, however.

We’ve all had those Facebook friends who post incessant political tripe that disagrees with us, and what do we do? We “unfriend” them or fire back by posting our own tripe.

In fact, simple communication between people has become as complex and political as ever. I rarely speak with friends directly on the phone these days. I have to text them now because many of them simply never answer a call, though they respond to texts.

My theory is that texting feels safer, more controlled. We can edit every response down to the precise word. Talking live on the phone presents too wide a window for spontaneous expression.

When my friends are so protective about raw interaction, I get a little self-conscious, too. There have been five-word text messages that took me five minutes to write because I had to phrase it just right.

Why? Because even though I can edit my word choice in texts, written communication introduces another complication — interpretation. While speaking, we can modify our tone and clarify ourselves more directly. A sarcastic or facetious person, on the other hand, is prone to insult people who might read a joke in a serious way. So, when I’m texting, my communication becomes more limited and withdrawn, which probably doesn’t foster the deepest sense of closeness.

Good grief, it feels like the world is always waiting for anybody to slip up in some small way — an excuse to put a person underfoot of the screaming masses. Naturally, this pisses me off and I feel indignant about it. I want to start slapping cheeks, yelling, “What the hell is wrong with you callous people?!”

And that’s just it. But I feel more connected with society when I consider that many of you probably share these emotions. Pretty much all of us only want what we think is ultimately best for humanity. The only thing that’s not debated about what that best thing might be is love.

So that’s the answer, cliché as it may sound: Trust in love. Invest in love. Let go of everything else, and that will be a great start.

I’m working on it, but it’s hard to love the people who don’t give me credit for my efforts.

How about this — in the aftermath of elections, let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt when it comes to our intentions.

“I love a hand that meets my own with a grasp that causes some sensation.” — Samuel Osgood

— “Open Space” appears on the second and fourth Friday of the month. Derek Franz writes for the Eagle Valley Enterprise and lives in Carbondale. He can be reached at

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