Sunday, February 26, 2017


It was like hurtling down through the stratosphere from some alien, artificial Wonderland into the sparkling sunlight of an afternoon at the beach.

There I was, at the rally to protect the Affordable Care Act outside our Republican Representative Dana Rohrabacher's office in Huntington Beach. I was surrounded by real people, all of us listening to real people speak: a woman with stage 4 breast cancer from Catalina Island; a fiery African American pastor preaching the anti-Tr*mp gospel; an immigrant from India, passionate for the kind of universal health care that every advanced nation boasts; a fellow Brit, a woman born with a severe heart defect necessitating multiple surgeries over many years since childhood, well served by Britain's National Health Service... Even the loud band of Trumpeters, across the street, were real people.

And then... a tap on the shoulder, a voice from behind. I hear my name: "Peter? Aren't you Peter?" And I turn to find a Facebook "friend," Marie Martin, a real person! She had recognized me (from the back!) by my hair. What a delightful, unexpected leap from the virtual world of the netscape into the real world! Her husband was standing nearby and Marie introduced me--reminding me that the had put me in touch with him, some time ago, as a fellow cluster headache sufferer (these are the worst kind of headache, said to be more intense even than a migraine, and I had otherwise never met another person who had experienced them.)

We had a good old chat--about England, a country that they love; about living in Southern California; about our Facebook friendship and out Facebook posts; about living in the era of Donald Tr*mp. And parted with the agreement to stay in touch.

All of which set me thinking about the bubble that I live in, and how it separates me from the real world. It's not only the bubble of the Internet--though it's partly that. I spend a good deal of time communing with myself in writing and, through writing, virtually with others. I create a world that is my personal image of the real world. I hate to say this, but it's as much a delusion, in its way, as the delusory world of Donald Tr*mp, though I like to think it bears a greater relation to "reality." But when I think like a Buddhist, as I often try to do, I have to acknowledge that it's ALL "fake." The word, much bandied about these days and usually, rightly, in a derogatory context, derives from the Latin verb facere, to do, to make, to create.

But it's a different feel, amongst real people. There's a shared energy, a shoulder-to shoulder sense of human community. Those with whom I found myself standing at the street end of the Huntington Beach pier were a heartening reminder of the goodness and generosity of which human beings are capable. I was reminded of the spirit of the "Women's March" event, the day after Tr*mp's inauguration; the anger, frustration and disillusionment that many of us felt at the prospect of the presidency of so unqualified, so coarse, so willfully ignorant a man were far surpassed by the joy of being in each other's company, by the sense of shared commitment to our fellow human beings and, yes, I'd even call it love.

So it was yesterday, at the rally. And it was remarkable--or was this merely my projection? I think not, because my friend Marie spoke of it too--the contrast was remarkable between those on our side of the street, brought together by our concern for the health and welfare of our fellow citizens, and the raw, gratuitous contempt and anger directed at us from the other side of the street. I need to beware of self-righteousness, but I know which side I'd rather be on.

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