When I saw four police cars outside a grocery store one day last week, I pondered how badly avocados are needed for a recipe.
After a worker said everything was fine to enter, I saw two maskless people yelling obscenities at each other.
One was talking about Black lives and the other about all lives. Their young children nearby appeared to be bored, cranky and anxious for it to end.
Police were trying to keep the peace and move everyone along.
It baffles me what could have led to this standoff at 2:30 p.m. in front of the gluten-free chips. Minds would not be changed by this exchange.
For years, people have gained keyboard courage to pick fights online by name-calling and making accusations. Anonymous and distant cowardice isn’t new, but it’s stepped up.
Social media is a type of front porch. People can use it to say hello to passersby, show family photos, tell stories or have meaningful talks about life.
Lately, it seems everyone is virtually screaming to get off their lawns, chasing people away and filling their yards with crazy, polarizing signs.
This anger and fear seeping into our homes has now crept into the minds — and often behavior — of Americans.
About 71% say they feel angry about the state of our country, and 66% are fearful for what they see happening, according to a recent Pew Research Center report.
This includes Republicans, Democrats and independents. Results stay about the same across lines of race and ethnic identity.
Only 17% say they feel proud when thinking about our country, and 53% say they are not hopeful about the state of the nation.
How could we let ourselves get to this point?
People are willing to burn bridges over politicians they never met or mascots from schools they never attended. Even masks ignite a fury.
The reasons for this hair-trigger temper come from the dastardly storm of a pandemic, economic collapse, divisive political election and civil unrest about racial injustice.
Because of these pressures, it’s common to feel a loss of control. Some people lash out as a way to regain some of that control.
Individuals can’t control their lagging unemployment benefits but can tell off an old classmate for sharing a meme about a Confederate statue.
Calming the masses isn’t easy because each person must buy into the need for self-reflection.
There is no secret on how to put out good karma. Think twice about what you say, check your sources and remember kindergarten rules on sharing, taking turns, cleaning up your messes, saying you’re sorry and holding hands to stick together.
With every challenging time, some paths have brighter lights than others.
Though most people say they are not hopeful, that leaves 46% with hope for a better tomorrow. Black and Hispanic adults lead the way in optimism that life for future generations will be better than life today.
A Pew Research Center report found a sharp rise in this positive outlook since September, with 33% of Black people and 26% of Hispanic residents saying their descendants will be better off. It stayed at 22% among white Americans.
Though in the minority, these are the people who will lead us. We need to be on watch for them.
This is a remarkable moment. Our actions will define how history, and our families, will remember it.
That can be screaming at people in stores and online or taking a breath before finding a more peaceful way.
To get through this, it’s going to take letting go of the anger and fear and embracing the new and unknown.