FMM 11 6 2020 Laybys and Overlooks

“The English language has 112 words for deception, according to one count, each with a different shade of meaning: collusion, fakery, malingering, self-deception, confabulation, prevarication, exaggeration, denial.” ~ Robin Marantz Henig.

A feature of a road trip along the back roads of the UK is the laybys.  Not as necessary in these modern times, they were a little area, a widening at the side of the road where cars could pull off and travelers could rest a while. In a time when ‘fast food’ was not a thing and stopping at a café or restaurant was above the means of most people, families would travel with victuals (in Jamaican parlance ‘bickle’), sustenance for a long drive.  Whether the sandwiches were prepared beforehand, or put together production style from the back of the car (the ‘boot’ in English parlance), there was something about eating in the open that added flavor to the meal.

But we are talking about 60 years ago, and weather that was not always cooperative, even in a British summer.  So it could be that someone had to dash in and out of the car to grab the necessaries, or more likely, climb over passengers to get to the back of our ‘shooting brake’.  This was a working man’s van that had been ‘customized’ to make it perfect for a family of seven.  It was an upgrade from the earlier ‘orange monster’ – before my memory, a station wagon type vehicle (apparently orange) with wood trim.  Ah the days.

Our family would often meet up with our cousins, my father’s brother and his family, and the designated spot would be ‘the layby in Capel Curig’ (Curig’s Chapel), a typical Welsh village in the heart of Snowdonia, known by international climbers and outdoor adventurers.  A very scenic spot, with a view of the surrounding mountains.  Unfortunately, you could guarantee that it would be ‘sheeting down’ – icy cold rain which could penetrate the toughest of ‘waterproofs’ and dilute your thermos poured cup of hot tea.  Ah the days.

Modern day road trips have no such inconvenient and torturous amenities.  Travelers in the US are spoiled for choice.  Highways are littered with billboards inviting you to restaurants and gas stations.  Road signs tell you how far to (per the icons) beds, gas pump and plates of food.  On one road that cuts across the Southern tip of Florida (I almost said ‘circumcises’, please excuse the phallic reference!), the affectionately named Alligator Alley, there are frequent ‘recreation areas’ and ‘rest spots’.  Here you can pull off to areas with ample parking, picnic shelters, and ramps to offload your boat so you can head off into the Everglades to sight birds, and snakes and yes, the aforementioned alligators.  Anyone?

But it was in the higher climes of states like New York, Virginia, and Arizona that I encountered ‘overlooks’ – followed the signs for ‘scenic overlooks’ and was entranced.  These are areas carefully designed off the road, away from the speeding cars and trucks, where travelers can park and wander off to gaze at distant views: of forests, or mountains, or distant hills.  It is possible to forget that, not far away, there are cities choked with pollution; lives crammed full with deadlines and stressors; days too busy to be appreciated.  The overlook.

Here we are, being tormented by the legitimate process of vote counting, being taught the lesson of patience.  I have seen jokes in social media, comparing the experience to waiting to find out the result of an STD test, or on a Maury Povich show, to find out who is the father.  But it is the whole country waiting and watching.  And while we are waiting we are learning more about the process, the electoral vote system (let’s not go into the roots of that process – but trust me, racism and voter suppression are involved), and the beauty of statistics.  Although the pollsters were fooled again, the sight of (new nation heartthrob) Steve Kornacki slicing and dicing the numbers for us, explaining and extrapolating, using the data to predict for us probable outcomes, has been a statistics lesson in real time.

The shock, the disappointment, the real distress for many of us is that so many people would still (despite the evidence of the past four years) vote for the incumbent.  If you can overlook the character flaws, the potential corruption and nepotism, the support provided to racists and bigots, how can you overlook the politicization of a health crisis to the cost of more than a quarter of a million American lives? 

To try to move beyond and to heal, we have to try to understand.  I heard it presented in this way yesterday: for those who bought into the falsehoods and misrepresentations fed to them daily (and those who are untouched by the systemic racism which has affected their fellow citizens), they are looking at the consequences of this election through a very narrow lens. When the pandemic hit, they most likely lost their livelihood.  The incumbent is the one who wanted the economy opened up (regardless of the cost in human lives and health) and that meant that these believers (fact deniers) could get back to work, and feel the comfort of money in their pocket again. Simple, simplistic, selfish.  As the old English saying goes ‘I’m alright Jack, I’m in the dinghy’ (the lifeboat as the ship goes down). 

Even as we are hopeful (carefully watching the numbers, and praying Kornacki pans out), we have to deal with the raw data and facts: almost half of the country was willing to overlook the facts: the deaths; the heartbreaking policies; the trashing of life affirming and climate protecting regulations; the normalization of hateful and racist displays of aggression; the blatant acts of self-serving corruption.  After this is over, we will all have to move forward together.  In a marriage sometimes we have to overlook the habits and weaknesses of our partners to make the relationship work; in the workplace we may have to be willing to overlook the mistreatment by those above; sometimes even our best friends may treat us in a way that hurts, but we overlook it in favor of maintaining a valuable friendship.

It may not be scenic, or as we say in Jamaica ‘it no pretty’, but we may have to overlook a lot if this country is going to pull back together.  These past four years have exposed the dirty truth, that there is much which needs to be completely redesigned if we are to move forward.  The same way that businesses have found new ways of performing in the time of COVID we are going to have to reimagine America, a place where people of all colors, races, religions and origins can finally start the business of being one nation, one people.  It is going to take a lot of overlooking, of educating, of re-programing. But I have no doubt that we have the tools and the resources to accomplish that.

On this Friday morning may you feel hopeful and uplifted, buoyed by the evidence that so many people got out the vote in whatever way.  Let the healing begin (provided we have the right healer in charge!). Have a wonderful weekend, Family!

One Love!


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