It took me getting cancer to realize that America’s pastime isn’t baseball. It’s attempting to find silver linings no matter how dark the clouds are.
I can’t tell you how many people have tried to make…me? themselves? both? feel better about this whole cancer nonsense by pointing out things that aren’t horrible. They said “At least you have a nicely shaped head” when I went bald. Or “At least you have a good disability pension.” Or “At least you got to meet some new friends because of cancer.”
I did it too, to be honest. Until one day, when I was done with denial, I thought, “You know what? This situation sucks, why am I looking for the bright side in this as if that’s going to make it not suck? My nicely shaped head doesn’t change the fact that I have a terminal illness.”
Since then, “At least” has become my least favorite phrase. And it seems like Americans in particular use it ALL. THE. TIME. As in “At least more people weren’t killed in that 100 car pileup” or “At least 9/11 really brought Americans together in a spirit of community.”
Are you fucking kidding me? No. Just no.
Sometimes it worries me that we, as a culture, don’t seem to know what to do when people are struggling except to try to distract them from the thing that’s wrong. We tell people who experience racism that at least they aren’t living in the era of slavery. We tell people who are grieving the loss of a loved one in war that at least they died serving their country. We tell people who lost their job that at least they still have their health. It’s like we’re saying that if there’s anything in your life that isn’t shitty, that’s supposed to make it OK that something really bad happened.
I mean, look, I don’t think we should all just sit around moping and giving up all hope whenever something bad happens, and ignoring everything good that happens. But pretending like a shitty situation isn’t so bad because not every inch of it isn’t completely covered in manure? That’s dumb. And really dismissive to the person living with the poop.
Instead, how about we acknowledge that something is wrong and ask “How can I help?” How can I help the family of the police officer who was murdered? How can I help the person who is homeless? Why not take our American optimism and ingenuity and face the problem head-on and come up with solutions?
It seems like an umbrella is a lot more useful to someone caught in the rain than just pointing out that there’s a rainbow.