Are We Doing Our Best? by Terry Barr

My wife has a group of friends who have been waging this internal debate within them for at least a year:

Is everyone doing his/her/their best, or not?

You might conclude, as I do, that there are a few New Agers and Buddhists in this particular group; the funny thing is that one of the most vocal adherents to Buddhism, my wife, does not agree that people are doing their best: not all the time or even much of the time. That’s another reason I love her. She mixes idealism with a steady gaze at the world around her.

Since I work with words for a living, I feel bound to deconstruct this question. What does “best” mean? All that we’re capable of? Pure and good intentions no matter what? 100% effort? Acting all the time in everyone’s best interest?

Does this mean that when we make mistakes, that when we are tired and rather than check on a neighbor or read the latest confession by a former member of the White House or of “The President’s” family, we instead choose to watch reruns of “Law and Order,” “Schitt’s Creek,” or “Parks and Recreation,” that we are still doing our best? That would be a good “out” for people like me, I must say.

And what about when we fail big time? When our lesser, baser instincts take hold, as mine have done recently in that bastion of doing our best, Facebook?

Last night, a friend posted a story from the “KnoxNews” website concerning why Tennessee is “dead last” when it comes to voting. It’s an interesting and deflating story in general, and for me, even worse because I spent eight quality years living in Tennessee, earning two graduate degrees. But as Facebook threads go, this one got hijacked by a fella who posted a TrumpTrain 2020 cartoon, which in my political persuasion is horrible enough. As his meme got refuted, though, he got bolder:

“Got be sooo dump to be a Democraps”

After further comments from others about the derailing of the train come Nov. 3, this same poster tripled down:

“…yeah voting for senile racist a Democrap will derail the whole country, who supports a terrorist group like BLM and you being white you racist…”

As the original poster then intoned, it did sound like the guy needed to go sleep off whatever condition his condition was in. I could have let this all go, as I do 98% of the time. However, I decided to weigh in, and I ask beforehand whether you think I was doing my best:

“…grow up and read your history; likely those you support (KKK) are the true American terrorists. Don’t know you, but from a news post to you–now that’s a train ride.”

He responded by saying:

“…your an idiot Democraps supported slavery take a history class you moron”

And then I advised that he learn how to spell.

If I had said that history is more complex than the over-simplified “argument” he had given about the Democratic Party back in 1860, would I have then been doing my best? Does anyone ever do his/her/their best on Facebook?

I didn’t sleep so well last night, partly because I just don’t sleep well anytime, and partly because engaging in futile debates with Facebook trolls weighs heavily on my psyche. Sometimes, given all the other frustration during these pandemic times, lashing out feels good, better, if not best.

And speaking of spelling, education, and governance, have you heard that in South Carolina, where I live, we are facing a surge of the virus? And that our schools are being directed to open as usual next month, and that our Governor announced just this past Friday that, as a measure to reign this virus in, he was directing immediately that all bars and restaurants in the state cease serving alcohol…

after 11 pm?

I can think of so many flip and sarcastic comments to make, but most of these have already been announced on Facebook by people more erudite than I am.

I am sad and outraged, and then there’s the whole commuting the sentence of Roger Stone madness, about which our senior senator and presidential lapdog, Mr. Graham, proclaimed:

“In my view it would be justified if President @realDonaldTrump decided to commute Roger Stone’s prison sentence…Mr. Stone is in his 70s and this was a nonviolent, first-time offense.” (Mr. Stone is actually 67.)” You can read the article here.

You know, in some places first-time offenders who are same-sex partners, or avid marijuana fans, or civic-minded protestors have found themselves behind bars for much longer periods, no one in particular advocating or commuting their sentence. But then, they didn’t lie for the president, which, at least, shows that they in some sense really were doing their best.

 Maybe my wife will take that example back to her friends; likely, though, she’s too peaceful to even think of potentially causing harm, as, unlike the rest of us in this essay, and despite her feelings about that statement that started us off, she is most often mindful of being her best self.

Terry Barr

Terry Barr’s essays have been published in storySouth, Under the Sun, EMRYS Journal, The New Southern Fugitives, The Coachella Review, The Bitter Southerner, and Call Me [Brackets]. He has thrice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize in Nonfiction, and lives with his family in Greenville, SC.

About the contributor

Terry Barr's essays have been published in storySouth, Under the Sun, EMRYS Journal, The New Southern Fugitives, The Coachella Review, The Bitter Southerner, and Call Me [Brackets]. He has thrice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize in Nonfiction, and lives with his family in Greenville, SC.

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