Calling All Citizens From All Over The World.
This Is Captain America Calling
Over the past several days I've been giving this whole political situation a lot of thought -- prompted in large part because of the uncertainty of my own circumstances.
I had my exit interview today with my "new" boss of one month. And during the course of our conversation, he said something very telling, "This is always the hardest part of being a manager, having to let a good employee go. Because you're always afraid of how they're going to respond to this kind of news."
It didn't strike me until about an hour later, but I think he hit on something very crucial to this discussion. Most of the people who voted for George Bush aren't idiots, and they're not our enemies. What they ARE is very, very fearful. They're afraid of losing their jobs and homes, losing loved ones to terrorism, war and natural disaster, losing their long-cherished beliefs and values. Fear makes people irrational, it causes otherwise sane human beings to revert to the most primitive level of instinct; when confronted with some situation that elicits fear and anxiety, there are two basic responses -- fight or flee. Right now, many people on both sides of the vote count have chosen to fight, and a significant number are seriously considering fleeing.
Both of these responses, while understandable, are born out of fear. If the sense of fear is removed, people will calm down and begin to think through the situation. But, in order for that to happen, you have to first identify what it is you're afraid of. In this instance, it's pretty clear -- we're all afraid of each other. The entire political debate in this country pretty much since Vietnam has been couched in the language of conflict: Red vs. Blue, Democrat vs. Republican, Conservative vs. Liberal, "Class War", "Culture War", "Drug War", "War On Terror", you name it, most of the rhetoric on one side, and an unfortunate amount of it from the other all use these heavily laden buzz words that continuously press the emotional buttons in our brains that link directly to our adrenal glands. A certain group of politicians and idealogues (not all by any stretch, and not exclusively coming from the Right) have spent the better of the past 40 years cultivating this environment of fear: fear of blacks, of women, of Gays, of Muslims, of Fundamentalists, of Soccer Moms, of NASCAR Dads --basically anybody who doesn't look, think and act the way we do.
And it's got to stop.
The only way to conquer fear is through knowledge. Once it becomes impossible to objectify and dehumanize the "other", it becomes increasingly difficult to fear them. When you see that deep, down, you have more in common with someone from Kansas or South Carolina than you have differences (as significant as those differences may be), you can't help but think of them as fellow human beings. You may not agree on a lot of things, but you're not going to fear them. And if you don't fear something, it just follows that you're not going to hate it either.
You know what I'd really like to see happen in the next four years? If I had a few million dollars burning a hole in my pocket, I'd take a big chunk of that money, rent about 50 school buses, load each one of them up with as many of "my people" as I could find: artists, environmentalists, punk rockers, leather dykes, drag queens, academics, Goths, lawyers -- in short, a whole bunch of out-and-out "freaks" -- the very people that have been held up by the GOP as the boogey(wo)men who are out to wreck good, old-fashioned White Christian American values, send them out all over those so-called "Red States", and whenever they got to some little burg in the middle of Nebraska or Alabama, these people would all pile out, and walk en-masse to the nearest county courthouse, church or school. One of them would step forward, and in a big, booming voice proclaim, "We're here to help. What can we do?" And then just sit there and wait for a response. No matter how long it took.
Maybe somebody's house has been destroyed by a natural disaster, maybe the school is in disrepair, maybe the levee needs rebuilding, maybe some little old lady needs her lawn mowed -- whatever it was, big or small. If somebody from that community stepped forward with a request for assistance, you go help them. And with no thought of "converting" them to your way of thinking. No Quid Pro Quo, no "pay it forward". There'd be no speeches, no teach-ins, no community meetings, just a bunch of people who come in, and do a job They don't ask for thanks, they just help, where ever it's needed and to whatever degree it's requested. And when they're done, they just leave and move on.
I think after an experience like that, it would be pretty hard to hate someone just because they're different somehow.
on 3:55 PM