I keep going off that we have to stop lashing out at each other and find ways to get along. And right in the middle of our impending descent into a racist, totalitarian empire. How could I be so callous? Clearly, now is the time to stand up! To fight for what we believe in! Before it’s too late!
Let me break it down:
There is NOTHING more important than our unity. United we stand, divided we fall. Remember that? If we continue on this path of escalating anger over perceived slights that have little genuine importance, anger that is amplified by both social media and financially-dependent traditional media, we are doomed to a state where we become unable to find solutions to our problems. Those problems are real, they are not insubstantial, and overcoming them will require cooperative efforts.
Dr. Ben Williams made one profound statement that changed my perception. Why is it that it appears racism has gotten worse of late, that things have gone the wrong way? “It isn’t that racism wasn’t there, it’s just more apparent now.”
Think on that. When I was growing up, my friends and I were not racist. And we didn’t see much of it. So it wasn’t there, right? Wrong. It was there, it was just hidden. That’s an incredibly profound idea: what we are seeing now is not an increase in racism; it is the death of racism, the death of discrimination against alternative lifestyles.
When racism is present but we can keep it “hidden,” both racists and non-racist people are happy, right? The non-racist folks don’t see it, so they sleep just fine. And the racist folks? It’s all good for them too: just because it’s not in the open, doesn’t mean they don’t have things under control.
Fast forward to today, and the rising generation is totally not racist. Apparently they sorta missed the too-subtle teachings. They didn’t realize that those statues were supposed to keep black people in their place, they just thought they were historical monuments. And gay people? Uh, so what? Is that supposed to be an abomination? Um… why is that again?
And what is the reaction from the die-hard bigots to this pretty much uniform acceptance of people regardless of the color of their skin or their lifestyle? Well, you are seeing it: they go ape-shit. Because now they realize that their ideology is well and truly dead.
This is not the time to lash out at your neighbor. This is the time to celebrate the flopping death-throws of the evil ideologies that within a generation will have ceased to quiver and rotted where they lay. And this is NOT the time to make an enemy of your neighbor by calling them a racist – an almost unforgivable insult – when they are not. Look, regurgitating the seemingly reasonable argument that removing statues erases our history does not make someone a racist. It just means they weren’t there. LET IT GO. If there is any sin the left has committed egregiously in error of late, it is calling non-racists out as racists. No one takes an insult of such magnitude lightly; that’s precisely how you divide.
I grew up going to church, but I have never been a believer. So as a scientist in a community that has what may be the most politically and socially influential fundamentalist Christian entity in the US, to say it has been an inner struggle is a bit of an understatement. But here is a fact to keep in mind:
Religion isn’t going away. Ever. I used to want it to… why can’t everyone just believe what I believe? But this country was founded on the principles of religious freedom (even if it didn’t quite nail down the whole separation of church and state thing). No matter what you believe, religion is real. Religious beliefs provide people purpose, hope, strength, community, comfort. To the outsider, a religion typically looks like a cult. To the member, it is much more like family. No one has a right to deny another person those benefits, even if they are absolutely sure that the beliefs are false. I don’t think it’s even ethical to suggest that someone cast those benefits aside just because we believe differently. “But it negatively impacts society!” So does drinking, but you can take your damn hands off my beer.
A close friend (who is both smarter and better read than me) recently suggested that Russia is playing a significant role in our conflict, that they are intentionally spreading discourse though social media in an effort to bring us down from within. The accusation is that they have abundant trolls that deliberately stir the pot, that escalate our discussions into free-for-all brawls where words will be spoken that cannot be taken back, creating permanent, insurmountable divides.
Is it true? I don’t know if there is some nefarious conspiracy, but I know that the damage is being done, regardless. I have been watching it happen for near on a year, and it scares the ever-living shit out of me. I have seen family members that don’t talk any more, neighbors that used to be neighborly but now are enemies, friendships cast aside. Is this how a true culture war begins? Who drew first blood, the Hatfields or McCoys? The Sunnis or the Shiites? Does it even matter?
No, it doesn’t. Look at history, the destruction, the chaos, the millions of lives lost, and none of this stuff matters one damn bit. Statues don’t matter. Bathrooms don’t matter. The words in a song don’t matter. Lives matter. We matter. Our country matters. Our way of life matters. We have to pull together, we have to work cooperatively. Our issues are real, but they are OUR issues, and we have to face them head-on as a collaborative community, as a nation. Or else we are doomed to validate the beliefs of many historians about the ultimate fate of all great democracies, and crumble from within.