I usually wait longer than a week to chime in on major events, so I can get a reading of how the wind is blowing and respond in that very arrogant all knowing way I am prone to. The event in Charleston SC, though, has blown me away, and all of my above it all superiority has melted away in the fire of anger and disgust. For me this is the last straw.
This is not about Christianity. This is not about gun control. This is not about mental illness. This is not about race. This is not about isolated “lone wolves” abandoned by their society. This is not about crime as anomaly. This is not about terrorism. This is not about meting out justice. This is not about the law or government. This is not about partisanship. This is not about the Confederate flag. This is not about the death penalty. It is all of these things and none of them.
This IS about systemic violence used as a bridge to cross the gulfs created by divisions in our society; divisions created through any number of social ills; social ills created by deeply ingrained ideas of privilege and class structure; social ills created by contending norms of race and wealth and status and political ideology.
This violence is not only that of the physical. It is that of the emotional. It is that of the mental. It is that of the spiritual. That said, it is physical violence, appearing as it does in the densest plane of existence, the physical plane, that is most apparent and observable to us. Therefore it is physical violence that we most relate to and respond to when grieving and mourning the descent of civility into the morass, into the pit, into disintegration. It is physical violence that shoves our weakness as a species into our collective face.
In this culture, the American culture, more than any other, violence is an accepted means of resolving conflict. In fact it is the primary means, the most revered the most glorified means. Let me say that again. Violence is the preferred means of resolving conflict in this our America. Daddies teach their boys that to “be a man” one must learn how to fight, that the best way to settle differences with the other boys is a hay maker to the jaw. Government is made up primarily of those very boys, not far removed from the grade school playgrounds where they learned and perfected using violence as a tool to get their way. They tell us the best defense is a good offense. They tell us might makes right. They are like the husband who thinks he is strong because he can beat up his wife.
We spend an ungodly amount of money on machines of violence, so much more than on assuaging social ills and solving the many other problems that afflict us. We can read the words alright, but cannot seem to actually beat our swords into plowshares. Most of our great spectacles, professional sports, reinforce the message of violence, either overtly or covertly. We continually endorse this ideal of violent conflict resolution through the glorification of violence in all media, and in our blatant acceptance of it’s value.
The constant assault on our civilized sensibilities, at the expense of our mortal souls, and the resulting continuous and senseless destruction of those we love, this is the visible result of consciously or unconsciously applied physical violence. It is the part of the iceberg we can see. But, for me, it is the other forms of violence, the hidden violence of emotion and mentality, that cut society the deepest. Families slice each other up with focused, hurtful words. This too is violence. Businessmen step all over each other in the vicious battle we know as climbing the corporate ladder, the race to the top, rung by bloody rung. Political rivals, sporting rivals, romantic rivals, are not to simply defeat their opponents but kick their asses, to destroy them. We compete not to win but to annihilate. We do not call our rivals opponents but insist they are enemies.
We most readily use violence on ourselves. The fuel that propagates violence is hate. Hate is not the opposite of love as many may say. Hate originates within. It is the self loathing all of us experience somehow, somewhere, sometime, in that place we won’t let anybody see, that gives birth to hatred. Hatred is learned and we can only first experience it through hating something we ourselves are or do, something about our own selves that disgusts and mortifies us, something that holds us back from shining the light of our true, loving selves out into the world. Only then will we see those things in the “others” and hate them too. We begin to see anything that frightens us, or threatens us, perceived or real, and hate the “others” for it.
We use this hate of self to perpetrate violence on ourselves in myriad ways, some of them so subtle as to be nearly invisible and unreachable. These internal wars are the basis for the psychological, spiritual and/or intellectual violence that is so deadly to us and our culture, because of its ability to hide in places we can’t reach, like a virus in our bodies, waiting for that moment of weakness when it can emerge and strike swiftly and with blinding force.
As it is in the microculture of our own consciousness so it is in the macroculture of our relationship to the world. We cannot possibly be the decrepit creatures we see when we look inside. There must be some reason we fail. It must be that other, whoever that other might be. What the world teaches us is disgusting is in the other. We will assign any disgusting failure we want to the other, as long as it makes us feel better, as long as it stops the pain for just a few moments. Hatred and violence is the morphine of painful and failing lives. If we cannot shine our light then nobody can, especially the other, in whom we see ourselves mirrored so clearly. But we mustn’t let anyone know how alike we are. We must destroy the other before anyone can find out.
We need to look deep inside ourselves to find the buried vault of our hatred. We have to remove the multiple locks that bind the vault, one by one, regardless how difficult and wrenching. We must then take what we find there and search deeper yet, to find where it came from, from what decrepit fountain it poured forth. We must dive into that fountain of filth, swimming through the putrid bile of our own, hidden self hate to the source, the pump that forces the hate into our hearts. It is primordial.
It may be true, as many say, we are violent by our nature, it will never change, it’s in our DNA, it’s useless to try. But is that any good reason to give up, to stop trying, to throw up our hands and say it’s bigger than us, we can’t win. When has anything ever been bigger than a human heart full of love. If we truly believe that love conquers all then this is the time to prove it. This is the time to break the chain of violence. But it will take men and women and children with profound love and of unyielding courage, in action, the action of both warming the feet of the frightened and holding to the fire the feet of those both self righteous and only selectively human.
I speak to myself when I say we need to DO more and TALK less.
Americans believe in faith, even if it is the faith that no faith exists.
I have faith we can bury hatred and it’s weapon, violence, under a mountain of love.