Is it just me, or does America have a problem?
Every day, more violence. More heated rhetoric.
White Pride. Homophobia. Sexism.
Black Lives Matter. White Genocide.
Christian ministers preaching death to the gays.
Black men assassinating white police officers.
White police officers killing black men.
Why are we so afraid of each other? Why are we so angry with each other? Why do we hate each other? Why do we need to strike, slander, kill? Violence has become our first reaction.
It’s like there are Dementors in America.
And it’s not my intention to make light of what’s going wrong in this country. I’m not turning to fantasy in some facetious attempt to take comfort in a beloved story – there are more than enough people doing that already. Nevertheless, to the extent possible, I intend for this metaphor to be taken literally.
Everywhere I look, I see and feel anger, selfishness, aggression, impatience. As I’m driving down the road on any given day, the number of people flying by with gleeful contempt for traffic signals and common courtesies, taking others’ lives for granted, using their vehicles as some kind of armor & extension of their own egos, seems to be growing in shocking proportions. Have we so disregarded the value of human life?
Everywhere I look, I see people clinging to their guns, masking their fetishism beneath some kind of perverted rationale about “individual liberty” and “right to protection.” The common argument is that more guns will make more of us safe, because if only we all carried around deadly weapons, then we’d all be less likely to actually use them. This is the logic of a child trapped in the mirror stage whose entire world is the image of himself reflected at himself: nothing else matters because the self is the only priority. If only we all smoked cigarettes, then none of us would have to worry about the dangers of second-hand exposure. In what world is the saner choice the one which demands that we all live more dangerously in order to be safer? This is freedom?
I’m in favor of the Second Amendment, but I also support a rational appreciation for the world we live in, for the centuries of technological and social changes that have occurred since our founding documents were written, and for a common sense approach to balancing safety and liberty.
As a culture, we seem to think that rules no longer apply to us, that every attempt to make us safer is in reality some plot to make us less free, to control us. The false outrage and reaction to this flawed narrative has resulted in our society actually spinning out of control. Are we beyond repair?
There are dementors in America.
There are forces working against us, stoking the flames of fear and resentment, depression and sadness. Hopelessness, resignation, and anger. But these dementors are not some external, mystical demons. We created them. We’re responsible for them. We’ve given them power, allowed ourselves to become distracted by the next fad, the latest technology, the newest streaming television. All the while the world around us slips further into despair, and we become less and less capable of fixing it and ourselves. We become more and more disgusted, quicker to ascribe blame, more deeply entrenched in our own beliefs about what’s good and bad, who is right and who is wrong. Liberals blame Conservatives. Conservatives blame Liberals. Atheists blame Christians. Christians blame “the godless.”
“If only black people would comply politely.”
“If only the gays wouldn’t flaunt themselves.”
“If only the Muslims would….” “If only the Mexicans wouldn’t…” “If only….” and on and on.
I can understand feeling angry. But I can’t understand violence. I can’t understand hatred. I wish I had a better idea of where these emotions come from, and why, so that I could do more to help. Unfortunately, we can’t stop every terrorist who wants to cause harm. We can’t prevent every psychotic break. We can’t cure or rationalize with every instance of fanaticism. But can’t we do something? Can’t we make it less likely for those few who do intend to cause harm to succeed?
Today, in threads responding to all the recent tragedies, I’ve seen mixed responses. Most of these responses, though, are the same tired, lazy, illogical reactions that we always see from people who refuse to actually deal with the problem. They are so committed to the idea that there’s one “bad set” of people in this country, and if only we could get rid of them, well, America would be “great again.” These are the same kind of people who long for the “good old days,” without considering what those days were like for anyone unlike themselves.
A common response from this group is something like this: “We don’t have all the facts – I won’t judge when we’ve only seen one side of this.” As if a perpetual string of violence by the racially and socioeconomically powerful majority against racial, religious, and sexual minorities, committed over and over again, isn’t in itself endemic. And where do these people go, in a week or month or year, when the full details are released and substantiate the claims that the violence was motivated by prejudice? Do they return and say, “Ah, yes, I see you were right – and we need to do something”? No, they’ve moved onto the next situation, with their canned response again: “Well, now, let’s not judge too quickly, here.” Because, you see, three hundred years of violence against black people and minorities isn’t enough proof for these people. The fact that more than 500,000 black people were written into our founding laws as only 60% human isn’t enough proof for these people. Nothing will ever be enough proof for these people because they can’t see beyond their own noses. “I’m not bigoted, so certainly America can’t be.” So, how do we press on without them?
The other response I continue to see is, “I’m praying.”
So many prayers. Who is supposed to be answering?
And how many prayers should it take before “He” does something about it?
Or maybe, just maybe, we’re the ones who are supposed to act. The Christian book itself says: “faith without works is dead.” There are dementors in America, and we are without magic. There are no prayers, no “Expecto Patronum!” solutions; only our labors will make a difference. So, when a friend posts, “I don’t want to see that you are praying” in regards to these tragedies, and your reaction is to call them hateful, I have to think: have you assessed your priorities? Is it really hateful to ask that we all respond in some actionable way to this devastation, rather than simply wish upon a star? So pray, by all means, if it makes you feel better. But then?
Then do something.
Because the dementors are real and they are wreaking havoc. We might not be able to see this problem the way we’d like to, as a single “bad guy” to be identified, but surely we can feel the problem. Can’t you feel it? Something has gone wrong, a poison is in us, running amok. And there’s no magical antidote, no special words, no “Chosen One” coming to save us. We have to save us.
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