John Ostrander: Progressions
“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” — Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back
I never took the above quote very seriously. I liked it, it stuck with me, but I had always thought it was just George Lucas pop-pseudo vaguely Buddhisty philosophy.
Now… I’m not so sure.
Now I think I’m seeing it all around me in the wake of Donald Trump’s election this past week. Now it reverberates in me. There’s a lot of fear out there and some of it led to Trump’s winning. That has led to a lot of anger and there is also a lot of hate going around right now, on all sides of the political spectrum.
And I think it will lead to suffering.
The “dark side,” however, is not Lucas’s dark side of the Force. It is a dark side of our country, of us. It’s always there. It’s always been there.
We’re such an odd mixture. We pride ourselves on freedom, freedom for all, but blacks were denied that freedom and it was enshrined in the Constitution where they were defined as only 3/5ths of a person. Women weren’t even mentioned in the document until 1920 when the 19th Amendment was ratified and even today they don’t have equal rights in many cases.
The attitude towards Native Americans, to paraphrase General Phillip Sheridan, was that the only good Indian was a dead Indian. Our wretched track record on treaties only confirms the attitude behind such a statement. It can still be seen in the protest to the pipeline in North Dakota. And this doesn’t even begin to cover the attitude towards Latinos, Asians and the LGBTQ community among others.
It is fear – fear of the Others, the ones not like Us, the ones from Another Tribe. It is the consequence of the zero-sum mentality; for the Others to have more, I will have less. Equality, parity, means I will lose. Whites, and white males especially, are told they are privileged. I know that the first time I heard that, my response as a white male was that I wasn’t privileged. I had little money, little power, and my existence was precarious. I felt I wasn’t privileged; I was barely surviving.
I did learn better. The privilege that I had was that I had more opportunities, even if they didn’t always come through. I wouldn’t be followed when I went to a store because of my skin color; I didn’t face a glass ceiling or made less money for the same work because of my sex or that I was assumed to be inherently disordered because of my sexual orientation. I wasn’t threatened with deportation because of my nationality or regarded with suspicion because of my religion. All because I was born a Christian white male.
However, many people who are barely making it fear that for someone else to get more they must have less and they are barely existing as it is. Politicians and media exploit that for their own purposes. That fear leads to anger, that anger leads to hate, that hate leads to suffering. That’s the progression, that’s real, that’s going on right now whether you’re liberal or conservative. We all are going to suffer, this country is going to suffer, and I honestly don’t know if we’re going to survive as a people or a country. I really don’t know.
If there is a way to escape this progression? Marvin Gaye hit it with his song What’s Going On.
There’s too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There’s far too many of you dying
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today, eheh
We don’t need to escalate
You see, war is not the answer
For only love can conquer hate
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today, oh oh oh
Picket lines and picket signs
Don’t punish me with brutality
Talk to me, so you can see
Oh, what’s going on
What’s going on
Yeah, what’s going on
Ah, what’s going on
On the one side, those of us who voted for Hillary Clinton have to see that not every Donald Trump supporter is a bigot, a xenophobe, a misogynist. They have some valid concerns and some real fears and they feel those concerns were not being heard. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering. Yes, there is plenty of racism and bigotry and plain out hate in the Trump campaign but we have to sort those out and listen to the real concerns.
Those who voted for Trump have to listen, too, to the very real fears and concerns of our side. From what we’ve seen, from what we’ve heard, we see a despot in the making. That’s not just paranoia; the comparisons are apt and are there to be seen. We fear the loss of so much that is important to us – equal rights, the right of every woman to choose, the right to live in this country. We don’t feel we can wait and see what Trump does; we know what he has said and how he has behaved. There is real and valid fears and that leads to anger and that will lead to hate and that will lead to suffering.
What breaks the progression? Martin Luther King Jr said it better than I can.
“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate.
“So it goes.
“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
Those great philosophers, Bill and Ted, summed it up quite nicely: Be excellent to one another.
Party on, dudes.