I’ve come to the understanding that “enemy” is a social construct. I think humans are born with a need for community, for connection and our first instincts are to welcome and trust all with whom we come into contact. There is no “other” when we begin this journey; we all are human.
But somewhere in the process of clarifying that age-old “who is my neighbor” question, we think we need to decide who is in our circle and who is not. Tribal tendencies demand specification: we want to know exactly where we stand in the various social hierarchies we invent for ourselves.
Of course there is another definition for the word “enemy” and we humans quickly learn not to trust those who do harm. But the act of doing harm to another begins in the mind; there is a cognitive shift in basic understandings about what it means to be human. Someone who acts as an enemy to another has already placed them outside their circle and named them as “other.” They justify their actions based on contrived categories of who is in and who is out. Then the one who has been hurt responds to that mistreatment by doing the same thing: if we have been damaged by X or Y or Z, then everyone who is like them must also be our enemy.
It is a vicious cycle. Not at all neat or logical. We humans can be a complex mess. Continue reading Who is My Neighbor? Who is My Enemy?
I really struggle with this question: why do so many people believe the unbelievable?
This sad reality is nothing new. Con men, scam artists and snake oil salesmen have been using and abusing people’s trust for centuries. These hucksters seem to have a special ability to target the naive, to tell them what they want to hear and then entrap them in the web of fantasy they have spun.
They swallow the lie “hook, line and sinker,” we say.
When President Obama spoke at Nelson Mandela’s 100th birth day celebration, he spoke to the increasing danger of this culture of deception.
Unfortunately, too much of politics today seems to reject the very concept of objective truth. People just make stuff up.
We see it in state-sponsored propaganda; we see it in internet driven fabrications, we see it in the blurring of lines between news and entertainment, we see the utter loss of shame among political leaders where they’re caught in a lie and they just double down and they lie some more …
The current problem is two-fold: leaders and manipulators who lie in order to deceive coupled with people who believe and even defend both the deceptions and the deceivers.
Historian Will Durant once said: “It may be true that you can’t fool all the people all the time, but you can fool enough of them to rule a large country.” Continue reading Truth!
Top Down Power is the default position for us humans and this has been our story throughout our history. America has mostly been an exception to the rule, except that lately we have been watching authoritarian power infect our government, decreasing the authority that We The People have been accustomed to in this democratic republic.
When people give themselves over to Top Down Power, we are giving ourselves over to a kind of eternal childhood. We want someone else to protect us, to take care of us, to make the hard decisions and exempt us from the consequences. Living in this Neverland is much easier than growing up and taking responsibility for our own lives.
In every society, it’s the grown ups who step up and recognize the authority inherent within themselves and their communities. This kind of authority is not “authoritarian” – attempting to rule over others. Rather it is an egalitarian authority that understands everyone in a community has something to offer. And everyone has something to learn.
When President Barack Obama spoke at Nelson Mandela’s 100th birth day celebration, he reminded us of the power of this Bottom Up authority. Continue reading Real Power From the Bottom Up
A photo of this cap made the rounds in cyberspace not long after the 2016 presidential election.
“Make America Kind Again” was the plea.
The campaign to be “great again” evidently resonated with enough voters in enough states that the Electoral College was tipped against the popular vote. So now we have what we have here in America – I would say: neither greatness nor goodness.
A Pandora’s Box of ugliness has been opened in our society. Of course people have always been unkind to one another but just a few years ago, regular Americans seemed to have better manners. There was a common civility that helped us navigate our personal opinions so that – at least in public – we mostly treated acquaintances and strangers with a basic politeness.
That began to fall apart with accusations of “political correctness” so that saying things in such a way as not to offend others was perceived as a censure on MY ability to say whatever I wanted. MY rights were more important than any one else’s feelings. Circumspection and kindness in our conversation were ridiculed as a weakness.
During the eight years that America had its first mixed race president, unkindness accelerated. Criticisms of any president’s politics and policies are nothing new, but somehow too many Americans grew more comfortable believing and repeating rampant ugly untruths about this particular first family. America’s shadow side of racism came boldly into the light.
Now, with our current president’s life long habit of disrespect and derision, even more Americans have lost a habit of common public civility. Continue reading Make America Kind Again
Treat others the way you would want to be treated.
We call it the Golden Rule and its wisdom shows up in most every world religion.
So why has the human race never really figured out how to live by this rule of life? Maybe because throughout history most people just flat don’t agree with it.
Other rules of life are much more popular:
Whoever has the gold, makes the rules.
Do unto others before they do it unto you.
Might makes right.
The end justifies the means.
The greatest happiness is to vanquish your enemies. (Genghis Khan)
These are the rules that have ruled human existence since our earliest beginnings. This is the reason human history is so screwed up.
But even in the dismal darkness of our past, some humans found the wisdom and the courage to live life with an alternative vision: a way of seeing and being in the world that is up-side-down and inside-out from the conventional wisdom. A golden thread of kindness, forgiveness and grace.
Nelson Mandela was one of those people. Continue reading Do Unto Others…
“Journey” is a powerful motif in many of our human stories. In the tales we tell we often see ourselves as people in process; people on the way. Sometimes we know where we want to go but often we only have the vaguest notion of where we will end up.
Because life is a journey with zigs and zags, with mountain tops and valleys, with stormy days or peaceful nights, our best stories reflect on the meaning of where we have been, where we are going and where we find ourselves on the way.
Joseph Campbell studied Hero Myths from many cultures and taught us how this arch type functions – not only in our stories but within our lives individually and together as societies. The Hero’s Journey brings transformation. Traveling into the unknown, experiencing and surviving the dangers, finding wider wisdom that puts our lives into perspective – this long walk of the Hero’s Journey brings her “home” again; but the person who returns has become stronger, wiser and more resilient than the person who first began the journey.
“The Long Walk Home” is a movie set in Montgomery Alabama during the bus boycott of the 60’s. The title refers to the long miles Black housemaids had to walk to and from work when they refused to ride the city buses. But the second meaning alludes to the journey two women make together – one Black and one White – as they helped carve new paths for America during the Civil Rights Movement. Continue reading The Long Walk
Sometimes I think about my grandparents and all the dizzying progress they saw in their lifetimes. Automobiles to airplanes to space ships then experiencing an American walking on the moon. Indoor plumbing, refrigeration, television to powerful computers small enough to fit into their pockets. An explosive awareness and expansion of civil rights and human rights. Longer life spans and the eradication of some diseases. Inter-connection that reaches all the way across the globe.
But with all this progress, in many other ways our world has gone backwards. The 20th Century was the bloodiest in human history as we created more effective ways to kill and torture one another. Lies and disinformation “travel halfway around the world before truth can get its boots on.” We have generated immense world wealth but the rich keep on getting richer and the poor only get poorer. Continue reading The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same
Cries of anguish from our southern border have broken the heart of America. Children have been ripped from the arms of their parents and housed in separate facilities, sometimes hundreds of miles apart. Some are locked in cage-like structures, left to comfort one another in their shared misery.
I wish I could say this evil practice is un-American, but I can’t.
This administration’s recent policy of zero tolerance has brought back horrific national memories of Black babies ripped from the arms of their mothers and sold in slave markets. Or nightmare remembrances of Native American children stolen from their parents in order to be acculturated as White.
This manufacturing of orphans has once again become governmental policy, and even though an Executive Order finally ended the policy, the practical reality is that these orphans may never find their way back to their parents. Their cries continue. Continue reading Manufactured Orphans
“Keeping on” surely needs to happen in these long odd days. But the important question to me is: “How?!” How do we hold on to hope, hold on to faith, hold on to loving one another when every day brings a new outrage?
My blogging work brings me into contact with a wide range of cyberspace acquaintances and I see much anger everywhere I turn. Anger, impatience, blame, antagonism, resentment, rage. How can we sleep at night when such emotions constantly roil within us? How can we maintain our most precious relationships when we disagree deeply? How can we find positive energy to address the challenges of our nation when negative emotions paralyze us? How can we keep on keeping on?
Here are just a few possibilities: Continue reading Keep On Keeping On. But How?!
It’s been months since I’ve written an Intersection blog and I’m feeling a bit guilty about that. There are several good reasons but there are even more bad excuses. At least something inside is finally strong enough to nudge me to write. I guess something inside me is needing to get out, to find expression. Maybe that’s what writing does for us: it frees thoughts and feelings that are locked within us and allows them to take on a life of their own.
I have to admit the things locked up within me have been mostly negative. As I watch the antics of this president and his minions, the ineptitude of this Congress, the unfaithfulness of the American Evangelical Church, I realize I have been made speechless. As I listen to the cries of the children and their parents at our southern border, I realize there are no words for such unspeakable wickedness and callousness.
But I am also coming to realize I have no excuse for remaining silent. It took me years to find my voice, to find my way into a pulpit. So now, having a voice, having the power to speak and the privilege of a platform creates a certain responsibility. Therefore I will remember those who have no voice, whose power to speak has been thwarted. I will honor those whose pain remains locked within them and whose cries for justice suffer a grievous stillbirth. Continue reading Speechless