The Conservative Republican movement in America is a case study in what fear does when it fully grips a group of people; the emotional net result of being weaned for decades on a steady diet of culture war rhetoric, targeted disinformation, racial stereotypes, incendiary sermons, and plain ol’ white nationalism.
In this environment, the human heart become unable to manufacture empathy for the other, as it finds encroaching enemies everywhere it looks.
Someone in the grips of this kind of prolonged enmity can no longer seek the common good, because it doesn’t recognize how our fortunes are tethered together.
They become terrified of all difference: losing the ability to see the beauty or worth in anyone who does not look or talk or think or believe or vote or worship or love the way they do.
Having long-since jettisoned any notions of understanding a different perspective or being willing to thoughtfully engage a difference of opinion, they now know only how to boycott and ban.
In the absence of any intellectual creativity regarding the complex challenges of crime, of hunger, of sickness, of violence; people default to a simple strategy of blaming, condemning, and eradicating.
Worst of all, when fully addled by this continual exposure to irrational fear, this life becomes a zero-sum game where anyone else’s gain is interpreted as their loss.
At that point, human beings lose the ability or the desire to collaborate or compromise with anyone. They exist solely in a battle posture against those they’ve come to believe are imminent threats, which includes an ever-expanding portion of humanity.
And now we find America brutalized by a group of people who are fiercely and unrelentingly at war—with everything.
They rage against the LGBTQ community,
people of color,
against the rights of women,
against immigrants, and Muslims and Jewish people.
They go to battle with scientists,
with medical professionals,
with the FBI.
They crusade against election results,
against the Media,
against the Constitution.
They mount their incessant brutal assaults upon athletes and entertainers,
upon librarians and school teachers,
upon theme parks and drag queens,
upon beer companies and participation trophies.
To hell with the sick and the poor; with the evaporating natural resources and the rapidly-warming planet; with the unemployed, underserved, and underfed; with the daily mass assassinations at schools and shopping malls. To hell with sorrow and need and loneliness. Those inconveniences merit no urgency, garner no grieving, elicit no such passion. War, after all, is hell—even if it means putting others through it.
It must be an exhausting existence to be terrified by so much and hostile to so many. I try to imagine what it feels like to be so viscerally sickened by the breadth of diversity around me and relentlessly in a fear-birthed battle posture toward it—but I can’t. Many of us can’t.
If there is a sharp dividing line in America now, this is it. It is the line between joyful people and miserable people; between those who live open-handed toward the world and those whose fists are balled-up tightly; between people who are compelled by compassion and those fueled by anger; between people who want a bigger table—and those feel the table is their birthright.