I fear the devil has lit the fuse on a long-dormant stick of racial dynamite.
And now the shadowy figure with a red suit and a tail is in the shadows chuckling as outraged people on both sides of an ugly divide prepare to go after each other — completely uninterested in why the other side sees what it sees.
As the anger builds, more and more people are pulled into the maelstrom. Everybody is suddenly an expert. Everybody knows who’s to blame, but they all disagree with each other.
I’m no different. I have my own narrative. I place the ultimate blame on the idea that any group has the right to use violence or threats of violence to achieve their purposes. But even though I have my favorite explanation, I know it’s complicated and there are many historical factors — and that other people see things in very different ways.
Many books could be written on how we got here and who’s to blame, because the causes are tangled and go far back into human history, even though almost everybody tries to oversimplify the problem. I think it’s a tangled web of centuries (or more) of wrong thinking involving race, class, slavery, tribalism, populism, fear and the continuing desire of some people to control other people. (No matter what I include, I’m failing to include other factors.) They all blend together in a toxic stew — and whichever part happens to be nearest and dearest to you, that’s the part you tend to see and assume is the cause.
But I’m not here to draw a conclusion about the cause or to place blame. First, I’m not capable of coming up with an objective answer. Second, it doesn’t matter what I could come up with. We’re not all going to agree, especially while there’s so much anger and hate on all sides.
For me, the correct path is closing my mind and heart to the hatred and anger as much as possible. Giving voice to those things or even harboring those thoughts — even though many of them might rationally be justified from different reasonable points of view — won’t do any good. It won’t do society any good and it certainly won’t do me any good. The only thing that can change the world — and the only thing that can change me — is learning to love better. (That’s not an easy task. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for weeks and trying to write about.)
Selling love and reconciliation in this country right now is about as easy as selling snow blowers in Miami. Most people just aren’t buying something they don’t believe they need and that they don’t believe solves the problem they see. People would rather feel anger and lecture “the other side” about how “those people” should take the steps necessary to change things.
That’s a perfect way to stay on the path that the devilish figure in red has laid out for us. It leads to a mad descent into a hellish conflict that no one can win.
I can’t change the world. I can’t change you. I have no intention of trying. The only thing I’m capable of doing — and I struggle even at that — is changing myself. There are now billions of us on the planet, and I’ve come to believe the only thing that can possibly save the human race is each one of us deciding to transform ourselves through the power of love.
The only thing I can possibly do is work on myself.
As I’ve become more and more convinced that personal transformation through love is the only way to change the world — and that political action is counterproductive — the world actually seems to be getting more hateful. I feel as though I’m standing in the middle of trench warfare while screaming people lob bombs at each other — and I know the only way out of the carnage is for each individual to unilaterally and proactively love the people he’s been trying to kill.
That’s a very different perspective — a radical perspective which trusts that God isn’t yet finished with us — one which would seem like madness to those who don’t understand the ultimate power of love to change people.
I’m not telling you my answer is easy. In fact, it’s very difficult. Following the rest of the world is easy — and that’s what most people will do.
Most people will continue to keep their eyes glued to television screens that sell them hate. Most people will continue to assume they know who’s right and who’s wrong. Most people will believe in a narrative that absolves them — and their kind — of any blame. So they will sit in front of violent images they invite into their homes and they will silently scream, “You people are responsible for this, not me!”
As the hotheads spread their hate and ratchet up the violence, the red figure with the horns will slip back down to his fiery home, gleefully saying, “These people will do the rest for me.”