Friday, December 11, 2015

In the Battle of Good vs Evil: the Two Faces of America


These days it seems that America is in the grip of a battle between good and evil of mythical proportions. We see more ‘evil’ so it’s easy to believe it outweighs the good, that this is about David and Goliath and Goliath is on a winning streak. Far right conservatives and Christian fundamentalists, the NRA, the military industrial complex have a lot of power and a massive, well-funded, very vocal, very visible right wing media to disseminate the ideas they uphold.

Massacres happen with increasing regularity. Instead of diminishing the power of the far right conservative ideal they feed that angry, fearful, voracious, rapacious beast. When the horrific shooting at Colorado Springs happened, my first thought was, killing three and wounding nine others is justifiable but an abortion isn’t?

Far right conservatives (rightly) condemn jihadists for slaughtering innocent people and have graduated from that to condemning all Muslims and to treating as a hero Republican GOP candidates who manically espouse and promote bigotry of the worse kind to such an extent that people around the entire world are outraged. Yet these same conservatives don’t even ask the religion of American citizens who massacre fellow citizens with assault weapons, let alone call for them to be persecuted and/or thrown out the country.

Christian fundamentalist Kevin Swanson rabidly calls for gays to be executed at a National Religious Liberties Conference which three GOP Presidential candidates—Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal—attend. How is that different to jihadists and their supporters?

Massive CIA, FBI and police resources are sunk into identifying jihadists and I’m very grateful for that. But nothing is done to follow the movements of Americans obsessed with accumulating assault weapons even though they kill far more Americans than jihadists. And fundamentalist Christians such as Swanson and his followers and those three GOP candidates aren’t even brought in for questioning.

Fundamentalist Muslims who call for and/or commit atrocities under the name of Allah are (rightly) recognized for being a scourge on the planet but fundamentalist Christians who call for and/or commit atrocities under the name of Jesus are elevated by many. Some Muslims are fundamentalists therefore all Muslims are condemned as evil. But the same logic doesn’t apply to fundamentalist Christians. Or to American citizens, Catholics, Protestants, Atheists, all of whom have committed terrible crimes. So the real source of the problem isn’t dealt with.

Presidential candidates are worshipped for their maniacal xenophobia in a country that was built by immigrants.

Women have to fight incredibly hard for their rights but conservative women support Presidential candidates and far right politicians who want to keep them down.

People fight for the right to carry and use as many assault weapons as they want and don’t recognize how they’re being manipulated by the military industrial complex, or how that undermines them.

Far right conservatives and Christian fundamentalists foster a culture of hatred, prejudice, entitlement to kill and destruction of human rights. Massacres like that in Colorado Springs are a direct result. Pus oozing from a rotten and festering wound created by an ‘ideal’ that is counter-intuitive to all that is good in humanity, the Bible and true Christianity.

This is a dark, depressing picture. But I still love America and I don’t think of the far right as representing the country in its entirety. Am I clinging to a fantasy? Am I the perfect example of how love is blind?

My first experience of the US was attending a Catholic school in Zimbabwe run by American nuns. Marymount College. Judging by Facebook, a good time was had by most. Not by me, though, which none of the nuns noticed. They registered that I failed and criticized me for being lazy. They didn’t think to look for a deeper reason or see how their judgment traumatized me further. I fell through the cracks and nobody reached out a hand to stop me falling.  

You’d think I’d have developed an antipathy towards Americans. Somehow I didn’t. I guess I separated ‘American’ from individuals’ lack of empathy towards emotionally wounded children namely me. That, and I blamed myself for my unhappiness.  

In my very naive early twenties I flew with my then husband to New York with our bicycles, planning to ride from there to Key West. I’d heard only romantic things about the Big Apple. We landed at Kennedy Airport in the early evening and headed for Manhattan on our bikes but got lost and took an unintentional detour through Harlem where we stopped to buy an ice-cream.

What did I know about Harlem? The guy who sold us the ice-cream said “What are you doing here? You crazy? You fixin’ to die tonight?”

He told us to get out of Harlem and fast. I had no frame of reference with which to believe him. But we took a subway smothered with angry graffiti that made me think maybe he knew what he was talking about. It was terrifying. Then we got thrown off the train. Man. We reached downtown Manhattan at midnight. I was tired and scared out of my wits. A guy approached me and asked me casually if I wanted to buy heroin. I sat on the pavement and burst into tears. I wanna go home.

Again, not a great experience of America. But then another guy noticed my distress and asked me if I was okay. I told him. He was full of concern and said we must stay with him. And I fell in love. Not with him, but with America.

That guy’s generosity is what has life in my heart. When I think about it, it fills me with a feeling of light, of life being generated, of grand possibilities. Of the other stuff—including my childhood experiences of Americans—some created wounds but they’re healing. The rest doesn’t have any power over me. The moral of the story is that one tiny bit of generosity of spirit outweighs a mass of meanness of spirit or absence of consciousness. 

Which is why, to use archaic imagery, good always wins over evil. Sometimes the dark stuff is really in your face. But that’s when it’s hardest and most important to remember the light and believe in it. 

Contemplating that took me to thinking about the Americans I know now, none of whom have a manically far right conservative atom in their body.

All of them are generous spirited. They’re all outraged by crimes against humanity committed in the name of Jesus and/or the GOP and intensely frustrated by the illogic, lack of intellectual independence and integrity of the far right.

That’s a lot of good. It doesn’t make as much noise as ‘evil’ does but it's life promoting and has longevity; not enough yet to prevent the horrible tragedies happening with such horrifying regularity or the suffering they engender. But I believe there’s more good than seems apparent and it is enough to ensure that ‘evil’ won’t ultimately win in America. Good can’t be destroyed. ‘Evil’ can be overcome.

The painting is by Luca Giodano (1634-1705) Massacre of the Children of Niobe 1685