Violence and politics

I won’t comment much on what went down in Arizona yesterday, suffice to say that I’m not especially surprised. I spent most of my adult life living in one of the most liberal parts of the United States and now I am living in one of the most conservative, and if there is anything consistent between the two, it’s that the most extreme people — in both places — have a hard time seeing the “other side” as deserving of respect or decency. There was a time when the U.S. split in two, and four bloody years of war resulted. Because both sides of the country decided that their counterparts had it coming. That was about as extreme as American political divisiveness gets, and I (thankfully) don’t think we’re there yet. But I do think Arizona is a good reminder — for everyone at all points of the political spectrum — that the United States is a family. Your family might piss you off sometimes, make bad decisions, do things to make you angry. But the minute you stop seeing your family as family, and instead view them as beneath human dignity or otherwise deserving of destruction, there is a problem happening.

Across the media and the internet right now, there’s a lot of blame casting going on. I suppose that’s predictable. Any time there is a case of tragic, senseless slaughter like this — anyone remember that McDonalds shooting from the 80s? — people will try to connect it to Greater Causes. That seems to be wired into us as humans. In classical times, we had a pantheon of Gods in the sky, to which we assigned responsibility for all sorts of things, most of them bad. The human brain and spirit has a tough time accepting completely random or otherwise disconnected tragedies, so Larger Patterns are sought. Sometimes they make sense, sometimes they’re really far out there. I’m seeing a lot of that at the moment, and can only sigh to myself and hope that this kind of event doesn’t spur additional events, or backlashes against same, because someone has to “pay” for what’s been done. That’s the other part of it: the natural urge to seek justice.

If we in the U.S. want justice at a time like this, I think we’d all do well to look into our own hearts and take a look at how much true hatred brews there — for and against our brothers and sisters across the land. I saw lots of hatred for a certain type of person, when I lived and worked in Seattle. I see a somewhat similar hatred for the opposite type of person, now that I live and work in Utah. Again, when you allow feelings about political problems or other deep disagreements to turn into outright demonization of your family members — do your worst, they deserve it! — you’ve got an issue. An issue it’s probably time to consider more closely.

Unless we really have reached a point, as we did in 1860, where we need a mass national bloodletting? I certainly don’t see the need for that. We’ve got problems in the United States, sure, but they are resolvable through peaceful means, and a respect for the process. But maybe that’s just it: when people lose respect for the process, as well as their family — their neighbors and fellow citizens — they see violence as the only answer?

Sad, if we’ve reached that place. Very sad indeed. It’s a Sunday. The Lord’s day. Hopefully Americans are doing a bit of soul-searching — regardless of what they believe or who they vote for, or why — and maybe thinking twice about some of the ill will and ill words they’ve sewn.

That is all, carry on.