Over the last few weeks while we were buying disaster supplies, worrying about old statues covered with bird droppings or trying to find eclipse glasses, we missed out on some important news. Consider this headline: “Over 300 Million People in the United States Experienced No Violence, Hatred or Tragedy Last Week.”
Somewhat less than that number were not offended in any way.
While we were distracted, over 50 million school aged children went back to school without incident. Just last week more than 60 million attended churches (although 120 million said that they did) representing a myriad of beliefs, with no difficulties. Over 300 million Americans of many races, religions, creeds and national origins worked together, played together and broke bread together.
After months of attempting to organize a major protest, that group of white nationalists we heard so much about, despite their best efforts, were only able to attract a small handful of the fearful to march in Charlottesville. News Flash: Over this past weekend, the overwhelming majority of Americans declined the opportunity to travel to someone else’s community to protest or to signal their virtue, and they went about their daily lives without incident.
The vast majority of Americans live out their days on earth without experiencing any of the headlines that constantly chip away at our peace of mind. We rarely hear about those Americans unless a story is considered cute or sentimental enough to bracket the usual half hour of shootings and stabbings and national rumors.
The word “viral” is used frequently these days, and it describes very well how a disease, or an idea, or a diseased idea, can spread rapidly from one host mind to another. Viruses of the body spread more rapidly where population density is highest and where potential hosts come into close contact. Our minds today are crowded into cyberspace where many of us are in constant contact.
When I was a child my parents warned me that if I watched too many scary movies I would have nightmares. When I didn’t heed their advice, I had nightmares. The subconscious mind has a powerful influence, and that mind is programmed by our experiences and by the information to which we are exposed, consciously or unconsciously.
When we allow ourselves to be exposed to a continuous stream of negativity, no matter how positive our outlook or optimistic our natures, over time we respond to the negativity. It changes us. We become angry or more fearful, especially if we are struggling or our lives do not align to our expectations.
Does hatred exist in this country? Most assuredly. Are people suffering? Indeed they are, and we should certainly be mindful and compassionate, qualities that are intrinsic to our national character when we are left to our own devices.
We must continue to remind ourselves that the picture presented to us of our country and the world we live in, a picture of violence and hatred and ever impending doom – is not an accurate depiction. It is a deception, driven in part by the simple need to capture our attention for profit, but there is also intent behind that picture which is at best, Machiavellian, and at worst, malevolent. Fear of civil unrest distracts us from economic troubles and bad decisions by government. Fear of the enemy allows defense budgets to balloon. Fear of the world we live in allows us to accept increased surveillance and coercion and control over our lives.
Last week the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists published an analysis of the recent North Korean missile launches, the ones that rattled the stock market and sent people scrambling to buy disaster supplies. The detailed technical analysis showed quite clearly that the launches were an elaborate hoax designed to give the impression that North Korea had the ability to strike the American heartland with an ICBM. Even though the facts are now public domain, it is the impression of impending doom that will remain to influence future defense spending.
In Boston, 40,000 people were moved by anger and outrage to confront a tiny contingent of white nationalists which would otherwise have been ridiculed and forgotten. The majority of protesters on both sides traveled from outside the area to be part of the spectacle.
We are not suggesting that the evils of this world should not be confronted. There is, however, a matter of scale and intelligent response to a problem. We do not dig up the yard to kill one ant. Neither do we attack a hornet’s nest with a stick. The “viral” phenomenon applied to the problem of hatred empowers a tiny minority of fringe believers, confirms their bias and adds to their ranks.
Martin Luther said, “The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn.” The comedian is a better antidote for hatred than the politician or the pundit.
Historian, Will Durant, said, “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.” Be skeptical of the viral, and beware the piercing shards of broken news.